Exposing children to other cultures is a great way to expand their understanding of the world around them while teaching them to recognize not only the differences between cultures but also the similarities. As children become more familiar with new traditions, they demonstrate greater acceptance and social competence in our multicultural world.
Food provides a natural way to explore other countries and cultures. After all, food is a major component of cultural celebrations, holidays and gatherings all over the world. Here are three ideas for expanding your children’s knowledge of other cultures (and their palates):
Explore your neighborhood’s ethnic restaurants.
While Italian, Chinese and Mexican foods are popular in the United States, try branching out to other cuisines, such as Indian, Korean or Mediterranean, to expose your children to new experiences. Encourage them to speak with the restaurants’ servers or owners to learn more about the food and, if applicable, the customs of their native countries.
Research traditional recipes from other cultures to try at home.
There is a wealth of information online about world cultures and their traditional cuisines. You can browse recipes by region on many sites or Google a country followed by “recipes” or “traditional foods.” Enjoy preparing a completely new (to you) recipe as a family. You’ll be amazed at the conversations cooking together can stir, especially when you’re using new ingredients and learning about different cultures in the process.
Visit an international market.
Do you live near a Hispanic grocery store, an Asian market or a Jewish bakery? It’s fun to visit international markets and embark on culinary adventures. Choose a recipe beforehand and turn your visit into a scavenger hunt to find the ingredients. If you don’t live near any ethnic markets, you can visit the international aisle at a large grocery store and explore the different food items there.
Trying new foods is a wonderful way to celebrate different cultures and encourage your children to open up to experiences they may encounter in the real world. It’s not just about tasting new foods but experiencing a new culture through the food that is customarily eaten there — think of it as visiting a foreign country through your taste buds!
To help drive this message home with my children, we created passports with pages that represent each country or culture we “explored” through food. Depending on their ages, you can have your children make notes or draw pictures of their experiences with new cultures and foods. Display these “food passports” on the refrigerator as mementos of your culinary adventures, adding a “stamp” of some sort every time your little one tries a new international meal. Bon voyage and bon appetit!
For more about cooking and nutrition, check out:
- Celebrating Different Cultures Through Healthy Snacks
- 7 Strategies for Overcoming Picky Eating in Toddlers
- How Primrose Encourages Healthy Eating
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