Aug
13
2014

Back to School Traditions Around the World!

Around the world, kids are getting ready to go back to school. Some are picking out fresh boxes of crayons and pencils, while others are getting new lunch boxes and backpacks. Here’s a look at what students in different countries are doing to prepare for a new year of learning!

 

First Day of School in Japan

In Japan, children carry all of their school supplies in a randoseru to school. This hard-sided backpack is filled with books, origami paper and a special pencil case called a fudebako. For students who bring their own lunch to school, the tradition on the first day, thought to bring good luck, is to bring a lunch of rice with seaweed sauce and quail eggs. Also, since outdoor shoes are not permitted inside the school, students will bring their own pair of slippers.

First Day of School in Holland

In Holland, bakfietsen, or cargo bikes, are frequently used by parents to take their kids to school.  These bikes have a large box that sits on one or two wheels in front of the rider. Bakfietsen owners love that they are eco-friendly and don’t require a parking spot. The bikes are so popular with parents that nearly all bakfietsen are used to tote around the kiddies! On the first day back, students are sure to be rolling up to school in one of these smart inventions.

First Day of School in Germany

For a very long time now (200 years!), kids in Germany have been given a Schultuete (pronounced shool-too-teh) on the first day of school. A Schultuete, which translates to “school cone,” is a large, decorated paper cone filled with school supplies, small presents and sweet things to eat. Sometimes they’re nearly as large as the child!

First Day of School in Russia

To celebrate the beginning of a brand new year of learning, the first day of school in Russia is called the “Day of Knowledge.” On this day, children traditionally give colorful bouquets of fresh flowers to their teachers and receive balloons in return.

What’s YOUR back to school tradition? Tell us in the comments!

Explore more fascinating back to school traditions from around the world on our Pinterest board: http://bit.ly/1phq4mD

Aug
7
2014

Celebrating Family at the Obon Festival in Japan!

Join Sam & Sofia as they talk about their plans to celebrate Japan’s Obon Festival with friends!

Next week from August 13-15, the Obon Festival will take place in Japan. This is a special three-day Buddhist celebration during which Japanese families have reunions to honor their ancestors. This year our friend Nanami has invited us to join her family for the festivities!

Members of Nanami’s family will come from all over Japan to her home near Tokushima to take part in the tradition. Namani says her grandmother Amaterasu always decorates the house for Obon with beautiful flowers, special plates of delicious summer vegetables and fruits like suika (watermelon) and lots of decorative paper lanterns.

On the second day of Obon, we’ll head into Tokushima City for a traditional bon odori (folk dance). (In Tokushima the special name for the dance is awa dori). Nanami says there will be more than a million people there to celebrate!

Just like other traditional Japanese festivals, the streets of Tokushima will be lined with stalls called yatai which sell food like okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancakes), cotton candy and chocolate-covered waffle stick. Plus we’ll get to play Japanese festival games like yo-yo fishing and bouncy ball scooping. There will be even be dancers and musicians parading through the streets until the sun goes down.

When the sun has set, the city center shuts down and becomes a huge dance stage. Hundreds of dancers, performing on multiple stages, will break into rhythm to the sound of gongs and drums.  For one dance, called the “Fool’s Dance,” they will chant something that translates to “the dancers are fools and the watchers are fools. Both are fools alike, so why not dance?” Just as they say, we in the audience may be invited to join the dance with them!

At the end of Obon, we will be able to participate in the toro nagashi, or floating of lanterns, which is a ceremony meant to remember our ancestors. We will walk from Nanami’s house to the Yoshino River where we’ll launch glittering paper lanterns on the surface of the water and allow them to float gently to the ocean.

It is truly amazing to think that the decorations, the dance and the festivities have been evolving into the current celebration for more than 400 years. But the most important part of Obon has remained the same, and that is celebrating the importance of relatives, home and the traditions of families.

Discover more about Japan and its culture with our World Edition

Jul
17
2014

3 Tips for Traveling Abroad with Kids

- Meet Candace Thomas, a stay at home mom of two boys and editor-in-chief of the lifestyle blog Luxe…With Kids. We asked her to share her thoughts on why traveling abroad with kids is so important.

My family recently took our first European vacation with our sons, aged two- and four-years old. It was their longest flight to date, and first major time zone change! Traveling the world with small children can be intimidating and demanding. But you’re giving your children a wonderful gift, both in terms of memories and in the sense of widening their perspective. It’s amazing to watch them develop the ability to appreciate their own culture, and also start to recognize common cultural differences. When you introduce your children to the world, you’re inspiring a curiosity and sense of wanderlust!

