5 ways to expose your children to other cultures

A world of culture is right at their fingertips.

5 ways to expose your children to other cultures
Motherly for Nick Jr.'s Canticos

In an ideal world, jetting around the globe with children would be an easy endeavor. But for most mamas, budget and time constraints (not to mention the more obvious challenges of traveling with little ones!) make it all but impossible.

Fortunately, global travel isn't the only way to expose children to new cultures and foster cultural empathy. "One of the easiest ways to encourage your child's cultural empathy and understanding is by being open to other cultures," says Dr. Sanya Pelini, Ph.D. and practical parenting expert.

Here are five empowering ways to promote cultural empathy in your young child—without having to leave your neighborhood.

1. Explore the world through books and entertainment.

Books can be one of the simplest ways to broaden a world view for kids and adults alike. "Good books not only teach your child about different cultures and their traditions, it is also a great way to help your child pick up new vocabulary and information about different regions around the world," Pelini says. Nick Jr.'s Canticos' books like Little Chickies-Los Pollitos is a great place to start (and it was named Kirkus' Best Book of the Year!).

Videos can help too. Canticos is also available as animated short-form video content that introduces children to Spanish and encourages bilingualism through familiar nursery rhymes.

Share and sing along to the episodes with your little one here—and don't be surprised if you start hearing "The Wheels on the Bus" en espanol.

2. Encourage curiosity and research. 

Odds are, you have cultural resources right in your community you can take advantage of. Pick a country once a month and plan events (or even just a themed dinner) around experiencing that culture. Older children can be tasked with researching the country and reporting back to the family on history, geography, music and language of the chosen country, while littler ones can help you prepare recipes commonly eaten in that culture.

"One of the biggest obstacles to developing cultural empathy is a lack of understanding of the other," Pelini says.

3. Spend time with all different types of people. 

Maybe your sister's husband is from a different country or your neighbor grew up with a different religion. Use these differences as an opportunity to teach your children that, while other people may do different things, everyone deserves love and respect.

"It is important for your child to get real exposure to different cultures. Having someone from a different culture in your family is a great opportunity to teach your child that there's nothing wrong in being different," Pelini says. "Getting real exposure can help your child understand that people can be culturally different but still have so many things in common. It can be a great way to break down stereotypes."

Don't have a nearby friend or relative you can tap? Do a little research to find cultural festivals or other cultural events happening in your community.

4. Encourage your child to ask you questions. 

Encourage your children to ask questions, and don't get uncomfortable even if you feel like the question is difficult. "There is no need to get embarrassed when your child asks 'why is that lady black?' or 'why are his eyes like that?' We all notice differences, and kids are not different," Pelini says.

Instead of skirting the issue, try saying: "There are many different people in the world: some are black, some are white, some are brown, etc." By normalizing cultural differences, you help your child to feel even more connected to people who are different from him. Encountering those who might be from different backgrounds enriches children's lives immeasurably.

And if your child does get struggle with something—it becomes a rich teaching moment for you to help them learn and stretch their empathetic muscle by considering another's point of view. Talking to them about feelings is key to fostering empathy.

Today's kids are the most diverse generation of Americans ever, and animated short form content like Nick Jr.'s Canticos are committed to reflecting that diversity with content that brings together kids and familiar from all backgrounds.

5. Set an example.

Your child learns just as much from your reaction to different cultures as from what you say. That's why promoting cultural empathy and sensitivity starts with you. "Showing your child that you do not tolerate (or make) such comments shows you respect other cultures and gives her a model to follow," Pelini says.

When you exhibit respect and show your child what kind, caring relationships look like—they will learn from your ongoing example.

Maybe one day you and your children will travel the world, but for now, there are many ways to foster an empathetic spirit from home.

This article was sponsored by Nick Jr. + Canticos. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Dr. Sanya Pelini holds a Ph.D. in education. She transforms educational research into practical parenting tools and resources on her blog Raising Independent Kids.

14 Toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Micuna: Innovative and stylish baby gear that grows with them

Since 1973, Micuna has been perfecting the art of sustainably handcrafted baby furniture. Made from wood sourced from the north of Spain and Germany and manufactured in sustainable certified sawmill companies only, their modern and minimalist high chairs are perfect for families who don't want to sacrifice their aesthetic for function. What's more, they hold themselves to the strictest of European and American safety standards, resulting in only the best for parents and their littles.

Habbi Habbi: The easiest way to expose kids to a different language

Created by two best friends as an expression of their effort to be intentional parents, Habbi Habbi Reading Wand & Bilingual Books are the easiest way to start your kids bilingual learning without the screen. Their innovative and engaging play-based tool brings language to life through a tech-enabled wand and "tappable" books that give kids instant feedback, from vocabulary and phrases to musical tunes. The content is as intentional as the books are beautiful highlighting topics like emotions, female role models and diversity.

Countdown to Mama: 14 mama-tested, mama-approved presents to get excited about a new baby

Founded by a mama who came up the idea at the end of her own uncomfortable pregnancy, Countdown to Mama is the only advent calendar-style mama-to-be gift box out there. With a range of "niceties to necessities," she made it her mission to curate a collection of mama-loved products that thoughtfully usher her through the biggest transformation of her life.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Keep reading Show less

100 unusual + surprising baby name ideas

From Adelia to Ziggy.

Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play