We thought it would be fun to compile a few songs from a handful of the countries we’ve visited as a way to celebrate the past 11 years. You’ll find everything from traditional Hungarian folk songs to contemporary music from Norway. Now turn it up and start dancing!
We go there – we explore and dig deep into other cultures. We know you go there too. This new series will feature stories from world travelers; they’ve taken their first flight over seas with little ones, they’ve traveled back to their native country to introduce their children to grandparents, they’ve packed up only their necessities and traveled to developing countries. Here, you will find their stories and learn about how they’re going there too.
Kicking off this series, we have Jill Amery of UrbanMommies.com sharing her trip to Liberia. It wasn’t necessarily an easy one, but you’ll see that it was a trip that’s changed her life forever. Thank you Jill for sharing your story with us on Studio T!
I had the privilege of traveling to Liberia in February as a parent ambassador for Right To Play, an organization that helps children learn crucial life lessons through sport and games. The experience affected me deeply and I can still smell the heavy West African air. The kids who touched my ‘soft hair’ and reached for my hand are now part of my history. They grace screensavers and watch me from silver frames. The polish of the silver juxtaposed with what I witnessed is disconcerting and constantly reminds me to not take my blessings for granted.
The adults and teenagers I met in Liberia had experienced terrible things in their lifetimes with a war that ended very recently. Some had lost parents and raised themselves. Most had a loved one who experienced sexual assault. And every adult associated with Right To Play worked tirelessly to restore hope for the next generation. Every day the same volunteers (many had no employment themselves but chose to devote their days to teaching children through Right To Play activities) emerged into an empty space and performed magic. It was like a slow motion film. The waiting children would all turn, smile and organize themselves into a ‘great big circle’ so they could begin. The rhythms of their responses to the leader of the game formed a percussive music. The empty, litter-filled space had become vibrant and full of life.
When I think about the diversity in cultures brought to mainstream culture by Tea Collection, I smile. Each outfit I see my kids wear reminds me that we are all connected in this small world. The women of Liberia donned incredible colors and patterns. Their bright eyes and huge smiles pierced through the grey sand and cracked concrete. Standing in front of corrugated metal shacks with red, yellow and purple wraps, these women provided what mothers always do – hope and comfort. Dressing my boys in similar colors and styles gives a nod to these women; A sign of respect and awe. And these women deserved nothing less.
One sign on the side of the road has haunted me since my return. This one advertisement was a definition of ‘Mother’: a person who ‘makes something out of nothing’. That is exactly what I witnessed. These women generated a meager income buying bleach in bulk and selling it in small bags, buying a case of water packets and a block of ice and hoping for extreme heat so they may sell a few individual bags of water to quench thirst in their community.
Hope resonated everywhere – through the games, the smiles, the handmade toys and the tiny children playing hide and seek with this North American girl who seemed so different. I was brought back to the basics of life: drink fresh water, keep your clothes and environment clean to prevent disease, help your neighbor. A young boy bathed meticulously in a large bucket by the side of the road. A woman carrying a huge bundle on her head picked over potato leaves in a market to find the best choices for her family. It was all about hope.
As a mother, I can make a promise. I will never stop visiting other cultures and allowing them to penetrate my own motherhood. I will share the songs and bright fabrics with my children. I will try to not take my life for granted. And more than anything, I will remember that hope is all one needs.
We’d be lying if we told you we never pass our little ones a smart phone or an ipad to keep them entertained. The truth is, sometimes it’s just easier – especially when traveling! With so many game apps available today, we thought it would be fun to share our top 10 favorite apps with you. They teach new languages, allow world exploration, help quiet loud nights, and make fractions fun! And remember, while a lot of these apps are over $0.99, in the end you’ll appreciate the ad-free, no fuss design the cost gets you.
Do you have a favorite that you don’t see here? We want to know! Leave a comment below.
1. Sleep Pillow Sounds$1.99 – Although this isn’t a game your children can play, we thought it was important to include. It can be hard to sleep in a new bed with unfamiliar sounds when traveling, but with the help of this app the foreign sounds will be quieted. We consider this to be a must when traveling with children.
2. Endless Alphabetfree – We must warn you that skipping the ad before you hand your device over to the kids is key to this ‘free’ app, and once you get to the drag and drop screen you might not want to let go! The idea is for your little one to match the letters on the screen to create a complete word. The longer you keep a finger on the letter, the longer the letter is sounded out (maybe headphones would be best in public?) and once you’ve completed it, the definition is acted out by your new colorful monster friends and you’re on to the next!