Here are three ways to inspire your global citizen before, during, and after your journey:

1) Before: Visualize Your Upcoming Trip

We love to look at maps and pictures, especially large world maps. Kids are instantly drawn to the different colors, shapes, letters and symbols. We point out where our family is from and talk about our heritage. We also talk about friends from school, people in our neighborhood, and others with whom we’ve crossed paths. You will be amazed at how many people you know from all over the world.

We have our Little Passports World Map on the wall, and the first thing our five-year old said when we announced we were going to Switzerland and England was, “let’s go look at where it is on our map!”

 


2) During: Think ‘What’s Different?’

What’s different about walking around in Vevay, Switzerland, compared to walking around in Houston, Texas? Well… they are speaking French, there are mountains AND they have Kinder Egg chocolates (a child’s fascination with a Kinder Egg knows no end). One of my favorite reasons for traveling is not only seeing new places and experiencing new cultures, but also to view home with a fresh set of eyes. We constantly ask our kids “what’s different”, “what do you like about it”, “how does it taste different”, “what do you think about…” These are engaging questions that help you see the impression travel leaves on your children’s thoughts. Don’t shelter them from what is different, highlight and celebrate it!

3) After: Remembering When You’re Home

Each of our boys picked out a special stuffed animal from Hamley’s, the incredible five-story toy store on Regent Street in London, as a souvenir to take home. They named their teddy bears ‘London’ and ‘Hamley’. When our older son returned to school, his teacher asked him to share his favorite thing about Switzerland. His reply? Playing in the snow.

Yep, he did play in the snow…in the SWISS ALPS! We still talk about Big Ben, double decker buses, the accents, the ride on the “tube” and eating fish and chips. We use the stuffed animals we brought home as a prop to engage them in a trip down memory lane. It’s not just a teddy bear, but a representation of the entire adventure!

The Bottom Line

Traveling internationally can be a great experience for kids. Don’t let long flights and time zones deter you; children are resilient and adjust quickly. Inspire your children to explore the world around them and instill a lifelong desire to travel!

 

About the Author:

Candace Thomas is a stay at home mom to two boys and editor-in-chief of Luxe…With Kids. Follow her and her family’s adventures on facebook , twitter and instagram.

 

Jul
2
2014

Follow Sam and Sofia on a Road Trip Across the USA!

The arrival of summer means a lot of things: no more school, longer and hotter days, plus all the ice cream your parents will let you eat! It also means time to vacation. Sam & Sofia love traveling all over the globe, but as our USA Edition subscribers know, the United States is also chock full of places to explore. One of the best ways to explore them is by packing up the car and hitting the road. We planned a three-day road trip to take you to some of our favorite destinations in different corners of the U.S.  Our only rule? Buckle up!

ROAD TRIP DAY 1: The South & the East Coast

Our first day started in space and ended in a coastal spot that took us back to the days before iPads, computers and cell phones existed. To our surprise, it was just as much fun.

U.S. Space & Rocket Center – Huntsville, AL

A full day’s worth of cool discoveries awaits you at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, the official visitor center for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. It is also the site of the country’s first Space Camp, which hosts popular programs for kids and grown-ups alike.

Lift off at the Main Exhibit to see original Mercury and Gemini capsule trainers used by US astronauts in the 1960s. Imagine yourself in orbit in the space travel simulator, then head to the Saturn V Hall to check out the Saturn V Rocket, one of only three still in existence. These rockets launched astronauts into orbit between 1966 and 1973 and remain the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rockets ever to be used! Outside, Shuttle Park brings you up close to a full-scale space shuttle. At the end of your visit, kick back with a movie at one of the center’s three space-themed theaters, including the IMAX Spacedome.

New Jersey Boardwalks — The Jersey Shore


New Jersey’s iconic beach boardwalks bring you back to Earth—and back in time. Boardwalks started in Atlantic City, where the first stretch of elevated walkway was built in 1870. Today New Jersey boasts some two dozen of these coastal wooden pathways (the most in the U.S.), each with its own colorful mixture of carnival games, amusement park rides and classic boardwalk food, like saltwater taffy and calzones. Families especially love Jenkinson’s Boardwalk at Point Pleasant Beach, which contains tons of fun rides (like a carousel, a Tilt-A-Whirl and a sky-high Crazy Bus) and an aquarium filled with sea creatures. Another favorite is the two-and-a-half-mile long Wildwoods Boardwalk in southern New Jersey, which has three amusement park piers, three beachfront waterparks, electric Sightseer Tram Cars and hosts the National Marbles Tournament every June!

