Developing Global Awareness in Children and Teenagers

Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase after clicking one of the links, I may receive a small commission to help support this site, at no additional cost to you.

developing global awareness

This month we’re focusing on 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids here at FaithPassedDown.com. Thanks for joining us!

Yesterday we looked at a few reasons to involve kids in global missions. Today we’ll start with step one: developing global awareness in children and teenagers.

Before we can cultivate a love for the nations in the hearts of our children, they need to understand that the nations exist! The good news is, this step is pretty fun and simple.

Please realize that these are pretty basic ideas, meant for those who are new to focusing on the world… so it’s possible you’re already doing all these! In that case, way to go! Hang in there, and in the coming days we’ll be delving deeper into (hopefully) some new ideas.

world map

Hang a world map in your home.

This simple step has helped us talk about the world more in our home, even with our three-year old! (And I promise, she is no prodigy – just a normal kid).

Since we posted a map in our home last March, my husband and I have naturally found ourselves pointing to the map to show a country talked about on the news, or a place we are praying for, or the home country of a friend.

If you are looking to purchase a world map, here’s a cheap one by Rand McNally, or this is the one we have in our dining area (ours came folded up, so it’s a bit wrinkled, as you can see above!) The one we have is pretty brightly colored and easy to read.

But I like this one even more:

I’ve been swooning over the web site for the Little Passports subscription program, which includes a World Map in the first box (shown above).

Little Passports is a lovely monthly mail-order subscription for “tiny travelers” that looks totally adorable – see below for a little more about Little Passports.

world map bathroom

I am not much of a decorator, but I did want to show you that we have a world map shower curtain, too! Ours is from Target and isn’t sold in stores anymore, but seems to be available on their web site. When I Googled it, there were also some more sophisticated options.

When I was a kid, we used world map placemats at the dinner table. We also had one of the USA – that’s how I learned all my state capitals! Here are some placemats featuring the world, and also each continent in the world. Or here are some cute ones on Etsy.

Alternatively, you could just print out some maps and laminate them yourself, if you’re feeling crafty (but I think ordering from Amazon is simpler). Check Walmart, too – it looks like they might carry them in store for $1 apiece.

Study the world with your kids.

As I mentioned above, I recently found the Little Passports program and it looks totally darling and fun for kids.

The first month, they send a little toy suitcase with stickers, a passport, and a world map. Then, each month they send an activity book, souvenirs, stickers, and other fun, centered on a particular theme.

I love that there is an Early Explorers subscription for younger kids (age 3-5) and World Travelers Edition for older children (ages 6-10). There’s also a USA Edition for ages 7-12.

Elle, our three-year old, has lately gotten so interested in looking at maps and talking about the world, and I know she would love getting to do some age-appropriate activities with me.

From the pictures on the site, the activities for the Early Explorers program look perfect for my three-year old.

At first I was a little surprised that there aren’t lots of elaborate crafts or recipes involved, but then I realized that’s the beauty of the program – it features simple, do-able activities that won’t require loads of time or leave a bunch of junk all over our house.

Looking at the box contents, I’d be thrilled to have a fun time together focused on the world, doing some simple activities, then slide the suitcase into it’s spot on the toy shelf and look forward to next months’ mail. 🙂

For more information about Little Passports, click here. Comment below if you sign up – I’d love to know what you think! 🙂

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Eat food from other countries. 

You likely have Chinese, Italian, or Mexican restaurants in your community. If you don’t regularly eat those cuisines, start there!

If you’re ready to branch out beyond those areas, look for other ethnic eateries. You might look for: Mediterranean, Greek, or Arabic food (my favorite!), Korean, Japanese, El Salvadorian, Peruvian, Indian, Thai, or Brazilian.

Many of these restaurants will feature decor, photographs, and even staff members from these countries. Enjoy the cultural experience by…

  • talking with your server (you could ask a question like, “Have you been to India? if you feel awkward about asking if they are a foreigner or not).
  • walking around the restaurant to look at decor while you wait for your food.
  • participating in customs of the region, like sitting on the floor or eating with chopsticks.

Picky eaters? Here are some ideas:

  • Look up the menu ahead of time. Select some items that seem “safe” for your children.
  • Google the type of cuisine (like “typical Korean food”) and talk about it with your child ahead of time. Show photos to your child of the different possible dishes.
  • Order a few plain items, if possible. Most types of ethnic food have rice, bread, tortillas, etc. which are pretty kid-friendly and can be ordered plain (even if all you see on the menu is flatbread covered in spices and sauce, just ask for it plain).
  • Feed your child ahead of time, so they aren’t hungry when you go out. That way, you aren’t stressed about them eating or not eating. If they want to taste the food, great! If not, just have them sit and enjoy the company of your family.
  • Don’t force your child to eat anything. Instead consider these strategies:
    • ask your child to simply lick each item. (Is this gross? It seems to work for our kids, since it’s easier than actually having to put it in your mouth).
    • make a contest among members of the family – who can try the most new items? Offer a prize at the end (the winner gets to choose dessert!)
    • allow the child to choose his own item off the menu.

