I recently discovered that teaching kids about countries and cultures can be made fun with the help of movies and games. I did a test drive of sorts with the recently released Penguins of Madagascar. Maybe it was beginner’s luck but I got the kids talking about four countries across four continents, plus one! I am sharing some of the interesting conversations we had about cultures and animals.
Antarctica – This gave me the opportunity to talk to them about the animals that are found there, including the penguins, and how they adapt to their environment. Seals, glaciers, ice bergs are a few of the subjects we touched upon.
Madagascar – We only got a brief glimpse of the Madagascar island, but the kids had already watched the Madagascar series and my elder one was quick to quip (and mighty pleased about it) that lemurs were mostly found here. I was pleased too that he remembered that little fact!
New York – The kids were pretty excited about the Big Apple because it is closer home and their Aunt Janie lives there. So we know where we will be going when we visit her.
- Central Park – This one started a debate about keeping animals in zoos or if they should be left in the wild and if, perhaps, a wildlife sanctuary is a more humane way to keep animals in captivity.
- Coney Island – I explained to the kids about various land-sea formations like isthmus, island, gulf, etc. They eagerly poured over a few family photographs of the theme park that I pulled out.
- Times Square – I must be honest, Times Square excited me more than it excited the kids. I managed to get some videos of the New Year’s Eve celebrations at Times Square and that piqued their interest!
Venice – This caught my little one’s attention and imagination with its canals and gondolas. We talked about how Venice is in danger of sinking because of the rising sea levels. This led to other places that are at risk like the Maldives and Amsterdam, and how the latter also boasts of canals and how its bicycles outnumber its population!
Shanghai – The kids wanted to know about the food one gets in Shanghai and this needed some research. We looked at photographs of all the water parks around Shanghai. We may even visit the nearby Chinatown to taste some authentic Chinese food!
Seeing how this really got my kids to ask questions and talk, I think I will be taking this route more often when I need to get them to learn and, more importantly, when I want them to interact with a subject the way they did with this movie. Next up on our list by popular demand is Rio, so I need to brush up my Brazil know-how!