Five Ways To Open The World To Our Children

Photo submitted by Grant Cochrane at

When I read about the uprising in Syria, the nuclear issues in the Middle East, or the drug wars in Mexico, I end up feeling quite discouraged.

Here I am chopping carrots, matching socks, and sewing on Cub Scout badges–and I can’t do a thing to solve the world’s problems (or so I thought).

Yes, I want to be an informed voter.  Yes, I think one person can affect public policy and “change the world,” but what I’ve been looking for (and what I’ve finally found) are simple ways I can shape the next generation, right in my own home.

Last week, I had the chance to spend an hour on the phone with Homa Sabet Tavangar, the author of one of my new favorite books, “Growing Up Global.”  (We’ve got a book giveaway below, so be sure to leave a comment to enter.)

It’s all about raising children who feel at home in the world–children who are genuinely compassionate, appreciative of other cultures, and knowledgeable about the successes and challenges every country faces.

Think about it.  If every mother worldwide operated out of the same playbook–raising respectful, solid, global-minded children–our future would look mighty bright.

Click here to listen to our full podcast.

And if you’d like to know five simple ways that Homa suggests we begin this process of raising global children, here are some ideas from her first chapter:

(1) Keep the World at Your Fingertips

Whether it’s an inflatable globe, a classroom globe, or a huge wall map, having the world in front of us will shape our conversations.

Let’s say you have a map hanging in your kitchen, and as you’re unloading your groceries, you notice that your kiwi has a sticker reading, “Produce of Italy.”  How simple is it to show your child where the fruit was grown and how far it had to travel to get to your local grocery store? (Assuming your child isn’t throwing a tantrum because he wants to eat the jelly beans you bought, even though you haven’t had lunch yet.)

After the tantrum last Wednesday, my son and I did take a couple of minutes to explore the kiwi-Italy connection, and now “Italy” doesn’t seem like such a vague concept.  It’s a place; a place that brings him great fruit, for starters.

(2) Surf the Internet

My children love to be online, but there are so many time traps that drive me crazy.  We spent three minutes watching Conan O’Brien delivering Chinese food to New Yorkers this morning, and I’m thinking we could have done something a little more productive (even though it was pretty funny . . .). It’s not like we always have to use the Internet for education, but sprinkling a few global, educational sites into our online time is simple and effective.

National Geographic’s My Wonderful World page is a fun place to start, and the American Library Association has a listing of great websites for kids.  There are limitless resources out there, but we need to be looking for them.

(3) Find Beautiful Books

This is where I’m lacking, so it’s a good thing we have such a helpful librarian (who I’ll be visiting shortly).  Homa started out with these two favorites: Children Just Like Me and A Life Like Mine.

(4) Enrich Your Playlists and Music Collection

Your local library undoubtedly has a plethora of excellent music from around the world, but if you’re looking for some other ways to get started, I’m thrilled with Putumayo’s World Music for Kids.  And since talking with Homa, I’ve been showing my children YouTube videos of Yo-Yo Ma, and I even took my husband on a date to an Italian opera. (Romantic!)

(5) Get Passports

Even if you have no plans to travel right now, having passports opens the possibility.  My 12-year-old daughter and I are traveling together to our Power of Moms Australian Retreats next month (so exciting . . . and so nerve-wracking).  The week after I took her to the passport office, she and her siblings created their own set-up for their Zhu Zhu Pets.

They took “official” photos of each of their 12 little animals and then printed passport images off the Internet to make covers for the booklets.

Photo submitted by April Perry

This is just a small example, but children structure their play around their experiences, and even though I don’t have plans to backpack through Europe with my four little ones anytime soon, I want to create a life that literally means the world to my family.

We may not be able to do something about everything we see on the news, but can we do something (even a little something) every day to positively affect the next generation?  Absolutely.

For more great information, visit Homa’s website,

QUESTION: What are the best resources you’ve found to help your children develop a global mindset?

CHALLENGE: Pick one idea–either from this post, from Homa’s website, or from your own imagination–to help your family develop a greater knowledge of and appreciation for the variety of cultures in our world.


Thanks to those who commented and entered our book giveaway!  The winner was randomly selected, and her name is . . . Emily Ballard!  Congratulations!

For those of you who didn’t win, you can still order the book at Amazon.  (It’s well worth it.)



  1. says

    Love the passports for the Zhu-Zhu pets. I have to be honest I haven’t really thought about this topic too much- so keeping my fingers crossed that I win the book!!

