The Olympics are a great opportunity to teach children about different countries and the larger world around us. (Photo/courtesy of Monica Oliveras)

Using the Olympics to teach your children about the world

If your family is like mine, you might be spending these two weeks glued to the television every night watching the Olympics on NBC. But during the day, I try to keep the kids away from the screen, and I’m using their newfound Olympic mania to sneak in some summer learning.

The Olympic Games provide the BEST opportunity to teach kids about geography and world cultures. During the Opening Ceremonies, my daughter opened up her student dictionary, which just so happens to have a section dedicated to the flags of the world. Beneath each flag is a snippet of information including the name of the country’s currency, the official language, capital, and continent.

If you’d like to take advantage of this golden opportunity to explore the world with your children, here are some useful resources.

Country flags are rich in meaning. Many children love looking at all the different flags from around the world and learning about the symbolism that can be found within each one. Colors, symbols, and even the number of symbols can be linked to particular events in history or values that the country holds dear. Flags of the World by Sylvie Bednar and the Ultimate Sticker Book: Flags of the World by DK Publishing are both great books to start learning.

Or toexplore countries a little deeper, consider purchasing a copy of Around the World Coloring Book by Winky Adam. Not only does it include fascinating facts about each country, but it also offers a map and images of landmarks, people, animals, and other things that are closely associated with each one.

And if your child is a budding artist and prefers something a little more challenging, the series Kid’s Guide to Drawing the Countries of the World, published by PowerKids Press, provides step-by-step directions for drawing famous landmarks, figures, and other sights and symbols of specific countries. It is created for children ages 5 and up.

Of course, children learn best when they can relate to a subject. So sharing the lives of other children around the globe is always a great idea. Consider the lovely book Children of the World: How We Live, Learn, and Play in Poems, Drawings, and Photographs by Anthony Asael, in which children from 192 countries around the world share their lives and homelands.

 Children Just Like Me: A Unique Celebration of Children Around the World by Anabel Kindersley, Barnabas Kindersley, and UNICEF, also introduces children to new cultures through images and interviews with children from 140 countries.

And finally, for children who prefer learning games, check out GeoBingo by GeoToys, Name That Country Game by Educational Insights, and Where in the World by Talicor. They are all board games that teach geography in an easy and fun way.

Using the Olympics to teach your children about the world  monica oliveras profile small 1 parenting family NBC Latino News

Monica Olivera Hazelton, NBC Latino contributor and  the founder and publisher of MommyMaestra.com, a site for Latino families that homeschool, as well as families with children in a traditional school setting who want to take a more active role in their children’s education. She is the 2011 winner of the “Best Latina Education Blogger” award by LATISM.

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