(ARA) - Summer doesn't have to mean taking a break from learning. In fact, you can use this vacation season to help your kids explore new customs and add a global twist to their summer fun. Whether toddlers, teens or somewhere in between, you don't have to trot the globe to open their minds and imaginations to the world. Here are some tips to help your family get started:
1. Explore a new language.
Consider learning a language together as a family through a community education course or a local cultural organization - you can even download language instruction podcasts or MP3s from iTunes and other places on the Web. If your children are younger, you can start by learning some fun words, phrases or greetings.
2. Sample cuisine from other countries.
Take your family out to a restaurant that serves food from a different country, or consider preparing world cuisine recipes together at home. Make this into a game for your kids. Give each child an opportunity to select a country, and prepare a meal representative of the culture. Whether it's Indian, Mexican, Japanese or German, you can learn a lot about a culture from its food.
3. Embrace international media.
There are endless opportunities to learn about the world right at your fingertips - from watching an international news program to downloading international music. Take advantage of rainy days or cool summer nights to enjoy movies that are set in other countries. Search your TV listings for travel programs. And of course, you and your kids can read books together about far-off places.
4. Reach out to friends to share stories.
Ask friends, neighbors and colleagues who have lived in or traveled around the world to share their stories and experiences with your kids. Show the kids you are interested in learning about the world too by trading traditions and cultures over family barbecues or get-togethers.
5. Host an international exchange student.
Hosting an exchange student is a great way to broaden your children's worldviews. You can host an exchange student for a few weeks, a few months or a full school year. This unique experience will not only give you an opportunity to introduce your children to new customs and cultures, but will challenge your kids to learn about, appreciate and share their own culture and traditions. You can welcome a student in the fall and use this summer to prepare for their arrival. Use any of the above ideas to get ready for your international guest.
Families interested in hosting a high school exchange student can contact EF Foundation for Foreign Study, the United States' largest exchange organization, at effoundation.org or 800-447-4273.
Learning about the cultures and people of the world begins at home. Whether it's talking about world events, hosting an exchange student, or just enjoying delicious new foods, by helping your kids develop broad worldviews, you're also giving them a world of possibilities.