We live in a world where it's easier than ever to interact with people from all over the world, but that doesn’t mean kids are going to develop an interest for different cultures on their own.
Children need regular exposure to different cultures and different ways of life in order to develop their own curiosity: not just about how other people live, but about how other people think, what their experiences are like, and how they make sense of the world around them.
Here are five simple ways you can start nurturing a curiosity for other cultures in little humans.
1. Go On Trips
While immersing yourself in cultures through travel is an ideal way to learn, for many of us now, it's just not possible. But that doesn't have to mean trips are out entirely! If you're lucky to live in a multicultural city, taking a trip to different suburbs can mean immersing yourself within different diaspora communities. Take Greece, for example. Did you know that Melbourne (where we call home) is said to have the largest Greek-speaking population outside of Europe? If you look around, it's not hard to find a number of Greek restaurants, shops, museums and even bookshops to immerse you and your little ones in. Couple your explorations with questions like these to keep your little one reflecting on their own culture and how it might be different:
- What languages or sounds can you hear?
- What clothes/items can you see in the shops?
- What flavours can you taste?
- Are these similar to our neighbourhood?
- Why do you think they might be different?
2. Learn Through Cuisine
One of my favourite memories from childhood is going out for Chinese food with my family. It was always for special occasions and I remember being so obsessed by the baby sweetcorn that I'd ask everyone to give me theirs! Not only was the food deliciously different to what we ate at home, but so were the furnishings (hello Lazy Susans), the bilingual menus and the utensils.
Whether made at home, on a screen or at a restaurant, food is such a great entry point to learning about other cultures. Not only do kids learn about different ingredients and ways of preparing food, but food can help teach new languages, values and history of different communities too. With so many talented chefs from the world over sharing their creations via YouTube, there's never been a been time to get watching, cooking and eating!
3. Read Books
Margaret Meek put it best when she said: "A book is a place where children can try on all the lives they haven't got". Books are a great way to jump-start a spirit of inquiry by giving kids the chance to experience the thoughts, feelings and actions of someone else. The first step is choosing a book that will pique your child’s interest and introduce new places and people in appropriate ways - but don't worry, of course we've got you sorted there!
4. Watch Movies
The heart of cultural curiosity is a desire to understand how people and places differ from those close to you. That can start with movies—and, depending on age, not just animated ones either! When you watch films set outside your country, it can help children learn about what makes us human and how we all fit together. Kids also get a chance to see, hear and feel the experiences of others. Finally, watching movies that don't centre the dominant culture is an important step towards embracing vibrant multicultural communities and classrooms.
5. Use Games
Games put fun, creativity and play into learning, making it feel less like work and more likely to stick around. Some games incorporate different languages (like our own Matching Game), materials, and even values like teamwork, patience and reciprocity. When we play games from different cultures with our kids, we’re giving them an opportunity to learn important lessons and possibly picking new things up for ourselves too! Here are five games to get you started, with supplies you can find around the house:
- From Pakistan: Oonch Neech
- From Chile: Corre, Corre la Guaraca
- From Morroco: Dinifri
- From Japan: Fukuwarai
- From Australia: Kamai
To keep you going: this incredible free resource, Yulunga, has gathered 100+ games that were played by Indigenous people in what is now known as Australia.
Research has shown that exposure to other cultures can help kids develop a deeper sense of empathy and respect for others. But we know it can feel overwhelming knowing where to start! We hope these five simple and flexible ideas ignite some thoughts and spark some curiosity conversations in your home or classroom.
Have thoughts you want to share about this piece? We'd love to hear from you! Reach out to us here.
📸 Top photo by Eren Li