3. Toca Kitchen$2.99 – Your children will be preparing 12 different ingredients 180 ways in no time! Since this app isn’t a timed game, there’s no pressure to get to the next level – they’ll able to explore at their own pace. Prefer a vegetarian mode? No problem, they’ve got you covered!
4. Barefoot World Atlas$4.99 – Travel the world through your 4 inch screen with this beautiful app. Geographer and BBC TV presenter Nick Crane will be your guide as you fly around the (3D) world exploring oceans and continents, meeting different people and learning about their way of life. Explore and discover the big world we live in.
5. Petting Zoo by Christoph Niemann$0.99 – You may know him as an illustrator from The New Yorker, but here you will see his illustrations come to life through alligator’s teeth as guitar strings and octopus arms as a mandolin. It’s silly, charming, and perfectly entertaining.
6. Stack the Countries$1.99 – A wonderful way to help your little ones learn country capitals, landmarks, and geographic locations. Want to start smaller? Try the Stack the States app. They’re simple and effective!
7. PBS Parents Play & Learnfree – This interactive app is specifically designed for parents. Providing you with dozens of games, you’ll be able to connect every day “teachable moments” to math and literally skills, making trips to the grocery store more exciting for everyone! This free app can be toggled from English to Spanish – perfect bilingual families!
8. Learn Spanishfree – Or Japanese, French, Italian, German, Mandarin, or Portuguese with each MindSnack apps. With 9 different games, your children will build essential vocabulary and conversational skills. Unlock levels as you progress and watch your avatar grow smarter and brighter!
9. Peekaboo Barn$1.99 – Although language packages (other than spanish) are an additional $0.99 per bundle, we think this app is a wonderful way to learn animals and the sounds they make. You can also record voices so friends or visiting family can capture their own voice for your children to hear.
10. Oh No Fractions!$0.99 – Math isn’t always a favorite, but with this app it’s easy to see how fractions compare, add, subtract, multiply, and divide through visuals. Keep track of your child’s progress with the statistics feature. The design is sleek and simple, and will have fractions learned in no time!
In our new series, “Across the Street, Across the Globe” we hope to prove that you don’t always need to travel internationally to expose your children to other cultures. We’ve reached out to some of our favorite bloggers to find out how they’re raising little citizens of the world in each of their hometowns.
Today we have San Diego native, Bonnie Rush from A Golden Afternoon, sharing her family’s favorite spots. Be sure to follow Bonnie’s adventures on Facebook and Instagram. We’re also big fans of her Pinterest board! Thank you Bonnie for sharing your world with us – we can’t wait to take a trip down to San Diego and explore!
San Diego is full of amazing sights and sounds for kiddos and adults alike! Although we are a young city, we still hold pieces of history which connect us to the rest of the world and cultures of long ago. Philadelphia may be laden with cobblestone put down by men during the time of our founding fathers, but Cabrillo discovered San Diego long before William Penn was even alive. It just took a few years for anyone to actually live here, but who’s really counting. I love that my kids can be in this one city and yet still learn so much about the world around us.
As a homeschooling family, we have the opportunity to use San Diego as our living history book and are able to explore pieces of land that crazy important people have stepped foot on. I’d love to share some of our favorite spots that help my little ones understand more about that big world out there with different countries, languages, and even food (my favorite topic!).
Presidio Park. I’d have to start here because this is where our city began. I love that the Junipero Serra Museum is so humble and yet can offer so much in the way of beauty and also history. It’s a GORGEOUS place for a family picnic, as you can see the ocean and the area where Spanish monks came through on their first journey through the valley. Trust me, it’s an amazing place to sit with your kids and take in our city. I love opening a map and talking with them about which countries the explorers came from and which ones finally staked their claim on our city. After, you can drop down below to Old Town, check out what life was like when our city was born, and grab a pair of trendy Minnetonkas for everyone, to finish off your visit.
Scottish Highland Games. Part of exploring culture is exploring where your own family came from. For us, that means heading up to the way North of San Diego to Vista and the Scottish Highland games. It’s a lot of fun even if you don’t have Scottish blood. You can listen to plenty of bagpipe music, eat a meat pie, watch the sheepdogs work their magic on the sheep, and enjoy the games. Who doesn’t love a good ol’ log throwing competition?
