Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

Follow along with us as we explore World Cultures - subscribe by email

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Sunday, June 7, 2015

G is for Games | A - Z of Raising Global Citizens


I'm joining a group of bloggers to share with our readers the many aspects of raising global citizens with A - Z of Raising Global Citizens. Be sure to follow along during the month of June for insight and inspiration.
I'm sharing a fun & easy way to incorporate other cultures into your family's life: with games!

We have had a lot of fun over the years adding to our roster of games and toys that have come from or been inspired by world cultures. It's an easy way for our kids to connect with other children the world over - through the love of play.

Here are some resources to bring in new games into your home:


Have fun discovering new places through the fun of play with your kids!

Global mini
In these Series 24 bloggers of Multicultural Kid Blogs Community got together to share ideas and tips on Raising Global Citizens. Follow us from June 1st to June 26th as we share a letter of the alphabet and an idea associated with it over at Raising Global Citizen Series page!
Creative World of Varya = Bilingual Avenue = The European Mama = Melibelle in = Smart Tinker = Good To Be Mom = Marie's Pastiche = Third Culture Mama = Tiny Tapping Toes = All Done Monkey = Russian Step By Step = Multilingual Parenting = In The Playroom = Rue Du Belvedere = Discovering the World Through My Son's Eyes = La Cité des Vents = Faith Seeker Kids = World Languages = The Piri-Piri Lexicon = Healthy Child, Global Mind = Mama Smiles = The Art Curator for Kids = Words n Needles = Multicultural Kitchen = Crazy Little Family Adventures

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sundays in France: Recipe for French Crepes



Crepes, a type of thin pancake, are a quintessential French snack. We are no strangers to crepes in many guises, and in France they can be stuffed with sweet (nutella, jam, bananas) or savory (ham, cheese, eggs) fillings. They are such a popular street food in Paris that you can find a crepe stand on almost any street. Towns throughout France have "creperies", quaint little restaurants with crepes - and many possible options for fillings - as their main menu items.

Crepe stand in ParisPhoto Credit: Serge Melki (CC)

The French don't typically eat crepes for breakfast, but as a snack or lunch. As a snack, a French crepe is most often enjoyed in its simplest form, with a dusting of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice (ok, Nutella's a pretty big hit too). 

Sundays in France: Get to Know the French language



When learning about a different country, it's fun to learn a few basic words. You likely already know that French is the official language, but did you know there are other regional languages still spoken in different areas of France? There's Breton in Brittany, Flemish in the Northeast, German in the Alsace region, Spanish dialects in the Southwest, and Corsivan in Corisca. Prior to learning more about France, I hadn't even heard of some of these languages. 

Having said that, with French being the official language, here are a few resources with basic words to introduce kids to French. And if they show an interest in learning more, it's worth encouraging as it's the 6th most widely spoken language in the world, and the official language in 29 countries.


French was international language of diplomacy for 3 centuries

French greetings

Bonjour is the most basic French greeting, and it's used all the time, in many different situations in France. It means Hello, but it's also considered an important word for proper daily etiquette. It's important to start an interaction with the word Bonjour and wait for a reply before launching into whatever needs saying. It's also considered proper etiquette to say bonjour as a general greeting to all those present when walking into a shop.

Here's a video to hear how bonjour is pronounced.

Here's a cute video with different French greetings for kids in song.

Basic words

Here are two printable resources for kids with basic French words: 

Here's a printable I put together.

Here's a printable from Happy Adventure.

A bientot!

Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop | #27

Welcome to the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop! This month I'll be joining Multicultural Kid Blogs and various excellent bloggers in co-hosting a blog hop featuring what I love most: learning about different cultures with kids. This link up is an excellent resource for virtually traveling the world - I hope you'll join us.




The Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop is a place where bloggers can share multicultural activities, crafts, recipes, and musings for our creative kids. We can't wait to see what you share this time! 

Created by Frances of Discovering the World through My Son's Eyes, the blog hop has now found a new home at Multicultural Kid Blogs.


This month our co-hosts are:




Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Exploring Switzerland with Kids | Poya Festival & Folk Art Inspired Project



As part of our afternoon jaunt in Switzerland, we learned about the Swiss living tradition of the poya and did an art project inspired by Swiss poya folk art. 


Poya in Gruyere region
Photo Credit: Pierre Schwaller (CC)

Each spring in Switzerland, it's traditional to take dairy herds up to the mountain pastures when the weather turns warm. This ascent is called the poya. In celebration of the cattle and their new found freedom, the cows are decked out with flowers and large cow bells, often with beautifully embroidered belts that have their owners initials on them. 