ROAD TRIP DAY 2: The Midwest & The West

On day 2 we drove from the middle of the country to one of the first frontiers of the American West, exploring history that’s both sweet and spooky.

Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup — Funks Grove, IL


Your sweetest stop yet! It’s located on Historic Route 66, the famous U.S. highway that runs for nearly 2,500 miles between Chicago and Santa Monica. That’s where the Funks of Funks Grove Maple Sirup began making their namesake treat way back in 1824. That’s when Isaac Funk staked out a piece of land for its fertile soil, and ample amounts of water and timber. Isaac’s grandson, Arthur, opened the first commercial sirup farm there in 1891 and the business has been passed down through the family ever since. Arthur’s cousin, Hazel Funk Holmes, declared her desire to keep the spelling of “sirup” with an “i” and included this wish in her will to ensure it would remain so forever. At the time, this special spelling indicated that no extra sugar was added to the irresistible gooey liquid. Today you can taste the difference when you visit the shop.

St. Elmo Ghost Town — Chaffee County, Colorado


Don’t worry; even though St. Elmo may be called a ghost town, it isn’t spooky! St. Elmo is often referred to this way because eventually, all of its citizens moved away and left the town abandoned! St. Elmo, founded in 1880, was like many other Colorado towns that sprung up during the mining boom. Gold and silver miners rushed to the state eager to find their fortunes and they needed a place to stay, so communities of houses, general stores and livery stables were quickly built. Many of these new towns were abandoned once the supply of riches dwindled. St. Elmo is one of the best-preserved of these towns, and day trippers continue to visit its old-timey streets. Make sure to stop by St. Elmo General Store for ice cream and a fun mix of souvenirs and antiques. If you’re feeling adventuresome, rent a four-wheeler to tackle nearby dirt roads or search for the town’s last remaining residents—chipmunks!

ROAD TRIP DAY 3: The Southwest & California

Our last day brought us to the other side of the country, where we camped in an unusual desert motel and hunted for treasure at a California beach!

Wigwam Village Motel #6 — Holbrook, AZ


Try saying the name five times fast. Then stretch your legs—and maybe stay the night—at this funky attraction, located off Route 66 in the hot Arizona desert. You might think the fifteen concrete-and-steel cone-shaped abodes look more like teepees than traditional wigwams, and you’re right. The structures are indeed shaped like teepees, but the architect Frank Redford, who pioneered the original design and village in Kentucky in 1937, preferred the name “wigwam”, and it stuck. A year later, in 1938, a man named Chester E. Lewis bought the plans and went on to build seven more Wigwam Villages around the country. The Arizona motel is one of only three remaining today (the others are in Kentucky and California). Each wigwam has original handmade hickory furniture and one or two beds, with a small bathroom.

Glass Beach — Fort Bragg, CA


The sparkle on this stretch of Mendocino County coast came from a most unlikely source: discarded trash. Starting in the early 1900’s, residents used the beach as a dump, throwing everything from cans and bottles to appliances, and even old cars, over the cliffs and into the ocean. Luckily, in 1967, the California state government put an end to the dumping because of the harm it was doing to both the ocean and coastal ecosystems. Over time, the sea has churned back the glass and debris and today the shore glitters with millions of colorful glass “pebbles” that have been tumbled smooth by the pounding waves. Kids and adults alike enjoy searching the shore to search for rarer pieces like “ruby reds”, fragments of old car tail lights, or “sapphire gems,” hunks of blue apothecary bottles. Make sure to take only pictures of what you find, though; the beach is now a state park, so pocketing your discoveries is not allowed. Treasure the memory instead and help preserve the beach’s unique beauty for future visitors to enjoy!

Learn more about these states and more when you subscribe to our USA Edition! http://bit.ly/1lKPfhb

 

Jul
2
2014

Road Trip Day 3: The Southwest & California

Our last day brings us to the other side of the country, where we’ll camp in an unusual desert motel and hunt for treasure at a California beach!

