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Around the World from Your Living Room!
Do you have the travel bug? The wanderlust gene? But maybe you are quarantined, or just don’t have the time, budget, etc. to travel? No problem! Have a little fun in your own home and bring the vacation to YOU and your family. Instead of a standard staycation, crank up the fun and make it a trip around the world. From your living room!
My family loves to travel, and we do it as often as we can. But since we can’t travel all the time, we ‘staycation’ by bringing some of our favorite travel experiences home with us. Travel inspired activities, such as preparing a meal from a different cuisine, learning history, or doing a fun craft project is fun for the entire family. There are bits for each of us and we enjoy our time together. Plus, we love learning about the world around us, and we have so much fun learning together in this way.
Vietnam is celebrated for its delicious street food. It’s beautiful, unique, complex, and delicious. AND, believe it or not, even popular with picky kids, in our experience. Try making some of these delicious meals at home. They may seem complex at first, but trust us, you’ll wind up having a lot of fun making them.
Pho definitely takes some time, but it’s not super labor-intensive. Most of the time, the soup is just cooking. Let your kids get involved. Have them smell all the ingredients; onion, ginger, etc., and perhaps even take notes on them. Once the soup is complete, see if they can recognize the flavor from each ingredient. What about the combination of flavors?
Lightly pickled vegetables are a popular side dish in Vietnam. Younger kids can get involved in making this. Have them taste the vegetables before and after the pickling. Ask them which way they prefer- raw or pickled?
Banh Mi are delicious sandwiches made with french baguette and filled with meats and pickled vegetables. Fun Fact to share with your kids: Vietnamese food is special, in part, because Vietnam was occupied, at one point, by China, and another by France. The food was influenced by each country, and, in my probably slightly biased opinion, brings the best of each style of cooking together for a new and wonderful culinary experience. Maybe you and your kids can come up with some other similar examples of foods blended from two cultures (American pizza?).
Watch a documentary
If your kids are old enough, there are some amazing, well made Vietnamese War documentaries. We love Last Days in Vietnam – rent it on Amazon Prime. You might find even your perpetually bored teen will find something interesting there.
Crafts are so fun for kids and making it travel-inspired means that they’ll be learning at the same time. Create a Junk boat out of Cardboard. These historical boats are beautiful, with wooden frames, and sails. They are easy to navigate, and your kiddos will have a blast decorating and imagining themselves sailing through Halong Bay and exploring caves in their beautiful boat.
Make Paper Lanterns. Is there anything more beautiful than Hoi An at night, lit up by the soft glow of a thousand paper lanterns? Recreate it at home. Make ‘em simple, or complex. Make as many as you can and add small electric ‘candles’ when the sun goes down, you are in for a treat!
Recreate Venice in your living room! Your younger kids will be amazed to learn about this amazing city on water. Use cardboard boxes as your gondolas, and even cut them to the right shape and decorate them, and make a giant game of don’t-touch-the-floor because everything is water. Crank up the silliness and complete your gondola ride with singing, even if you don’t sing well!
Create a Leaning Tower of Pisa out of anything you have at home. Try empty toilet paper rolls, egg cartons cut into individual pieces and stacked, or paper cups, or get fancy and create a detailed model with toothpicks and cardboard. However you make it, the goal is to get it to lean, but not fall.
Make a delicious, Italian-style pizza. If you are up for it, make the dough and the sauce from scratch. It’s an excellent cooking lesson for your kids, and the result will be AMAZING!
For a fun way to start your at-home Hawaii ‘trip’, do a volcano experiment. These are always a hit and it can be a great lead in to a discussion on what it would be like to see a volcano IN REAL LIFE. Check out the excellent pictures of the Volcanoes National Park and imagine how a volcano would impact the area near it.
Once you are ready for a cool treat, whip up a Dole Whip! There are a thousand recipes out there, but I usually just kinda wing it- frozen pineapple, coconut milk (light has more liquid so it’ll actually blend), a banana, and sugar to taste.
No beautiful fresh flowers for a lei? Make your own out of paper. We love these instructions for inspiration, but don’t be afraid to keep it simple – like WAY simple. It’ll be fun either way.
Next, pull out the kinetic sand for an epic sandcastle. It’s great for sensory play, relaxation, and just plain fun!
My Moana obsessed kids love hearing the real stories of Maui. They give you just a glimpse of Hawaiian culture and they are really wonderful. We love Maui Hooks the Islands, and many other great books by the same author.
Iceland, the land of fire and ice. And fire and ice give you SO many amazing opportunities to learn about the world and how it works. And the great thing about it is that you really don’t need to go to Iceland to learn a ton.
The landscape of Iceland is constantly being changed due to the melting of glaciers and increased thermal activity in the area. Try a hands-on project to help explain what is going on in Iceland. Your kids will love and will learn so much while doing it!
Get a little wild on your Iceland staycation- if you are brave enough, set up a large plastic bin with sand and water and a few cups or scoops. Let your kids learn about the power of water in changing landscapes, and even try comparing the power or water versus air erosion.
We also love this project idea by Fun at Home with Kids! To make this activity a bit more travel-inspired, fill one squeeze bottle with cold and one with warm to see the differences and imagine what would happen if molten lava came into contact with a block of ice.
Ready for a real challenge? The Icelandic language is CHALLENGING to say the least. If I’m honest, I have not yet correctly pronounced a single Icelandic word, despite my best efforts. See if you can learn how to correctly pronounce the name of this amazing Icelandic volcano: Eyjafjallajökull. Trust us – it could take a week, but it’s fun nonetheless.