Traditional Swiss cow with bell
Photo Credit: Gerald Davison (CC)

In the town of Estavannens (in Gruyere), every few years they hold a large festival in honor of poya. Thousands attend for the parades of cattle herds and bell ringing, festivities and food. 




Poya painting
Photo Credit: Romano1246 (CC)

Poya also refers to simple folk paintings that depict this seasonal ascent. These paintings began in 1800 when herdsmen painted them during the procession up to the mountain as an inventory of the herd. They were then hung on their home's facade or over their windows as a sign of prosperity. There are nearly 800 of these paintings today in the Gruyere area.

Exploring Switzerland with Kids | Food, Activities & Art


Gruetzi! Hello! This year, I'll be taking my 7 year old niece, Kay, and 5 year old nephew, Nox, on afternoons "Around the World". In April, we made our way to Switzerland for another fun afternoon. We tried everyday snack foods Swiss kids enjoy, played a popular chocolate game, created a folk art inspired painting and learned a bit about Switzerland and its traditional culture. Here's what we did, with a few added resources for a quick, virtual jaunt you can take with your kids. 


I'm joining Crafty Mom's Share in exploring Switzerland - I hope you'll join us!
There's a link up at the bottom of this post where you'll find more resources to explore Switzerland - and add your own!


Friday, May 1, 2015

Why This Mother's Day, I'm Asking For the Gift of Clean Birth for Moms in Laos

  
Pea & I in 1999


Although parenting is always at the forefront of my thoughts, there are two days a year that I truly reflect on that pivotal day, nearly 17 years ago when I gave birth to my daughter: her birthday and Mother's Day.

I don't often write about personal details on this blog, and I have to admit that I feel nervous about doing so now. But we all have our stories, and reflecting on mine has led to me to recognize how precious a gift motherhood is, and the importance of supporting those who could needlessly have that gift taken from them.

I was 18 years old when I became pregnant with Pea, at a point in my life over the course of a couple of years when I was making some rather self destructive choices. I had left a perfectly loving home at 16 to move in with my uncle and be "closer to my friends" over 1000 miles away from my parents. I stopped attending classes, resulting in expulsion and was spending a fair bit of time doing things I'm not proud of today. When I became pregnant with Pea, I had no high school degree, was working for below minimum wage and in a volatile relationship. You can imagine the degree of stress and worry I felt every moment of each day. 

I was incredibly lucky in the support we received from both mine and his parents, but we still were rarely sure we'd have enough food at the end of each day. In fact, I was incredibly adept at worrying, and worried about every aspect of mine and my unborn baby's life - from our health to finances to a rather terrifying future. There was one area though that never even crossed my mind to worry about, and that was the care we would receive at the hospital while giving birth. As Canadian citizens, I knew without even having to think about it that we would be provided with a health team and a sterile hospital room with access to anything we'd need should any complications arise. Even when considering a doula (midwife), I knew she would be expertly trained and that should complications arise, we could be quickly whisked off to the hospital. With these safety nets provided for us, my baby girl, the light that continues to brighten my life each and every day, was born safely.


Four generations

We in the West are so fortunate to have access to health care. But what about those mothers in the developing world? Can they be assured a safe, clean birth? Unfortunately, the answer is no. In fact, approximately 1 million women and infants will die every year after birth simply due to infection. For every woman who dies, 30 more will suffer debilitating illness or permanent disability due to infection. Such needless suffering.


A mother and her three lovely children in Laos
Photo Credit: © Kristyn Zalota

This is why for Mother's Day, this year and here on out, I'm asking for the gift of clean birth for moms in Laos. The gift of a healthy new beginning for other moms and their infants. These deaths can be prevented with a simple yet life saving kit that for $5 can save two lives, a mother and her infant. 

“CleanBirth.org works to prevent the needless deaths of mothers and babies in Laos, where maternal and infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world. In the villages where we work, women often give birth alone in the forest. To make birth safer, together with our Lao non-profit partner, we provide life-saving Clean Birth Kits and train local nurses in the distribution of the kits and the WHO’s Essentials of Newborn Care.”


Clean Birth kit provided by CleanBirth.org

This fantastic organization provides training to local nurses in the Salavan Province. Nurses are trained in the use and distribution of Clean Birth Kits, which are life-saving birth supplies proven to prevent infection. The nurses then educate mothers about birth kits and safe birth. Through an alliance with Yale University School of Nursing, they also train the nurses in the WHO's Essentials of Newborn Care.