Wigwam Village Motel #6 — Holbrook, AZ

Try saying the name five times fast. Then stretch your legs—and maybe stay the night—at this funky attraction, located off Route 66 in the hot Arizona desert. You might think the fifteen concrete-and-steel cone-shaped abodes look more like teepees than traditional wigwams, and you’re right. The structures are indeed shaped like teepees, but the architect Frank Redford, who pioneered the original design and village in Kentucky in 1937, preferred the name “wigwam”, and it stuck. A year later, in 1938, a man named Chester E. Lewis bought the plans and went on to build seven more Wigwam Villages around the country. The Arizona motel is one of only three remaining today (the others are in Kentucky and California). Each wigwam has original handmade hickory furniture and one or two beds, with a small bathroom.

Glass Beach — Fort Bragg, CA

The sparkle on this stretch of Mendocino County coast came from a most unlikely source: discarded trash.  Starting in the early 1900’s, residents used the beach as a dump, throwing everything from cans and bottles to appliances, and even old cars, over the cliffs and into the ocean. Luckily, in 1967, the California state government put an end to the dumping because of the harm it was doing to both the ocean and coastal ecosystems. Over time, the sea has churned back the glass and debris and today the shore glitters with millions of colorful glass “pebbles” that have been tumbled smooth by the pounding waves. Kids and adults alike enjoy searching the shore to search for rarer pieces like “ruby reds”, fragments of old car tail lights, or “sapphire gems,” hunks of blue apothecary bottles. Make sure to take only pictures of what you find, though; the beach is now a state park, so pocketing your discoveries is not allowed. Treasure the memory instead and help preserve the beach’s unique beauty for future visitors to enjoy!

Learn more about Arizona and California when you subscribe to our USA Edition! http://bit.ly/1mBYf3t

 

Jul
2
2014

Road Trip Day 2: The Midwest & The West

Join Little Passports as we present Sam and Sofia’s 3 day road trip to the different corners of the U.S.A! Check back every day for the latest post. 

Today we’ll drive from the middle of the country to one of the first frontiers of the American West, exploring history that’s both sweet and spooky.

Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup — Funks Grove, IL

Your sweetest stop yet! It’s located on Historic Route 66, the famous U.S. highway that runs for nearly 2,500 miles between Chicago and Santa Monica. That’s where the Funks of Funks Grove Maple Sirup began making their namesake treat way back in 1824. That’s when Isaac Funk staked out a piece of land for its fertile soil, and ample amounts of water and timber. Isaac’s grandson, Arthur, opened the first commercial sirup farm there in 1891 and the business has been passed down through the family ever since. Arthur’s cousin, Hazel Funk Holmes, declared her desire to keep the spelling of “sirup” with an “i” and included this wish in her will to ensure it would remain so forever. At the time, this special spelling indicated that no extra sugar was added to the irresistible gooey liquid. Today you can taste the difference when you visit the shop.

St. Elmo Ghost Town — Chaffee County, Colorado

Don’t worry; even though St. Elmo may be called a ghost town, it isn’t spooky! St. Elmo is often referred to this way because eventually, all of its citizens moved away and left the town abandoned! St. Elmo, founded in 1880, was like many other Colorado towns that sprung up during the mining boom. Gold and silver miners rushed to the state eager to find their fortunes and they needed a place to stay, so communities of houses, general stores and livery stables were quickly built. Many of these new towns were abandoned once the supply of riches dwindled. St. Elmo is one of the best-preserved of these towns, and day trippers continue to visit its old-timey streets. Make sure to stop by St. Elmo General Store for ice cream and a fun mix of souvenirs and antiques. If you’re feeling adventuresome, rent a four-wheeler to tackle nearby dirt roads or search for the town’s last remaining residents—chipmunks!

Learn more about Illinois and Colorado when you subscribe to our USA Edition! http://bit.ly/1nXMGVG

Jun
30
2014

Road Trip Day 1: The South and the East Coast

Join Little Passports as we present Sam and Sofia’s 3 day road trip to the different corners of the U.S.A! Check back every day for the latest post. 

The arrival of summer means a lot of things: no more school, longer and hotter days, plus all the ice cream your parents will let you eat! It also means time to vacation. Sam & Sofia love traveling all over the globe, but as our USA Edition subscribers know, the United States is also chock full of places to explore. One of the best ways to explore them is by packing up the car and hitting the road. We planned a three-day road trip to take you to some of our favorite destinations in different corners of the U.S. You’ll play carnival games and eat scrumptious treats, travel to space and back in time and wind up in abandoned towns and glittery beaches. Our only rule? Buckle up!

 

ROAD TRIP DAY 1: The South & the East Coast

Our first day starts in space and ends in a coastal spot that will take you back to the days before iPads, computers and cell phones existed. We promise it’ll be just as much fun.

