Foreign travel may not be possible for your family right now, but the sights, sounds, flavors and customs of exotic destinations are still within reach - or at least driving distance. With a bit of creativity and some research, map out some global explorations the whole family can enjoy.
Try these themes before you pack a single suitcase:
You might remember seeing the 1956 classic film, The Red Balloon, set in Paris. Watch it with your child, and then explore your own town, like the boy and the balloon in the film do. Get a red helium balloon to accompany your day, and set out to a local bakery for a fresh baked croissant, an éclair or nutella on a crepe or baguette. Go to your local art museum or the library to look for Impressionist works, including picture books for children introducing the artists and their paintings.
When Angelina Ballerina does pirouettes and pliés, she is using French words. Do you notice the accent she speaks with? And now that she is at her new school, Camembert Academy, one of her classmates seems to have a French accent. Can you tell who that is? If you're feeling adventurous, try some camembert cheese from France and learn a few French sentences with your little one, whose brain and tongue are nimble for language learning!
Groceries: A Window to the World
In a growing number of communities, you're likely to find an Indian, Mexican, Chinese or other ethnic grocery store. If it's a bit of a trek to get there, make the visit a highlight of your day. Allow your Sproutlet time to notice the labels, scents and diversity of items. Pick up some baked goods, mango juice or sweet treats.
If you can't locate an ethnic shop nearby, look for items new to you in your local grocery store - maybe a type of bean, bread, fruit or dairy product.
Take it one step further. Try a new food and then anchor an activity around the food's country of origin:
Greek Yogurt: Locate and attend a Greek cultural festival.
Naan & Curry: Take a yoga class, watch a Bollywood or classical Indian music video.
Lo Mein Noodles: Visit China Town or an import shop and buy a special set of chopsticks.
These combinations show how all five senses can be engaged in your adventure.
Futbol - GOOOOOOOLLLLL!!!!
Is there a little kicker in the house? Choose your excursion's theme around soccer, or any sport your family loves. Watch a soccer match on Spanish television, available through most basic cable packages. You don't need to speak Spanish to understand the excitement when GOOOOOOOLLLLL is announced. See if your little one can understand any other words.
If a foreign team is visiting your city's professional league, or if a university team plays nearby, attend the game. Look up the hometown of a favorite player, keeping an eye out for a new country you can learn about. Mark the spot on your world map, attend a concert or class showcasing the musical genre of that culture (or simply listen to it online), and discover the foods they like to eat there.
These close-by global adventures add excitement to family weekends, and require no vaccinations! But watch out, they might bite your little one with the travel bug.