Gifts That Help Kids Learn About the World

I always hope that the kids will learn a little about the world around us when we travel, but it is also important to me that they learn about other cultures and ways of life when we're at home. Here are a few gifts that we either own or are considering for this year that would help kids learn more about other cultures. It's fun to choose just one, or to choose a single culture to learn about and build a gift set that includes book and toys about that culture.

Traditional Games and Geography Games
Travel Mancala is a fun gift for kids
Travel Mancala is a fun gift for kids

Everest has been a little obsessed with this Travel Mancala game recently, and traditional games are a great way to feel a connection with another culture. Games can also help teach about Geography, and I'm thinking of buying GeoDice for my own family this year.

Architectural Building Blocks

There's something a little magical about building blocks that aren't just rectangles and triangles, and I like to believe that they also help kids learn that not all buildings look like ours. My kids love this Middle Eastern Blocks Set from Haba. The company also makes a Russian House, Antiquity Architectural Blocks, Japanese House Building Blocks and many other architecturally themed building blocks.

Not for Parents Travel Book and by country books

Our copy of the The Not For Parents Travel Book is dog eared and tired, but it's so jam packed with great pictures and interesting facts that kids still love leafing through it. Their enthusiasm was reignited this fall when Lonely Planet sent us copies of their newest books in this series Not For Parents Extreme Planet and How to be a World Explorer

There's also a whole series of Not for Parents Destination Guides for kids that use the same fun, fact and picture packed format to get kids interested in the city or country they're visiting.

Fiction and Traditional Children's Stories
Fiction and Nonfiction books are a great window into other parts of the world
Fiction and Nonfiction books are a great window into other parts of the world

I'm a big fan of using fiction as a way to learn about different parts of the world and different cultures. When it's well done, a good fiction book can be a peek into a secret world, and can do a great job of setting the stage for a future trip. Here's a long list of books (both for kids and adults) that might inspire a gift for your own family.

This French Music CD for kids is among my favorites
This French Music CD for kids is among my favorites

Listening to music can be transporting. Imagine yourself sitting cross legged on the floor playing Mancala with the kids while an African stew simmers on the stove, now add the beat of an African Drum rhythm. Entirely different, right? The pictured album, French Playground, happens to be one of my favorites, but there are a slew of kid-friendly world music albums from Putamayo Kids.

Wouldn't this be a fun way to learn about Japanese food?
Wouldn't this be a fun way to learn about Japanese food?

Learning about the food is a great way to learn about a new culture. The craze for Bento Boxes is a nice place to start, and I adore this sweet cookbook: Yum-Yum Bento Box: Fresh Recipes for Adorable Lunches You can make your own recipe book by selecting recipes from a grown-up cookbook and repackaging them for kids into a country-specific pamphlet.

Traditional Toys

Wooden Sushi Set
I just love traditional toys from different cultures, and I also love toys that help kids learn about traditional items from other cultures. Everest received this sushi set as a gift when Darya was born, and over the years the pieces got scattered, so we just bought it again for Eilan. He loves it as much as the orignal! The set is simple, but the kids like rearranging the blocks, sticking the sushi rolls together (each piece has velcro) and cutting them apart again. This makes an especially fun toy to bring into a restaurant.

More Gift Lists
14 Travel Friendly Gifts for Kids
My Favorite Travel Toys

 Subscribe to our feed

Subscribe by email:


  1. Meghan on December 15, 2012 at 3:29 p.m.

    I absolutely love this post! I try to extend my children's knowledge beyond the United States as much as possible. These gifts will surely help. Thanks so much!

  2. wftristan on December 17, 2012 at 12:24 a.m.

    I love Mancala - such a great game - a friend introduced me to it years ago, certainly addictive


  3. Crazy Travel Adventures by Debra on December 18, 2012 at 6:36 a.m.

    What a great idea for a post and for gifts. I think it is so important that kids be exposed to the world outside their own.