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Our family thinks it’s important for children to experience the world first-hand whenever possible. We feel that understanding other people and their cultures is the best tool we can give them for succeeding in life. We take them on trips when we can and participate in local cultural events. My husband and I also enjoy trying new foods from other countries.

My husband and I are always on the lookout for products that spark conversations about different places and cultures. These products are surprisingly hard to find. But we’ve managed to locate a few that have helped us talk to our toddler about what life is like for people globally.

Some of our current favorites come from Lakeshore, a national retailer that provides quality learning materials to schools and child care centers. Lakeshore is dedicated to creating innovative educational materials that spark young imaginations, instill a sense of wonder and foster a lifelong love of learning. Their items are made to endure lots of little hands.

Lakeshore viewfinder

Photo credit: Britnae Sanelli Photography


My toddler is obsessed with photos. Mostly, he enjoys looking at photos of himself in various places we’ve visited. Anytime I’m at my laptop scrolling through photos, he climbs up and wants to scroll through himself. And if my photo is unlocked, he will find it and start searching for photos and videos of himself.

I wasn’t sure what he’d think of Lakeshore’s viewfinders that featured the theme “A View from Around the World.” The cool thing about viewfinders is that kids can explore them all by themselves. Once we showed our son (who is almost 3) how the viewfinder worked, it only took him a few minutes to get the hang of it. He was really surprised how the photos changed. When he went through the whole disc, he wanted help inserting in a new one.

We started with Italy since that’s somewhere we traveled together as a family and we have lots of photos of our trip. After he clicked through each photo, he’d ask us what it was and if we had been there. It prompted a lot of conversations about the different places in Italy. We also talked about what Italian foods we like to eat and how Italian people speak Italian and what that sounded like.

Then, we moved on to the disc about China. My husband’s family is from Hong Kong and my son goes to Chinese school, so we thought it might be familiar for him. He had so many questions about each photo. We were able to talk to him about our experiences in China. We also shared some stories from his grandparents about growing up in Hong Kong.

It’s been fun to see which discs spark his interests. We’re currently planning a trip to France, so we’ve been keeping that disc in rotation. My husband is heading to India for the first time, so I have a feeling we will be looking at that disc a lot while he is away.

These discs also include maps of the different countries. This was the first time my son has really seen a map that wasn’t our GPS. It was a great opportunity for us to show him where each country was located on a globe.

Kids Around the World Block Play People

Kids Around the World Block Play People. Photo credit: Britnae Sanelli Photography

Cultural Figurines

We were also pretty excited to find their Lakeshore Kids Around the World Pretend and Play People (affiliate link.) It was the perfect addition to several toys he already had that came with figurines. As we opened up the packaging, my husband and I told him which countries each of the 12 figurines represented, from Asia to Africa to the Americas.

The size of the figurines is perfect for his little hands. I’m really glad that each figurine is labled with the country it represents so we are sure to give him the correct information. They feel really durable and we were able to fit them into a Ziploc bag for easy storage.

One of his favorite things to do with them is have them play on his playmat featuring a village in China. At first, I tried to just give him the Chinese boy figurine to play with since it made the most sense to me. Then, I thought about it and realized that any of these characters could be visiting China. My son had a blast walking them around the village and having the Chinese figurine play tour guide to the other figurines.

He also likes to add them in to his fire station (they are the perfect size.) He also has them waiting for trains on his train table. I like the way he seamlessly involves them in his current play. As he enters his preschool years, it will be fun to hear the imaginative adventures he comes up with and the other ways he incorporates them into his other play things.


 Lakeshore provided these products for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Marcie writes the family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. When she's not traveling the world, she's home in Seattle with her husband and two little boys.


  1. Amanda Love Reply

    I think it’s important to expose them to different cultures and you don’t even have to travel to do that. These toys are fantastic. It’s awesome that there are toys like these available to kids.

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      Yes, I love it when we can expose our kids to other cultures in the comfort of our home.

  2. I always enjoyed viewfinders as a kid and it makes me sad that my kids never really got into them. I think they are such a great way to learn.

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      It took awhile for my 3yo to understand how they work, but now he thinks they are really cool!