  2. Michelle Johnston says

    April, I love this idea. I’ve always wanted to put a map on my kitchen table under a glass top….this was my inspiration to just do it! If I dont win the book, I will be purchasing it soon! Thanks for your inspiration:)

  3. Adrienne says

    Great post! Raising a little global citizen is super important to me. My baby girl is only 3 months old, so I’ll likely start with the beautiful books challenge. I can’t imagine it being much of a challenge since I love beautiful books myself. The map and connection to where the produce came from was a marvelous example of a teaching opportunity. I would absolutely love to win this book.

  4. Debbie says

    I love the ideas suggested!! My youngest is now 13, but these are such excellent ideas of how I could even incorporate a few things right now! Thank you!

  5. Katie says

    Love the ideas! I spent my teenage years living in Japan and have traveled around the world. Always looking for great suggestions on how to help my children to become more globally minded. Going to request some of the books and music from the library right now!

  6. jstjensen says

    I love these ideas! It seems like the world gets a little smaller every day and I want my boys to feel at home wherever they are in the world.

  7. says

    This is something I think about constantly. Making a difference and helping my children develop more than just tolerance for others, but compassion, is so important. Interesting book.

  8. Emily says

    Great idea. We get the newspaper every day. When a photo or headline catches our kids attention, we do our best to explain it. We always have great discussions when they read the headlines from across the table.

  9. Emily says

    We love globes and maps! We also get the newspaper every day. Our kids are still little, but we talk about the images that catch their eye. Two of them are reading and often ask about the headlines.

  10. says

    We have a map hanging in our kitchen too, mostly we use it to I can show my daughter where in the world our various friends are from, sometimes so I can point out places she hears about on the news – but I love the idea of also using it to show her where our food comes from!

  11. Kristee says

    I too love these ideas. One thing we do as a family is have “country days”. We invite friends over and do crafts and games, read books, and have food from the country we are learning about. My kids love it and, with the internet, it is so easy to learn about new places, customs, and traditions. We also love to look at globes and maps and talk about where people we know have been in the world.

  12. trixie23 says

    This is a great topic with some wonderful ideas! I think a trip to the zoo and showing children where the animals live on a map really opens their eyes to the different and varied locations around the world.

  13. Karin says

    Great ideas. I was able to travel a bit as a young adult and found it so valuable. I would love to open up the world to my own kids, even in the confines of my own home. Thanks for doing this giveaway.

  14. Erin says

    My daughter was adopted from Kazakhstan and we are planning a mission trip to give back to her birth country. She is truly a citizen of the world.

  15. Preeti Nand says

    I was born in Fiji, my ex-husband is from South Africa. We are both descendents of Indentured Laborers (in the late 1800s)from India and we live in Australia where we our three children were born! We can’t get enough of being global! I hope I win the book so that I can continue expanding the horizon for my little ones.

    And, as an aside, I am so looking forward to catching up with you at the Sydney Retreat.

  16. Meg Lowery says

    You must have been reading my mind when you wrote this post! One of my goals this year is to help my children (and myself) think on a more global scale but it’s sometimes challenging to know where to begin. My husband and I are looking for a humanitarian project we can participate in as a family in the not so distant future but I’m feeling inspired by the great ideas to get us started right in our own home. I will definitely check into that book! Thanks!

  17. says

    The other day at dinner, my (relatively smart) 9 year old daughter asked if Mexico was on a different continent. My husband and I looked at each other in disbelief and realized how much work we have to do in this department! We need to get a map up on our wall!

    Love this post and would love to read the book!

  18. janaemessick says

    Your book review, podcasts and post have started opening my mommy-world up to new ideas! I’m off to find some of your suggestions at my library!

  19. rachel0 says

    we’re definitely going to be making some passports (not zhu zhu, i have boys, maybe for the star wars figures). We’ve got some putamayo cds which i love because it’s music i enjoy too! Great ideas, thanks!

  20. says

    We like to grab that little person icon in Google maps and plonk it on a street somewhere. Going to street level and moving click by click along a road it pretty amazing. We’re all learning and asking questions.

  21. beth says

    We love daydreaming about places we’d like to go and my husband and I tell our kids about the world adventures we had before they were born; Africa, Nepal, and Costa Rica…and we all save for and talk about where we’ll go next.

  22. beth says

    We tell our kids where we’ve gone (before they were born) and what it was like; Africa, Nepal, and Costa Rica. We all save for and daydream about where we should go next.

