Europe: For many, it conjures images of romantic walks along the Seine, backpacking through the Alps, or idling for hours at a sidewalk café. Or perhaps we think of touring awe-inspiring museums and then sitting in a pub, enjoying a good European brew. But kids?
Well, yes. Europe, with its 50 countries, myriad of cultures, and rich history, can be a source of tremendous fascination for children. Whether you're planning an excursion with your family soon, or simply want to introduce children to life in other parts of the world, Europe is a great place to start.
But where to begin? There are some great ways to introduce preschoolers to all that Europe has to offer. Let's start with some geography lessons. There are, of course, paper maps, which can be spread out on the floor and poured over for hours. There are also puzzle maps that provide your children a playful way to learn the countries. Here's an on-line version that has varying degrees of difficulty.
There are an increasing number of other on-line tools, like the street and bird's eye view images on Google Maps and Bing, which can bring you practically to Europe's door. Do you know that you can stand at the foot or soar overhead of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and the Roman Coliseum, all in the comfort of your own living room? Let's do it!
There are also many aspects of European culture that will fascinate your children. One gateway can be through exploring holidays. Many European countries have other traditions for holidays such as Christmas and Easter, and your child may be intrigued by the difference. There are also, of course, entirely different holidays (Boxing Day, anyone?). Try your hand at putting together a celebration for one or two of them.
Of course, we all know of European food, but there is so much more to discover than the croissant. Your grocery store has specialty items waiting on the shelves for discovery, and there are restaurants that offer different tastes and smells that can entice kids. If the new flavors are a bit too adventurous for children, you can always reward them with some gelato for giving them a try!
If you are traveling to Europe soon, congratulations! As you're looking over your guidebooks and deciding on the details, your kids will delight in being able to share the task of making your plans. Don't worry, though, it doesn't have to be all EuroDisney and LegoLand (although they sound fun, too!). Every country and its cities offer unique experiences for you and your children to share.
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