Food plays an integral role in our lives. The food we eat is intertwined with culture/traditions and many of our favorite memories are associated with gathering during special celebrations to enjoy food. By exploring and learning about different or familiar foods from around the world children can learn a lot about a particular culture or feel empowered by being represented. We have been reading books about unique dishes typically eaten when celebrating Lunar New Year around the world (China, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Korea, etc).
We set out a tuff tray play invitation where the children can explore and create the different dishes through sensory, loose parts, and dramatic play. We provided dishes, play food, loose parts (wood cookies, wood bits, bark, flat marbles, cellophane), rice, string noodles, utensils, bowls, pots and pans. The children were invited to play, create, explore, and experience Lunar New Year dishes from around the world.
Since young children learn best through play– this type of play allows children to perform/process feelings, gain exposure to new things, learn new concepts and gain exposure, test their own understanding of the world around them, feel seen when their culture is represented, mimic or model past experiences, all while providing the space to honor their greatest skills: imagination, creativity, curiosity, wonder, and PLAY.
When we are inclusive about celebrating and exposing all cultures in classrooms or our homes year round, from a young age, the more understanding, respect, exposure, acceptance, and so on we provide for everyone within our communities. There is so much beauty in the traditions of cultures from around the world, not only do children deserve to experience it but for everyone to be seen, represented, and empowered.