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.

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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.

Books

To get a feel for Italy, we took a look at a few quick books, getting a sense of similarities, differences, and rich cultural heritage. These are the books I found at the library that we looked at:


Some of the following are affiliate links:

Italy (We're From . . .) by Emma Lynch. I think this is a great book series because they help dispel stereotypes especially for younger kids (that traditional outfits are not common clothing, for example) and offer a view of the similarities and differences found with other kids around the world.

Italy (Been There!) by Annabel Savery. Another good series that takes the reader to the different regions in a country, showcasing the diversity and cultural highlights that can be found there. 

C is for Ciao: An Italy Alphabet (Discover the World) Since my kids are older, I hadn't taken a look at this series before - and boy I have been missing out! It can be read as an "alphabet" book with each letter relating to an aspect of culture, history or geography of a country, but it also offers some detailed information about each aspect. The more detailed reading is not for one sitting, but a great resource. Their website offers up even more information about each country that's explored by their books.


Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola. This was a folktale like story we read while our Easter bread was baking in the oven - a perfect tale to read after we made pasta! It's the story of Strega Nona (Grandmother Witch), her helper and a magic pasta pot.

Find more picture books to explore Italy at Youth Lit Reviews.

Fun & Games


Bocce Court
Photo Credit: Liz West (CC)

Bocce ball is a game played in Italy with a long history. It's typically an outdoor game, or on a court but we have a miniature indoor version we were going to play (Indoor Carpet Bocce Set Featuring Solid Metal Balls -affiliate link) though I wasn't able to find it. We do have an outdoor set we'll be playing with once the snow melts. The idea is to get one of your balls the closest to the jack. Find rules on how to play here.



Another fun activity is to try and dance the tarantella, an Italian folk dance. Take a look at the dance and how its done here then play the classic tarantella music from here (it'll be in your head for days!)

From here, it was time for us to turn on some contemporary Italian music and get cooking.

Food

Because it was Easter weekend, we started off by making Italian Easter Bread. It has officially become a new tradition we'll be doing every Easter - it was such a tasty treat, and fun to make. (Pea & Elle, after reaping the rewards of the young one's hard work, wholeheartedly agreed).



I followed the recipe at The Italian Dish Blog. Because we only had a few hours, I had already made the bread dough and it was ready to punch down and braid. First, the kids gently placed raw eggs into different bowls of egg dye which they stayed in until we were ready for them, over an hour later. Then the dough was divided between us, and we braided the dough, joining the ends together like a crown. The bread then needed to rise for another hour, which is when we started on making...

Pasta!


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 (...) 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 set for a couple of hours, I had also made that ahead of time. With Nox & Kay, we did the work of shaping it.

As a team, the kids took turns turning the handle and holding the pasta. Once thin enough, you can have fun putting it through the setting that shapes the pasta. I've updated this post by adding the pasta recipe and directions separately, as it was getting rather long 

Find the recipe we used and our directions on how to make pasta at home with kids here.





When we finished our meal (pasta with a simple tomato sauce), it was time to add our dyed eggs to the bread rings, then add sprinkles and pop them in the oven. Nox and Kay took an Easter bread ring to share with each of the siblings at home. 

A quick & easy Italian dessert would be store bought pizelle cookies with gelato sandwiched in between. Or gelato in a waffle cone, since Italians invented the ice cream cone. 

And a great time was had exploring Italy. Ciao!


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

You can find more creative and kid friendly activities at the following linkups:

Will you be exploring Italy with your kids? Please link up any new or old posts related to learning about Italy with kids.







Map & flag sourced from the CIA Factbook & adapted

8 comments:

  1. What a wonderful study. My son would love to make homemade pasta. That would be a dream come true for him. I will have to think about doing that.
    Blessings, Dawn

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    1. Making pasta is easier than you think - especially if you just cook it right away rather than trying to dry it - and start off with a small batch. (then you have strands of pasta hanging all over the place and it can be overwhelming - which is what I had tried many years ago, and put aside for so long).

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  2. I didn't realize that the egg bread was Italian. Your pata looks delicious! I have always wanted to play Bocci but the sets are so expensive. A great study.

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    1. Thanks Phyllis, it was fun - part of me is still itching to learn more :) The indoor bocci set we picked up is under $20, it might be one way of trying it out.

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  3. All of my Italy posts are about ancient Rome, do you want those? If so I've got a ton of those. We haven't studied modern Italy at all.

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    1. Thanks Ticia, we were just doing a quick exploration and all done for now - though if ever we find ourselves covering it more (which I would love!) I'll definitely be pulling out your ancient Rome posts as I know so little of it.

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  4. What an incredibly interesting post. You are so well (cyber) traveled! The pasta looks so tasty. I've always wanted to make my own but it has always seemed too fiddly.

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    1. Follow this recipe Claire, and it should work out - and it was so rewarding!

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