San Diego Museum of Art: Art museums are definitely a go-to for soaking up culture and history in any city. The San Diego Museum of Art is a modest size, but that makes it perfect for kids. It still has many famous works of art like my daughter’s favorite, Degas and his perfectly poised ballerinas, my son’s favorite, Duque de la Roca (whom he believes is George Washington), or mine, Matisse’s beautiful bouquet. They don’t walk in feeling over-whelmed because of a huge building with endless flights of stairs and thousands of people waiting to run them over. Don’t get me wrong, seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre was amazing for me, but kids can get taken aback by the hustle and bustle of a HUGE museum. This museum also has a fun kids game where they use cards with a small picture of a piece of art used to search for the real piece somewhere in the museum. My kids love it!
Balboa Park offers a FREE day (that’s right!) every Tuesday for residents and military which is a great help. Go to this link for a PDF with things to do in Balboa Park with kids. We love this place because you can walk to so many fun spots in a small surface area. You can find a huge fountain to amaze the kids, good coffee, gardens for wandering (where we took our wedding photos!), and plenty of art and culture to soak in. Balboa Park also houses International Cottages for many different countries, with festivals and events being hosted for each country all year long! The San Diego Art Museum and the Japanese Tea Garden mentioned in this post are both in Balboa Park.
San Diego Public Marketand theLittle Italy Mercado are two of my favorite stops. Food is an important part of our life as a family, as we cook and eat at home most of the time. One single bite of food can bridge the gap between countries. Between these two markets, you can taste authentic African, Italian, French, Thai, and fair trade coffees and teas from the other side of the world. It is very important to me that my little ones try new foods. I just ask them to try one bite. Sometimes we are all surprised when a new food for them becomes a favorite., like sushi.
The Japanese Tea Garden is a beautiful and peaceful part of Balboa Park. My kids love the koi pond as well as the rock garden. Having visited Japan, I think this lovely place reflects the gardens of Japan well. I’m thrilled for the places, even small ones, where my kids can see what parts of a foreign country would be like. You can grab some tea to drink for an even more authentic touch. An expansion is in progress so there will soon be more to love!
Sushi Mura. We love this traditional Japanese style sushi restaurant because the food is fresh, the rice is very well prepared, and they make their own soy sauce. Plus, it’s casual enough that the kids can come, but my husband and I can still enjoy a great meal (and an extensive sake menu). My kids didn’t always love sushi, but after years of ordering teriyaki chicken, they took more and more of those one bite testers and finally fell in love with it. If your kids (or you) don’t like seaweed, you can always order it with a soy paper wrapping which tastes like nothing, but holds the other delicious parts of the sushi together just like the seaweed would. My kids love the salmon roll or the rainbow roll, if we let them have it on a special day.
For food reflecting the Portuguese and Italian fishing communities of old San Diego, a fast-favorite of ours is Roseville Cozinha. Also located at Liberty Station, this restaurant is comfortable and delicious. Our favorites are the wood oven-roasted whole shrimp with chili, parsley, and garlic as well as the salt cod fritters with lemon aioli and arugula. The kids get to color on the paper table covering which my boys love!
The New Children’s museum. For something more modern and unique, the Children’s museum is a great place to stop by. We love their hands-on approach towards creativity, community, and culture. My kid’s eyes are always opened wide to the world around them after paying a visit there. They did things right by allowing the kids to explore with their hands instead of limiting them to their eyes, as in a typical museum. While each museum type has its benefits, the New Children’s Museum will mix things up for your kiddos with something for everyone to explore. Plus, there is a VW bug you can paint outside. What kid wouldn’t get a thrill about that?!
Whether out and about or at home, there are so many ways to bring the world into your home and to your kids. The most important to me is living as an example to them. If they don’t see me trying new things and exploring, they will eventually lose interest, as they start to form their own values and traditions based on what they observe. All of our children are little sponges, just waiting for the next exciting thing to soak up. I love seeing them try new languages, foods, and learn how people around the world live. As adults, we have such an exciting job! We get to show the kids in our life how to be explorers, by going out there and navigating our own city!
Tea brings worldwide cultures and modern design to children’s fashion. Twice each year we pack our bags, travel the globe, explore and discover, and then bring it all home in original designs that express the spirit of our adventures abroad. We go there.
We found this early video of Emily and had to share it with you. It’s the story of how it began and why we continue to explore.