Spanish food is amazing and tapas? How do you say no to tapas? I think I can go out on a limb and say that ALL kids love snacks. Tapas is basically a meal of snacks! Tapas is such fun for kids and adults, and it’s a really fun way to try some new dishes. Even if your kids are a bit nervous to try something new, the tapas set up makes it less intimidating.
What’s a pretend visit to Spain without football! Learn the basics of soccer/football, and modify so that it’s simple enough for the whole family to play! You can get set up and play a mini version indoors, or in the backyard. Or, watch a game on TV. Soccer isn’t really my sport, but it can actually be super fun to watch, and I’m surprised that my young kids enjoy watching a game if we make it fun and talk it through.
The Spanish Flamenco dance is beautiful and full of complexities. For kids old enough, Flamenco is a great music theory lesson. Even younger kids can certainly see some of the patterns there. Plus, the music is fun and the dancing is amazing and sure to pique the interest of everyone in your family.
La Tomatina is a bucket list experience for SURE. If you can’t make it there in person, recreate it at home! Make sure your tomatoes are soft – traditionally overripe tomatoes are used, but if they aren’t available, perhaps blanch yours to soften them up. Put everyone in clothes you don’t mind getting destroyed and have the garden hose ready. A tomato fight in the backyard with parents too will be a mess for sure, but I bet your kids will remember that day forEVER.
The Louvre is definitely a don’t-miss attraction, but truth be told, even if you are in Paris, you MAY not want to go with your kids (because crowds, size, and etc). BUT good news – you can ‘visit’ from home on your France-inspired staycation. The Louvre has an amazing virtual tour you can check out here.
After checking out the Louvre, you and your family might be ready to try your hand at creating art. Set up a painting studio at the dining room table. Older kids can try painting in the style of Monet or Van Gough, or any French painters they enjoy.
Les Miserables is amazing for history buffs, music nerds, or basically anyone because it’s amazing. History buffs can use the music as a starting point for learning about the French Revolution. And anyone who loves music will be singing the songs for – well.. maybe the rest of their lives.
French cooking can be a bit intimidating. But some of the greatest parts of French cuisine are simple. Learn how to make a great baguette, or at least try! Younger kids can definitely measure ingredients and maybe even knead the dough. For older kids, baking bread can lead to a great discussion about yeast.
And don’t stop there. Making butter is tons of fun and will taste amazing! It’s totally simple, just takes a bit of time.
Kids are too young to taste wine? Try a blind juice taste test. See if they can guess which kind of juice it is with their eyes closed. Then, check out the color and properties of the juice and notice the differences.
French has always been a tough language for me to learn. BUT kids learn languages much easier than adults. Expose your kids to as many as you can with Duolingo. They offer amazing free language learning in many languages, including French!
Get into the royal spirit. Make crowns out of paper, felt, or anything you have around the house, and decorate them. It can turn into a great history lesson on British royalty and the royal family.
Keep going on your history lesson with this amazing virtual tour of the British Museum. The site has a great design and your kids can lead through based on whatever catches their interest.
Ready for some hands-on work? Build a replica of the Stonehenge out of blocks. Find different ways to knock it over, and rebuild again. Have the kids imagine it staying up for a whole day, or a whole week and not getting accidentally knocked over.
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is a source of pride for many British people. Plus, it’s just so fun and magical. Read the first book aloud. Have your kids take turns reading, and discussing the amazing story. And the story will motivate you and your kids to make and decorate wands using sticks from the yard as a great craft activity.
Ready for an excellent meal? Step up your staycation by making a traditional British tea, complete with little sandwiches, scones with cream and jam, and tiny desserts. It can be time-consuming so make whichever parts you enjoy, and then cheat and purchase premade items for the rest! Find an herbal tea for the kids and special cups, and if you want to go really wild, use a 3 tiered dish for the meal. The whole thing is surprisingly fun, and unsurprisingly DELICIOUS!
In a country so full of rules, ramen is a wonderful exercise in complete freedom in food. So dive in and make it however you like it! The only rules are that it should contain wheat noodles and, of course, be a soup. We love to make it beautiful, and you can even use vegetable cutters to really spruce up your bowl.
Japan is famous for its tiny capsule hotels. Wonder what it’s like to sleep in one? Perhaps you won’t have a box lying around big enough for an adult to fit in, but you just might be able to find one kid-sized. Add some blankets and pillows and make it as cozy and comfortable as you can. Ask your kids what they would think about sleeping in there all night? What would that be like?
Pick some flowers and collect beautiful sticks and greenery from your yard, or neighborhood, and try your hand at flower arranging. Look online at Ikebana, Japanese flower arranging, for inspiration.
Make your own zen garden using a shoebox and sand. Collect some nice items from the yard. Focus on making a tiny relaxing space, and try to think about what it means to make it relaxing. If they play with the sand, do they feel more relaxed?
Many kids just love learning about Japanese Samarai – there is something just so spectacular about them. Read more about them in this great kid-friendly book.
Another great way to get your fill your travel void from home is one of the great travel-themed subscription boxes for kids! These are such a fun way to have a little kid-friendly cultural experience!
Little Passports boxes are designed for kids 3-12+ (different boxes for different age groups and interests). They send a super fun starter kit, with a great travel-themed box, maps, passports, etc depending on the kit chosen. Then, ongoing packages with travel themes. Older kids may get country-specific packages with souvenirs, activities, and more, while older kids will have more age-appropriate themes like oceans or even dinosaurs.
Little Global Citizens offers another great travel-themed box. They are designed for kids 4-10, and even offer a discounted larger ‘sibling’ box for families with multiple kids. These wonderful boxes have a different country each time and include crafts, activities, recipes, and even a fun little book.
Nothing like adding a little bit of travel spice to your life, even if you have to do it from your home!
How does your family survive those days when you can’t travel? Leave us a comment!