Beautiful hand stamped bag containing a donation card from CleanBirth.org

What better time to think of the many other mothers, all with their own stories and struggles, who deserve the precious gift of motherhood.

I'll be honoring my mother this Mother's Day (who lets face it, had plenty to worry about for years with me as a daughter!) with a donation card from CleanBirth and I've talked to Pea about how great of an honor it would be to receive the same, knowing this simple gift can have such a lasting impact. 


Consider honoring your mother or grandmother this Mother's Day with a beautiful CleanBirth.org hand-stamped bag containing a donation card, an e-card or a printable card. When you do, you'll provide moms in Laos with Clean Birth Kits and education. They'll have what they need to protect themselves and their babies from life-threatening infections.


You can read more about this wonderful organization at CleanBirth.org. You can purchase their lovely mother's day cards and sachets at their Etsy store.


Have a wonderful Mother's Day!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Around the World with Pancakes: Italian Crespelles


We're trying out pancakes from around the world, looking beyond fluffy pancakes and beyond breakfast food

Having recently "ventured" off to Italy, I thought I'd see what kinds of pancakes are eaten there - and discovered the (apparent) age old question of what came first: the French crepe or the Italian crespelle. Italians claim that Caterina de Medici brought the Italian recipe for crespelle to France when she brought her cooks along in 1533 when married to King Henry II of France, and the French have claimed them as their own since. 


Left, find Italy on a map - possibly the most recognizable country in the world!
Right, Two canals in Venice. Isn't that stunning?

 Photo Credit: MorBCN (CC-Adapted into collage)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sundays in France: 1st of May Traditions

Every Sunday, this blog will explore France, based on our family's virtual explorations in 2011



In a few days time, on the 1st of May, the French will be enjoying a tradition I consider to be truly charming and would love to be a part of: a day off work and the celebration of springtime with the incredible aroma of muguets. They will be celebrating La Fête du Travail (Labour Day) and simultaneously La Fête du Muguet (Lily of the Valley Day).

For a few days prior, the streets fill with vendors on nearly every corner selling lovely lilys  of the valley, considered symbols of spring and a "bringer of happiness". Friends and family offer sprigs, bouquets and pots of the flowers to each other on May 1 as a token of appreciation and for good luck. In fact the more little white dainty flowers are on the sprig, the better the luck, with 13 flowers being the most auspicious. 

The custom is believed to have begun on May 1, 1561, when King Charles IX of France was given a sprig for good luck. He was so charmed with the idea that he gave lily of the valley each year on the first of May to the ladies of the court.


A vendor selling lily of the valley for La Fete du Muguet
Photo Credit: Sarah MacKenzie (CC)

May 1st is also Labour Day in France, a paid national holiday in celebration of workers rights. Labourers marched on the 1st of May in the 1890s in order to push the mandate for eight hour work days. Originally, they wore a little red triangle in their buttonholes, three equal sides representing equal share of one's day to work, leisure and rest (8 hours each). The triangle was replaced by a wild rose, which became the symbol of the Left. During the years of the Vichy Government (1940-44), the wild rose was replaced with the lily of the valley, entrenching it as as symbol of the first of May. 

By the way, 8 hour work days were ratified in 1919 and Labour Day was declared public holiday in France in 1947.

Wouldn't you just love a bouquet of lily of the valley? (And a day off work wouldn't hurt either!)

Title image credited to: Suzanne Bonnefond (CC - Adapted with overlay)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Language in Lebanon & A Few Basic Words



Marhaaba! Salut! Hello!

These three words, all meaning "hello" should be understood by most people in Lebanon - and in terms of English, especially the youth and urban dwellers.

When greeting someone in Lebanon, it's proper etiquette to ask about their family and health.

The official language in Lebanon is Lebanese Arabic, though many speak French as primary or secondary language (vestiges of their colonial past), and the use of English is growing.

Lebanese Arabic is one of the Levantine Arabic languages and is spoken nearly only in Lebanon. (Just as there are many separate languages descended from Latin - French, Spanish, Italian - there are many different families of Arabic languages, and variants and dialects of those).

What I find particularly interesting is that written Arabic differs from spoken Arabic - in fact, Lebanese Arabic is almost never found in written form except in novels when dialect is used. Formal publications like newspapers, as well as formal speeches, use Modern Standard Arabic, a standardized writing that's recognized throughout the Arab world. Modern Standard Arabic is nearly never heard of in conversation except for use in the news and again in formal speeches. 

Then there's Classical Arabic, the language used in the Quran - many muslims study Classical Arabic with the aim to read the Quran in it's original language. 

