Making the Foreign Familiar: Creating Artwork and Crafts

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Something that's hugely important to me is that my children grow up with a global perspective. My hope is that they realize both that the world is immense with so much to see and explore, filled with people who may look different or may do things differently AND that it's a small world after all -- that we are all human with similar needs and wants. I used to think that the only way to foster this perspective would be to live abroad and travel extensively. Since neither of those experiences are on the horizon, I started thinking about how we could help Hunter and Paloma develop a global perspective right now, and I came back to this phrase that I first read on the Tea Collection blog: making the foreign familiar. With that in mind, it is my goal to start a new series here on my blog all about doing just that!

I recently took the children to the Bellevue Arts Museum, a contemporary art museum just outside of Seattle, for their FREE family day. In the forum area of the museum, they hosted multicultural arts and crafts activities for children aged 4-10. Each child picked up a "passport" at the entrance and gathered stamps by completing the various activities inspired by different cultures around the world. The activities were really great, though my only complaint is that the stations did not give any cultural explanations, so I had to look them all up when we got home. In the end it worked out because before bed, I sat down with Hunter at the computer and showed him other examples of the crafts he made that day, explained a little more about the story behind them, and then I pointed out each country of origin on a world map. 

First, we made a little Guatemalan worry doll. We glued colorful felt on a wood doll pin, and I drew a little face. Later we learned that actual worry dolls are tiny -- just 1/2 an inch to 1 inch tall! The idea is that you tell your worries to the worry dolls so they can bear the burden of your worries and you can get a good night's sleep. Read more here.

Then we went to the Ghungroo station. Ghungroos are ankle bells that classical Indian dancers wear to enhance their performances. Hunter got to choose two bells and some colorful beads to string on a piece of elastic. He made it just the right size for Paloma's wrist. Read more here

Finally, Hunter created some art inspired by Aboriginal Dot Paintings. He took the eraser end of a pencil, dipped it in paint, and decorated a sea turtle silhouette with dots. After a bit of research we learned that this is a fairly new art form. Read more here.

After we finished with a few arts and crafts activities, we explored the museum's exhibits for a bit. Hunter and Paloma were fascinated with all the sculptures and wanted to touch EVERYTHING. I must have said "no touch" a hundred times. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed watching them take it all in and stare with wonder.

Before heading out, we got to enjoy a short dance performance. Two young ladies shared with the audience some classical dance pieces from South India. Neither of my children could sit still for the whole performance, but at the very least they got a taste of this beautiful art form!

P.S. In case you're curious, Hunter and Paloma are each wearing tops from Tea Collection. These pieces are from their Japan collection and are currently on discount. What I love about Paloma's top is that it's reversible! She wears one print the first day, and even if she dribbles a bit, I just flip it to the reverse side, and she can wear it again the second day. As for Hunter's tee, I love that the cool samurai design has a metallic gold print and the shoulders feature contrast stitching.

P.P.S. Check out this blog post for another way to do aboriginal-inspired art as well as a fun craft activity inspired by sushi!

P.P.P.S. Here is a running list of the topics in my series on ways to make the foreign familiar:
1. Create crafts and child-friendly artwork inspired by different cultures from around the world.
2. Learn about animals from around the world.
3. Expose children to foreign languages.
4. Attend public cultural festivals and celebrations.

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