Alternatively, you could cook food from another country at home. Stay tuned for a very special resource that will help you connect with your children over cross-cultural meals… I’m introducing it for sale in my shop at the end of the month.

In the meantime, here is an assortment of ethnic recipes, or Pinterest abounds with ethnic dishes… when I typed in “ethnic foods” on Pinterest, it popped up several suggested searches for specific countries. You could browse the one that you are looking for.

If you like cookbooks, I like The International Cookbook for Kids or The Second International Cookbook for Kids , which are both currently free on Kindle Unlimited. Or, just check your local library.

Talking to a real person is probably a slightly better way to learn about the world than just talking to the globe, like my daughter is trying to do. ;)
Talking to a real person is probably a slightly better way to learn about the world than just talking to the globe, like my daughter is trying to do. 😉

Talk to people from other countries about their homeland.

You likely already know someone who was born in another country or who has lived in another country at some point in their lives.

I would guess that in most cases, this person would be delighted to talk about their home country. Make a point to help your child get to know this person, or to specifically ask the person about this other place.

When I was a kid, I had to “interview an immigrant” for a school assignment. I remember I interviewed Miss Etta, a sweet Scandinavian Sunday school teacher from our church who told me that she knew she had finally learned English when she began to think in English. Twenty-some years later and I still remember that!

If you don’t know the person well, you could suggest the person come over to your home for afternoon tea or for dinner, or ask if it’s better to go to their home so you can view photos or mementos.

If your child feels awkward, don’t force them. Instead, invite the person over as your guest, not your child’s guest, and simply request that your child be present.

Do you already have a close friend or family member who is from another country? Sometimes you may see someone frequently but not get a chance to talk to them much about their heritage.

It can also get a bit awkward if you’re not sure if they grew up somewhere else, or where they lived. Here are some questions you could ask in this situation to try to open the door to further conversation:

  • Can you tell me about your childhood?
  • Where did you grow up?
  • What was your school like?
  • What kind of food did you like to eat when you were a child?
  • Have you always lived in this area?
  • How long have you lived in this area? Where did you live before that?
  • Do you speak any other languages?

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Keep your eyes open for other “global” opportunities.

Depending on your community and the age of your children, look for other opportunities to develop global awareness as a family.

  • Do you notice a book with international games on the shelf at the library? Check it out and play a few.
  • Does your town have a Greek festival each year? Go!
  • Is there a visiting missionary family coming to your church? Attend their presentation.
  • Is there a natural disaster happening in another region of the world? Talk about it with your teenagers.
  • Do you see a tour-the-world DVD at the library? Check it out!
  • Is The Amazing Race on TV this weekend? If you’ve never seen it, on The Amazing Race, teams of two partner up and race around the world, doing fun challenges along the way. It’s a great way to see the world! Consider watching it with your older children. Of course, this is totally at your discretion based on your family’s TV choices. My husband and I watch it together, but we wouldn’t let our three-year-old join us. You can see past episodes on CBS.com… last season Christian surfer Bethany Hamilton (who lost an arm in a shark attack) was a contestant – she is inspirational!
  • Is an international children’s choir coming to a church in your neighborhood? Buy tickets!

As we talk about all nations, experience other cultures, and develop global awareness, we’re leading our children and teenagers into a greater understanding of God’s heart for all nations.

 This Global Missions with Kids series is full of thoughts and practical ideas for serving Christ alongside your children and teenagers.

** Do you already do any of these practices? Is there one you’d like to try? Have you ever ordered a box from Little Passports? Leave a comment below.

Disclosure: Some of the links above may be affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase after clicking one of the links, I may receive a small commission to help support this site, at no additional cost to you.

3 thoughts on “Developing Global Awareness in Children and Teenagers

  1. These are all great ideas to open the world to our young people! I have heard of Little Passports, but haven’t purchased anything from them.

    My “kids” are parents now; and I have 6 grandchildren ages 1 year old up to almost 18 years old!! My daughter (of the 3 youngest) is a teacher and is great about teaching them about things; but I’m not sure if she has done anything about global awareness…I’m giving her this site address so she can check it out!

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