I’ve picked 5 toys that every little kid loves to play with (blocks, instruments, dolls, play food, games) and then I’ve chosen a version that has a global twist to teach little kids about other cultures. Internationalize your toy box at home or at school with these great picks!
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1) Building blocks. Kids love to sort, count, and build with blocks, so why not include some blocks that can teach little kids as well? YoBlocks are colorful photo blocks, that can be customized to include your own pictures (or use stock photos on their site)! We have a set with Ethiopia pictures for my son, a set with China for my other son, and my daughters’ sets of Mexico and US pictures (plus pictures of themselves- which is absolutely adorable!). They inspire conversation and questions, while kids have fun making towers.
Another great idea for global blocks are the Wanderlust Wooden Block Sets by Muji (City in a Bag), or the Russian House Architectural Blocks from Haba. These blocks sets include traditional and typical architecture from some of the world’s finest buildings and styles. Other collections include Egyptian Pyramids, Middle Eastern Master Builder, Coliseum, US capitol Building, Mayan Pyramid, and The Fat East Master Builder among others. Teach little kids about world architecture while they are having fun building!
2) Feel the rhythm- around the world. Whenever someone in my family is traveling abroad, we ask them to bring us a small instrument as our souvenir. Sound World Instruments has a wonderful selection of global instruments: from Afghani string instruments to Latin American and African drum and percussion instruments (and everything in between). Use multicultural music to bond with your child, and begin to accustom their little ears to the different sounds, tones, and rhythms worldwide.
3) Multi-ethnic Dolls. Although not found often in stores, on-line you can find a treasure of multicultural dolls, to reflect our beautiful array of skin tones and facial features. The Pattycake Doll Company is a great database to start, and includes hundreds of girl and boy dolls. Dolls Like Me also focuses on giving children a wide choice of multicultural dolls.
4) (Pretend to!) Eat your Way Around the World
Play food sets are now become much more diverse than when we were kids! I found a Chinese play food with dumplings and egg roles, an African play good set (above right) with a plantain, orka and even FooFoo, and several adorable sushi play sets. If kids “play eat” the pretend food, maybe they’ll be more likely to try one of the new ingredients next time you’re at a new restaurant.
5) Play Games. Kids love to play games, and even little kids can play memory-type games, or Bingo. In eeboo’s I Never Forget A Face Memory Game, kids look for and match faces from around the world. The same company also make some great language bingo games: Spanishand French Bingo. With the beautiful illustrations, and the high-quality materials, eeboo products have been proven to be a favorite of adults and children.
Have I forgotten any global gems? Mention them in the comments! I hope this list inspires you to make your playroom or classroom more global- the younger kids are exposed to cultures from around the world, the more open and receptive they will be as they grow up. I truly believe that these lessons- when developed over time- will help our children into compassionate, understanding, global citizens!
I did not receive any payment to review these items- these are all toys that we own or have played with. That said, the owner of YoBlocks is my very own sister Christy, who gave us the blocks as birthday presents long before she started her own company:).