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.
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.
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.
More Globally-Inspired Toys
Pretend You’re in China with World Village Playsets for Children
How to Teach Kids about Money + Travel Budgets with Learning Resources
Creating Souvenir Postcards with Pipsticks Sticker Subscription
Baby + Toddler Travel Books to Inspire Wanderlust