  3. Jessi Joachim Reply

    I think is is super important to expose children to different cultures at a young age. It helps them be accepting of others individuality.

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      Yes, I think it will help him understand the world and other perspectives.

  4. Linda Carmical Reply

    I loved viewfinders when I was a kid! What a great idea to have pics from around the world! No doubt it keeps a kid interested and have no idea they’re actually learning. 🙂

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      Yes, sometimes we have to sneak in the “educational” aspect of toys!

  5. Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh Reply

    First thing I thought of when I saw the first photo was “oh awesome a view finder!” I still remember mine when I was little. We searched high and low for one when our youngest was a bit younger.

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      Yes! I remember having one of Disney movies that I’m sure was a hand-me-down from my older cousins. I thought it was the coolest thing ever!

  6. Di Hickman Reply

    I remember having those view finders as a kid and playing with them for hours. Making up stories to go along with the photos in them! Cool to see they are still available!

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      They are kind of tricky to find now, so I was stoked to find these ones!

  7. I loved viewfinders when I was a little kid, I could sit and play with one for hours!

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      Yes! We have so many discs, so it’s a lot of entertainment for the whole family!

  8. Cynthia Spillane Reply

    Oh my gosh, I absolutely this this whole concept. To learn is to accept. I may have to get those figurines for the little ones in my life!

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      It’s really handy that they label the figurines with what country they represent. I kept getting confused!

  9. Reesa Lewandowski Reply

    I love Lakeshore’s products! I will have to take a look for these for my kids, they’d love them!

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      There stuff is always great quality! Whenever I go to preschool co-op sales, I always grab the Lakeshore products because I know they’re good for another 20 years or so!

  10. I totally agree that it’s very important to spark cultural conversations from a young age. I started traveling with my family when I was very young and I am very grateful for how much I learnt and how tolerant I have become to cultural differences. And those viewfinders sound like something I would have loved back then!
    Carlota |

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      I think it’s so important to understand that the world is full of people with a plethora of experiences that are different from our own.

  11. This is great. It’s so important. When we moved to the city we live in now my kids were introduced to so many different cultures and I know a lot of kids dont get that same exposure so its a must to teach them!

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      It’s so cool to meet people from all walks of life!

  12. I love how you value informing your kids of different cultures. My husband grew up in Thailand and I lived in Spain for a year so we both have an appreciation for other cultures that we want to pass on to our children. The viewfinder looks like a great toy to teach children!

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      We like that it makes our son ask us questions about the things he sees in the viewfinder. It gives us a great opportunity for some interesting conversations!

  13. Lakeshore really does have the best products! Great games and toys and educational as well! The books for lesson ideas are fabulous and so creative!

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      Yes, they have high quality products in a world where that’s hard to come by!

  14. This is such a great idea for toys! I think it’s so important to teach kids about other cultures

  15. This is such a great idea for toys! I think it’s so important to teach kids about other cultures.

  16. Jennifer (JenuineMom) Reply

    I love Viewfinders — I didn’t even know they were made anymore. And it’s wonderful that you’re using this as a cultural lesson!

  17. Oh I used to have that viewfinder as a kid and absolutely loved it. Love all these toys, educational toys are the best! x

  18. I love viewfinders! I had one when I was little, and it is something that I definitely wanted for my kids. Having educational toys is always the priority for my family.

  19. How interesting! I’d love to get something like the Kids Around the World Block Play People for my daughter. I think it’s important for all children to learn about different cultures. 🙂

  20. This is beautiful! I love how diverse these are and children should see all different shades and cultures. I would get these for my kids when I have them!

  21. I love that viewfinder! It reminds me of California Adventure’s Soarin’, an attraction our family loves! This is a great learning “toy” to help children grow an awareness for life in other places.

  22. Amber Nelson Reply

    I love toys like this, as you can definitely learn so much from playing with them. Definitely would buy for my kids!

  23. We love lakeshore learning! We have ordered several preschool learning toys from them. My kids LOVE the figurines we have the People with Disabilities set and the community helpers set. We will have to check these out too!

  24. Tabitha Shakespeare Reply

    These all look so great and educational! Love that your inspiring cultural conversations so early on!

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