Lebanese Arabic is a rather guttural language, with a few sounds that are unfamiliar to us. I can write a transliteration of a word in our alphabet, but it won't give you a sense of it - you need to hear it to learn it. With that in mind, here are two videos from Free Language Videos that can help you learn a few words, like greetings and numbers:





Do you find pronunciation difficult?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Children's Poetry Books to Discover the World | National Poetry Month


Poetry is prose that relies on senses, memories, feelings and rhythm - making it such a great medium to delve into cultural and historical differences, while maintaining a connection between the reader and the author, therefore a connection between ourselves and those we might never have considered.

Then again, with kids it's also just a fun lyrical way to learn something new and to open their eyes to new places!

Here are five books that takes us on a discovery around the world through poetry. They can be enjoyed on their own or as a jumping point to discover so much more. 

Some of these books might be hard to find, I've linked them to Better World Books, who sell new and used books (I am not affiliated) and recommend checking out your local library. 

Around the World in Eighty Poems by James Berry. This great books has poems from over 50 different countries/regions from Inuit traditional poetry to an Australian tree lizard singing for rain - all of which with colorful illustrations. The poetry ranges about so many different subjects that kids will find plenty to appreciate.


Take it further: Take a poem and look up the country/region it's from. Locate it on a map - do you know much about the area? What about the country/culture might inspire this poem.




Let's Celebrate! Festival Poems from Around the World by Debjani Chatterjee. With bright and colorful illustrations, the poetry in this book introduces kids to 24 festivals and celebrations around the world - familiar ones like Christmas and Chinese New Year, and less familiar ones like Purim and Sikh New Year. There are end notes that describe these festivals and where they take place.


Take it further: Look up one or more of the festivals online to see photographs of the celebration. With many festivals, specials foods are eaten - try your hand at cooking the celebratory dishes.



Around the World on Eighty Legs: Animal Poems by Amy Gibson (affiliate link). This is a whimsical book that introduces kids to the diverse wildlife found around the world. There are short verses for 61 different animals, from giraffe to goanna (you'll have to read it to find out what this is!) and they can be pretty silly, making this a great book especially for younger kids.


Take it further: Look up one or more of these animals, find their region on a map and learn about their habitats.



Voices: Poetry and Art from Around the World by Barbara Brenner. I especially liked this book, though I would recommend it for older kids, ages 10 and up. Spanning all continents, the poetry ranges from traditional to contemporary. There are illustrations and photographs related to each culture, and a few facts about the poets, their cultures and the history of the place. 


Take it further: Use these poems and artwork as a jumping point to learn more about the culture/country they're from. Find folk art from that country and be inspired to create your own.




This Same Sky by Naomi Shihab Nye. This book is an anthology of poetry collected from 68 different countries. It isn't illustrated, it's sheer poetry. I would recommend it for kids 11 or 12 and up, unless you have a child who loves reading and hearing poetry. Many of the poems have such a universal theme, which is what makes reading poetry from around the world so valuable with kids - it bridges that gap of seeing others as "other". The poems are indexed by country, which makes it great to search for poetry from a specific country. 


Take it further: With this or any of the books above, host a "poetry tea". Choose a few poems from the same country or region to be read at tea time. Set the table with snacks and tea (or juice) from country, play traditional music from the country in the background and read the poetry in a relaxed atmosphere. For example, we once had Chinese poetry tea time with Chinese tea, Cantonese egg tarts from a local bakery, and pipa music in the background.

I hope you get a chance to explore the world through poetry!

Find more posts exploring culture, geography and history with kids at


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sundays in France - Introductory Books

Every Sunday, this blog will explore France, based on our family's virtual explorations in 2011



The first place we start when on a virtual travel is with books - and here are my recommendations to introduce kids to France and use as a reference on what to learn about next. 

France (Been There!)  by Annabel Savery
Told from perspective of a child visiting France, this is a great introductory book. Along with quick geography facts & map, this book takes the reader to the different regions in France, showcasing the diversity and cultural highlights that can be found there. It's an easy book to read, accessible for younger kids with great photos.
There's also an endnote with basic french phrases and instructions on counting to 10 in French. 



Let's Visit France (Around the World)  by Susie Brooks
This is another easy to read book, and it doesn't overlap much with the book above. Like the above book, it's written from the perspective of someone visiting France. With easy to read format and lots of photographs, you'll learn about festivals and markets, food, nature and things to see and do, all with a few French words included in each "area". There's also a recipe for crepes at the end.



France (Blastoff! Readers: Exploring Countries)  by Rachel Grack is another great introduction to the country. It has great facts about France and some of its marvels, and has colorful photos. It introduces the reader to the geography, daily life, major holidays, food, and art and architecture. 







