(ARA) - "Did you go anywhere over summer vacation?" That is the question heard in school hallways and cafeterias at the start of every new school year. While the standard answers of "I visited my grandparents" or "I went to sleep away camp" circulate, imagine if your child excitedly responded "I explored the Australian Outback, designed traditional tango dresses in Argentina and learned the art of Irish dance in Ireland." Better yet, imagine if your child learned all of this without having to go on an expensive and time-consuming international trip.
Summer is often associated with learning loss, and parents also express difficulty finding productive activities for their children to do during the summer months. So, rather than allow this break from learning, turn this time into a learning opportunity to broaden your child's global mindset. Utilize summer to immerse kids in cultural, educational activities at home without the pressure of grades or busy after school activities.
"Exposing kids to different regions, traditions and wildlife around the world is so important because children hold the future of our planet in their hands," says Mireya Mayor, a mother of four and an explorer and wildlife correspondent for National Geographic. "As a mom, I want to encourage children to respect different cultures, love the planet and protect its wonderful attributes so it can be enjoyed for many generations to come, and the only way to love something is to know it."
Making learning fun and exciting is the best way to inspire kids and teach them to appreciate all the world has to offer, recommends Mayor. She has several easy tips for parents to "travel the world" from home with their families:
1. Incorporate travel into playtime Travel-themed toys and games are a great way to pique kids' interests in different regions around the world. One example is the Barbie Collector Dolls of the World collection. With dolls from Ireland, China, Argentina, Australia, India, Mexico, Chile and Holland, and correlating activities available at Barbie.com/dolls-of-the-world, girls can be easily transported to almost every part of the world. While girls are having fun and enjoying playtime, they are also learning about each distinct destination. These worldly dolls can be found at Target, Walmart, Kmart and Toys R Us.
2. Host a monthly family "international dinner" night Serve traditional dishes from other countries one night a month, selecting a new country each time. Have each member of the family read a note card to share a "fun fact" about the region and translate a word from the local language.
3. Tell stories In Mayor's own book "Pink Boots and a Machete," she shares stories of her adventures, scientific discovery and world travel. By sharing photos and mementos of their own personal travel stories, parents can expose their children to the idea of new places and spur an interest in experiencing all the world has to offer.
4. Map it out Mayor suggests displaying a wall map or globe in the main living area of the home so that kids are continually exposed to world geography and that travel is a continued topic of conversation. Parents can mark places the family has visited, as well as places they want to visit. This will help kids understand that there are never-ending opportunities to learn and explore new places.
Summer is the perfect time to inspire your child and expose them to the world beyond their backyard. Just by having fun "traveling" with your family, you will not only be combating detrimental learning loss but also creating long-lasting memories. Applying Mireya Mayor's easy at-home tips can give your child knowledge of the world they will have for life.