With a little ingenuity and a lot of imagination, it can be easy (and fun) to travel the world from your family sofa.
By Alyssa Chirco
Choose your destinations. Get the whole family involved, do some research and then choose three to four countries you plan to “visit” on your journey.
Get your passports. For each family member, create a small book out of white paper and cardstock that is approximately 5 inches by 3 ½ inches. Include personal details like names, ages and birthdates and don’t forget to glue a small photo in the book too. Leave space to add a special sticker or stamp to symbolize each country you tour. And be sure not to lose these passports, because you never know where you will decide to “travel” to next.
“Take off” from your local library. If you really prefer not to leave your living room you can gather information online, but the local library is the best place to begin your journey. Once you have acquired a stack of books and multimedia resources about the history and culture of the countries you will visit, you are ready to take flight.
Learn the lingo. The key to feeling like a local is to understand the language, so learn a few key words in the native tongue of each country on your tour. Take turns trying to pronounce phrases like buona notte (Italian for “good night”) or laissez-moi tranquille (French for “leave me alone”).This activity makes for excellent conversation at the family dinner table; give kids a small set of vocabulary words to look up while parents get dinner ready, and practice together during your meal.
Include hands-on exploration. The best trips are more about doing than seeing. For each country you visit, complete a craft or project to deepen your knowledge of that nation’s culture. If you visit Italy, older kids might enjoy creating a clay model of the Roman Colosseum, while younger children can learn how to draw the Italian flag. If you decide to travel through Africa, play African music and practice one of the ritual dances that is so integral to life in that region of the world.
Don’t forget to enjoy the local flavor. Bring your kids into the kitchen and try making an exotic new dish like Italian arancini (fried balls of rice that are filled with meat sauce) or baklava (a rich, sweet pastry that is unique to the islands of Greece). Not interested in preparing your own authentic world cuisine at home? Make reservations at a local ethnic restaurant so your family can savor the flavors of the world – without having to do any dishes.
Remember to take pictures. You may not actually be headed overseas, but you will still want to document your trip. Enjoy spending quality family time together, and take plenty of photos as you “travel” the world. If you capture your kids’ expressions when they first taste stinky cheese while visiting France, use a program like Photoshop to add the Eiffel Tower into the background.
Treasure the memories. A world-traveler scrapbook, whether digital or traditional, is the perfect way to preserve your travel memories for years to come. Include the pictures you take and the craft and art projects you make. Encourage each of your kids to write a short essay about their favorite part of the trip to save in your scrapbook too.
You never know – this may turn out to be one of the most memorable “trips” your family ever takes. Bon voyage!
Resources for Your Journey
TIME for Kids: Around the World. This educational supplement to TIME for Kids magazine explores the lives of children in different cultures around the world. Purchase a subscription at www.timeforkids.com or look for back issues at your public library.
Families of the World video series. This award-winning documentary series chronicles the daily lives of children and their families in almost 30 countries. Choose from titles like Families of Afghanistan, Families of Russia or Families of Kenya or watch short clips at www.familiesoftheworld.com.
The Kids’ Multicultural Cookbook by Deanna F. Cook. Explore dozens of ethnic dishes from various regions throughout the world. Theme party ideas and local games, customs and traditions provide everything you need to immerse your family in the culture of each dish you prepare.
Little Passports. This subscription-based global adventure lets kids follow Sam and Sofia’s travels around the world with monthly packages received in the postal mail and online containing fun and engaging activities. www.littlepassports.com.