E is for Eiffel Tower: A France Alphabet (Discover the World) by Helen Wilbur can be read as an "alphabet" book with each letter relating to an aspect of the culture, history or geography of France but it also offers some detailed information about each aspect. The more detailed reading is not for one sitting, and might be a little much for younger kids but it's a great resource. Their website offers up even more information about each country that's explored by their books.



France (Festivals of the World) by Susan McKay (may have different cover)
I love this series - each book is such a great introduction to not only the major holidays and festivals, but also with more regional festivals you likely never heard of in a given country. These are usually one of the first books I read through for our explorations to guide our year, and the kids enjoy reading them as well. The books include a quick overview of France with map, another overview of festivals by season, a two to four page spreads about specific festivals - how they're celebrated, their history, and lots of photographs. The books also include an activity and/or craft and a recipe.


With these books, kids will want to head to France immediately!

Find more posts exploring culture, geography and history with kids at


Books are a wonderful way to experience new worlds and ideas. Our house is filled with books, most of which are borrowed from our public library. Public libraries are an incredible resource, making books accessible to everyone, and we highly encourage everyone to discover theirs. If you are hoping to build your own home library, I've made it easy by linking book titles to Amazon.com. Please note that I have become affiliated with them, which means that if you make a purchase, you are also supporting this website. 

Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop | #26

Welcome to the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop! This month I'll be joining Multicultural Kid Blogs and various excellent bloggers in co-hosting a blog hop featuring what I love most: learning about different cultures with kids. This link up is an excellent resource for virtually traveling the world - I hope you'll join us.



The Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop is a place where bloggers can share multicultural activities, crafts, recipes, and musings for our creative kids. We can't wait to see what you share this time! 

Created by Frances of Discovering the World through My Son's Eyes, the blog hop has now found a new home at Multicultural Kid Blogs.

This month our co-hosts are:



Saturday, April 18, 2015

Explore Italy with Kids: How to Make Pasta at Home




As part of our afternoon jaunt to Italy, we made our own fresh pasta! It wasn't nearly as much work as I thought, and we all had a great time. Now we're trying to see if we can do this on a semi regular basis.

Every Italian eats approximately 30kg of pasta each year

I've owned a pasta maker for many years, and since the last time I used it Pea was around 3 years old (she's now 16...) it was high time I dusted it off and put it to use. I don't know if it was because we were doing it with the kids, or likely because we didn't go overboard, but it was so much fun and I can't wait to make more. My sister and I enjoyed ourselves at least as much as the kids. 

There are over 350 different pasta shapes. Take a look at this for a few dozen examples.

Because the dough needed to rest for a couple of hours, I made it ahead of time and we got down to the fun of rolling it. If you're going to make pasta dough with kids, it needs a good 10 minutes of kneading, so I would recommend breaking it in smaller manageable portions, and taking turns.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Exploring Italy with Kids | Food, Activities & Books



This year, I'll be taking my 7 year old niece, Kay, and 5 year old nephew, Nox, on afternoons "Around the World". Recently, over Easter weekend, we headed over to Italy and had a wonderful time. I should note that I would love to spend an entire year exploring Italy, so it was difficult to narrow it down to a few short hours! Here's what we did, with a few added resources for a quick, virtual jaunt you can take with your kids. 


I'm joining Crafty Mom's Share in exploring Italy - I hope you'll join us!
There's a link up at the bottom of this post where you'll find more resources to explore Italy - and add your own!




Geography & Language

The first thing we did was locate Italy on a map - Italy being arguably the most recognizable country on any map, looking like a boot kicking a rock. We then learned a little introductory Italian - complete with hand gestures. The kids loved saying Ciao! and Grazie! in our laughable Italian accents. Every word said from that moment on included impassioned hand gestures, accents and a couple of actual Italian words. (Because of the stage of adoption they are in, I can't post photos of Kay, but her hand gestures were spot on - and hilarious!) Considering Italians have nearly developed a language with hand gestures - apparently you could practically have an entire conversation with Italian hand gestures alone - it's possible we were sending contradictory messages between our hands and our words :) While our hands were often raised in this gesture, we learned to great each other, be polite and count in Italian. 




  • I made a printable sheet with a few basic words in Italian to learn at home (seen above) that can be found here.
  • Find a printable map of Italy kids can color here.
  • Find a printable flag of Italy here.
  • Here's another printable, informative coloring sheet of Italy for kids with a few fast facts and interesting tidbits.
  • Find a coloring page of the leaning tower of Pisa here.

 
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