  23. says

    This is great! We find ourselves (kids included) going to the globe quite often! We’ve amassed quite a list of places to live and visit. And it’s never too early to start the process, since there’s SO much paperwork involved with passports and visas!

  24. Jonnel says

    Travel!! I know that’s the point of your last tip, getting the passports, but I can’t stress enough how important, enlightening and life changing it is to actually get out there and travel with your kids from a very young age. And don’t put it off til the kids are older. I know traveling with kids seems daunting but with some planning it’s possible and enjoyable.

    One of the most magical parts of traveling internationally with out two young sons (almost 7 and almost 4) is witnesses how children don’t allows barriers such as not sharing a language interfere with their natural curiosity about other people. Our oldest son still talks about the “friend” he met on a 30 minute train ride in Japan three years ago – they didn’t speak the same language and only had a short time to bond, but for my son the connection was real and lasting. When it was time to disembark the boys exchanged token gifts (a small plastic dinosaur and a coin from our country), which is a cherished souvenir. (I recommend that when you do travel you take small gifts like this to give as you interact with people – coins or stickers from your home country with perhaps a flag are easy to carry and exciting to receive.)

    While I understand that many families’ budgets are tight and big trips aren’t possible, my husband and I have decided that our travel budget is going to get more attention than many other things. And there are ways to travel frugally – if you are determined, you can make it happen.

    Last tip for raising Global kids: Learn a second language. Even just a few words opens kids ideas to other cultures and makes them realize that there are many ways of doing things in the world. Remember, what might seem difficult to you is not necessarily for kids, whose brains are sponges. And if you are traveling to a country where the local language is different from your own, it becomes even more important to learn the language. Just learning how to say, ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘please’, and ‘thank you’ will take you a long way in a foreign culture.

    • April Perry says

      Jonnel, these ideas are wonderful! I need to come up with some good little toys/giveaways for my daughter to take to Australia. She’s 12. Any thoughts? I don’t know what Australian children would find interesting about California. We have a bunch of Disneyland buttons . . . should we take those?

  25. Linda Hanson says

    befriend international students at the local university brings the world right to your home. most schools have some sort of program… many are NOT live-in programs… Just International Friends. University of Arizona has a good one that’s been around for over 50 years… it’s fun; it’s easy; it changes lives!

  26. says

    Thanks for the great article! it’s very relevant to our family just now – we have not been big travellers due to money constraints but it hit me lately that we need to get out there and see more/do more, especially as once our kids are school leaving age the world will be a totally different place with the technologies in place, in fact we need to be learning Chinese don’t we??! We are just sending off our passport applications and we are taking our 3 kids to Turkey in the summer! I’m also hoping to get into house swapping so we can make more of our visits to other countries. I love the map idea and have seen a few lately on kitchen walls….I love your animal passport office, just the sort of thing my girls love doing too.

  27. Ashley says

    We love our map! Great ideas! We are starting to invest as a family through Kiva; it gives us many teaching opportunities and helps others too. Thanks for the giveaway!

  28. says

    Hi all – I love all the enthusiasm stirring around raising global kids. The ideas are really endless. I’m introduced to new, creative approaches literally everyday. Makes me happy to think of more and more kids growing up with an expansive, embracing, empathic view of their world and all people. Hope you’ll stay in touch here and @growingupglobal. Thanks for all the positive feedback.

  29. Jonnel says

    April, I think Disneyland buttons (or buttons of any kind) are a great idea. Keychains are good. I like the stickers and coins because they are so light and easy to carry. Bookmarks can be good too if you can maybe find some with local landmarks or even postcards. (If you wanted you could have homemade stickers with your mailing address/email on hand to stick to the bookmarks to give to key people you encounter – obviously you want to apply appropriate stranger danger smarts rules here – which for us was almost exclusively other kids). Hope that helps! I’ll post more if I think of anything.

    • April Perry says

      I love these ideas! Thanks Jonnel. I’m going to share this with my daughter and see what she thinks. You’re right–the coins would be wonderful. I know we’d love to see Australian money. And postcards/bookmarks are a brilliant idea. So affordable and fun. Thank you!!

  30. Jonnel says

    I think the keys to choosing trinkets are: unique from your hometown/country; cheap; easy to carry and light weight! Hope you daughter has a wonderful adventure!!

  31. Jonnel says

    Linda, what a fantastic idea to befriend international students at local universities. Making connections with international groups at colleges and universities is also a good way to learn about events they hold and which can open your children’s minds to cultures and customs from around the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *