Low-Key Country Studies for Young Kids

by Amy on January 19, 2012

learning about countries with kids

When I ask the girls what history or geography topics they would like to learn more about, “other countries!” is always at the top of the list.

We explore one country at a time, focusing on the basics to give them a general “feel” for the country. Keeping my girls ages (seven and nine) and interests in mind, we usually end up focusing a lot on animals, food, and cultural celebrations.

Here is our basic approach to country-study, along with some of our favorite resources. I hope you’ll share your fave resources in the comments, too!

We look at maps.

We have the National Geographic Beginners World Atlas, which is geared toward ages 5-7 and has been a wonderful beginner resource for us. We’ll probably upgrade to the National Geographic World Atlas for Young Explorers soon, since the girls seem ready for more detailed information.

For printable maps, we often use National Geographic Xpeditions Atlas.

We learn basic facts.

How many people live there? What language(s) do they speak? What are the names of important cities or landmarks? In addition to our atlas, we use these sites for gathering interesting facts about our country:

We read books.

The library is our first stop for gathering-up some great reads about our chosen country. Not only do we look in the geography section of the kids’ nonfiction area, but we also check the computer for picture books and folktales that tie in. The girls love learning about animals, so we usually add some books about native animals or habitats to our pile.

At home, we have some general reference books as well (in addition to our atlas):

We watch videos.

We listen to music and language.

  • Pandora – We’ve been listening to Mariachi, Samba, Celtic, and many others. Try checking out the stations under the ‘World’ genre or using the search feature.
  • CDs from library (We always enjoy the Putumayo ones)
  • Say Hello to the World {Internet Public Library}

We cook and eat.

My girls are not super-adventurous eaters, so we keep it pretty simple with our country-inspired foods. Sometimes we just eat foods that are important crops of the country we are studying. Here are some sites I browse through if we want to cook and taste something new:

We do a project.

We usually do at least one project for our chosen country. It could be playing traditional games or sports, doing an art project, cooking a meal, etc. I try to limit myself to 30-minutes of internet surfing, then choose something that looks doable. There is SO much out there, I could browse and plan for hours – but that would defeat the purpose of keeping these country studies simple and low-key! :)

I sometimes browse through books at the library, too. I have found fun ideas in Global Art, The Kids Multicultural Art Book, and Math Games & Activities from Around the World.

How about you? Do your kids enjoy learning about other countries? What are your favorite activities or resources?


Melitsa January 20, 2012 at 12:07 am

Brilliant post especially for developing cultural awareness if you live in a monocultural area.

We love taking a Google map tour. Placing the picture icon of the person into an area and moving down the street one click at a time. We get to see buildings and love spotting people, cars, furniture.

Amy January 20, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Yes, Google maps! Thanks for the reminder. Isn’t the internet an amazing resource? :)

Little Wonders' Days January 20, 2012 at 7:23 am

I love all your ideas! This is such a fun approach to learning about other countries. We just took a trip to the Asian market to buys some things for Chinese New Year. There are a lot of ethnic grocery stores in our area and they are pretty fun to explore.

Amy January 20, 2012 at 1:50 pm

A grocery store field trip is a great idea – thanks! :)

Terri January 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm

My girls are 2 and 4 and love learning about other countries. I try and keep it super-simple for them. We learn a bit about the geography & culture focusing on things that I know will interest them. For instance, we recently learned about China and one of the things we talked about were kites. We also learn about an animal (or animals) native to the country. I’ve always enjoyed geography and figure you’re never too young to start learning about other countries!

Brooke January 21, 2012 at 9:50 am

Thanks for this great post! My daughter has been asking to learn about other countries so I’m so excited to have your ideas! I love your blog!

Stephanie C. January 23, 2012 at 6:28 pm

This is my first post on your blog and I just want to say thank you. I’ve been reading for over a year and I appreciate and love each one of your posts. Thank you for your wonderful blog!!

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