Child holding a homemade passport

Intro to Preschool Country Studies- Explore the World from Home!

The coronavirus blues have struck our house. We’re currently in week two of the lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the virus that has now spread to most parts of the world. And really we can’t complain because we’re healthy and we’re trying to help others stay healthy too.

But…being stuck in the house all day with two young kids can have it’s ups and downs. Actually I think maybe the kids are handling it better than I am. With no end in sight, I’m looking forward to when life can go back to normal and we can get out of the house!

So since international travel is currently not an option, I decided to bring the travel to us! Who says you can’t explore the world from your own living room?

Travel the world- at home!

In that spirit, I’m starting a series of cultural exploration with my two little guys to continue to broaden their horizons and world knowledge. That way we can feel like we’re traveling to distant places without actually leaving the house! And also have some structured activities and learning to keep us all sane…

The plan is to highlight a country at a time. We’ll bring that country into our home as much as possible through crafts, activities, songs, food, etc.

Now let me emphasize that this will be a broad overview, paired down to a preschool level. I don’t want to overgeneralize or reinforce stereotypes, but I do want my children to know about traditions and cultures in other parts of the world.

And since we can’t currently get out much to get supplies, for the time being, crafts and activities will have to be made mostly with stuff we have on hand. Whew. We’ve got this!

Country Overview

To get a good overview of each country that we “visit”, we’ll use some (or all) of the ideas below:

  • Find the country on the map
  • Highlight characteristics of the country- language, flag, national flower/animal/song
  • Discuss important landmarks, history, geography
  • Read books related to the country or culture
  • Watch a documentary or movie about that country
  • Country-specific crafts and activities
  • Make a food specialty of that country
  • Play games from that country

Introduction Day

In order to kick all of this off, I took a day to introduce the idea and get my kids excited about what’s to come. So let’s get ready to travel!

1. Pack (or in this case, make) your suitcase

First off, we needed a suitcase. Okay needed might be too strong a word. But what pretend journey is complete without a pretend suitcase? Really, I just wanted a fun place to put the craft supplies and activities. That way they can come downstairs in the morning, open it up, and get excited about what we have planned for the day!

For this project I took an old box we had lying around…

…and spruced it up a bit with some crafting supplies and ribbon.

Voila! Instant suitcase. Simple though it is, my boys were very delighted.

And they had a blast decorating the other side with stickers.

2. Make sure you have your passport!

I also made a passport for each of my boys that we can put stamps in as we complete country units. My three-year-old helped me fill out the personal information for him and his brother. And by helped, I mean I asked the information and he told me what to write. Although he did write his own name. And when I can get a small picture of each of them, I’ll add that to it as well.

We then pulled out their real passports and looked at their stamps and talked about places they have been.

As we did this, we discussed the following questions:

  • why do we need passports?
  • what does nationality mean?
  • how and when do we get passport stamps?

My three-year-old was super excited about his pretend passport. He carried it around with him all day, even keeping it with him for his nap (and then melting down when he woke up and saw that it was bent from him hugging it while sleeping…).

3. Get familiar with maps

I love showing my kids maps. Not only does it help with geographical and spatial awareness, there’s something about them that’s just fun. You can see where you’ve been and plan where you want to go. You can get a sense of where you fit in the world.

Look at the atlas

Before we take a trip, we always pull out the atlas. We find the place we’re going on the map and show them the route we’re taking to get there. So to prep for our “travels”, we pulled out the trusty atlas!

We found where we live, where relatives live, and places we’ve been. And we talked about where we might go on our pretend trips! We’ll be keeping it handy so that we can find each country as we study it.

The atlas we have is the Usborne Children’s Picture Atlas. It’s great for young kids because it has pictures that go along with the locations, which make them stand out and helps my kids remember where things are.

Craft- Color the globe

For our craft we did a coloring activity. I drew a rough globe for my three-year-old and he colored the land green and the water blue.

We used this activity to talk about:

  • land vs water
  • what are continents?
  • cardinal directions

4. Decide how you’re going to travel

In the afternoon, we talked about some different ways to travel.

For this, we highlighted:

  • planes
  • trains
  • boats
  • cars

We talked about the advantages and disadvantages of each and why you would choose one over another in a given situation.

Game- How would you get there?

Then we played a game where I showed them two locations in our atlas and they would decide which method of transportation would work best to get between them.

For example, “What method would you use to get from California to Hong Kong? What about from Italy to France? Dallas to Austin?” I had a toy plane, train, boat, and car and they would grab whichever one they though was best for that particular trip.

My three-year-old loved this game and was soon giving me scenarios to figure out. “Mommy, if you’re going from Washington to Boston, what would you use?”

Book

Amazing Airplanes by Tony Milton and Ant Parker. I love this book for teaching kids about travel by airplane. It takes you through all the elements of a flight, from checking in your bags, to buckling your seat belt and getting in flight food and drinks, to what the pilot and copilot do. Plus it has a fun rhyme and cute pictures. My boys both love it.

Wrap up

So that’s how we started off and we’re super excited to start “visiting” different countries! Up first is…the Philippines!

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