Through my work in international adoption, I have had the absolute privilege to travel and experience parts of the world that I otherwise would have never seen. These experiences have certainly had a positive and lasting impact on my life and the way I view our world. I hope one day, my children will also have similar travel experiences that will help to shape who they become. But in the meantime, how can we set our children up to celebrate diversity and develop cultural awareness while they are still little (and without the hefty price tag of international travel)?
As many parents do, I hope to instill an awareness and appreciation for cultural diversity in my children. And as a parent of a toddler, I am always in need of ideas on how to keep a little one busy! I recently had a “Pinterest perfect” idea to have country-themed months at our house where we would read about a certain area of the world, prepare a regional dish, create crafts, etc. I made it all of one month before I gave up on this idea. It was great in theory, but for our family, the added stress of trying to plan for this far outweighed the benefit! Even though I gave up on the themed months, I still love the idea of injecting conversations and activities about other countries and cultures whenever we get the chance. I’ve gathered just a few ideas below, but there are plenty more ideas and activities to celebrate different countries and cultures with your children!
Bulgaria – To celebrate Bulgaria, you may make an easy traditional Bulgarian yarn doll together called a Martenitsa. These dolls are still relevant today. Our Bulgarian team Vesta actually brought MLJ Adoptions team members versions of these dolls on their recent visit. Whether your kids are old enough to chop, or like mine, they love to mix things up with various utensils, you may be interested in preparing a typical Bulgarian Shopska Salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, onion and parsley. Bonus: it’s healthy, too! While crafting or eating, you may even talk about one of Bulgaria’s most popular festivals of the summer, the Rose Festival, which celebrates roses, as Bulgaria is one of the largest producers of rose oil in the world.
Burkina Faso – There is a large artistic community in Burkina Faso, often producing crafts to sell to tourists. Your family may have fun celebrating this beautiful country by painting gourds or masks with vibrant colors. Your family may also be interested in trying your hand at Fufu, a traditional staple food eaten throughout much of Western Africa, often used as both food and utensil. If you have leftover Fufu, it can be used for sensory play, as the texture is similar to raw dough. You may even look into the few children’s books set in Burkina Faso.
Ukraine – Ukrainian crafting is known for its detail and intricate design, whether it’s needlework, painted tiles or the beautifully decorated Easter eggs (called pysanka). These would all be great crafting options for children, depending on age. Regardless of the chosen craft, however, you must have the bright Ukrainian blue in the color palette. Broscht is also a must for any traditional Ukrainian celebration!
You could go all-out and create themed weeks or months for your children, creating crafts, preparing recipes, reading books and otherwise learning about a specific culture. You could also do something as simple as giving your child white paper with yellow and blue paint and explaining that blue and yellow are the colors of the Ukrainian flag. There are many simple ways to introduce and celebrate cultural diversity in our world!
We are always open to hearing ideas about developing cultural awareness in children. We’d love to hear your ideas!