U.S. Space & Rocket Center – Huntsville, AL

A full day’s worth of cool discoveries awaits you at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, the official visitor center for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. It is also the site of the country’s first Space Camp, which hosts popular programs for kids and grown-ups alike.

Lift off at the Main Exhibit to see original Mercury and Gemini capsule trainers used by US astronauts in the 1960s. Imagine yourself in orbit in the space travel simulator, then head to the Saturn V Hall to check out the Saturn V Rocket, one of only three still in existence. These rockets launched astronauts into orbit between 1966 and 1973 and remain the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rockets ever to be used! Outside, Shuttle Park brings you up close to a full-scale space shuttle. At the end of your visit, kick back with a movie at one of the center’s three space-themed theaters, including the IMAX Spacedome.

New Jersey Boardwalks — The Jersey Shore

New Jersey’s iconic beach boardwalks bring you back to Earth—and back in time. Boardwalks started in Atlantic City, where the first stretch of elevated walkway was built in 1870. Today New Jersey boasts some two dozen of these coastal wooden pathways (the most in the U.S.), each with its own colorful mixture of carnival games, amusement park rides and classic boardwalk food, like saltwater taffy and calzones. Families especially love Jenkinson’s Boardwalk at Point Pleasant Beach, which contains tons of fun rides (like a carousel, a Tilt-A-Whirl and a sky-high Crazy Bus) and an aquarium filled with sea creatures. Another favorite is the two-and-a-half-mile long Wildwoods Boardwalk in southern New Jersey, which has three amusement park piers, three beachfront waterparks, electric Sightseer Tram Cars and hosts the National Marbles Tournament every June!

Learn more about Alabama and New Jersey when you subscribe to our USA Edition! http://bit.ly/1lKPfhb

 

Jun
25
2014

Facts About Canada Day


Every year on July 1, just when summer is really beginning to heat up, the folks in Canada celebrate Canada Day. This national holiday was created in 1868 to commemorate the first anniversary of the formation of the Dominion of Canada. Originally known as “Dominion Day,” the holiday’s name was officially changed to “Canada Day” in 1982.

It is a day for Canadians all over the world to show pride in their nation’s history, culture and achievements. From coast to coast, the country’s birthday is marked with colorful parades, elaborate fireworks and singing of the national anthem, O Canada!

In 2013, the week following Canada Day was proclaimed Canada History Week. It’s designed to encourage Canadians to learn about and celebrate their history by visiting museums, talking to veterans and touring national historic sites.

While Canada Day might be the best known of the country’s holidays, there are other noteworthy celebrations leading up to it which begin eleven days earlier.

The first is National Aboriginal Day. The date of this holiday was chosen to coincide with the summer solstice, which falls on June 21st this year, because historically many Aboriginal groups have chosen the solstice to celebrate their traditions. On this day, Canadians and visitors are encouraged to learn more about the Inuit, Métis, and First Nations peoples and how important they are to the country’s culture and history.

On June 24, French Canadians have their day of celebration.  Known as Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, the day honors the patron saint of French-speaking Canadians.  Celebrated with parades and parties, it is sometimes called the Fête Nationale du Québec. Québec is the only province to have French as its official language.

On June 27 the contribution of all cultures of the nation are celebrated as Canadian Multiculturalism Day. Created in 2002 to recognize the country’s diversity, this is a day for people to take part in events and learn more about Canada’s amazing collection of ethnicities, languages and religions.

You can learn more about Canada by subscribing to the World Edition!

Learn more here: http://bit.ly/1jjCkOC

Jun
11
2014

Father’s Day in Cape Town, South Africa!

Father’s Day is a special day around the world. It’s not celebrated on the same day in every country but it’s always a day to honor fathers and to remind them how much we appreciate and love them. This year, Sam & Sofia are excited to learn about how their friend Baruti will spend Father’s Day in his hometown of Cape Town, South Africa!

Baruti has the entire day planned for his dad, filled with activities for the whole family. First, he will wake up early to fix a special breakfast for his father. He will make up a tray with coffee, star ruby grapefruit picked from a tree in the backyard, and of course his father’s favorite – pancakes with cinnamon and sugar.

After breakfast, Baruti and his family will head to the Cape Town Science Centre and Observatory, about four miles east of the city proper. Dads get into the Science Centre for free on Father’s Day! There are more than 300 exhibits: you can take a peek inside the life-size replica of the Russian-built Soyuz space capsule used by Mark Shuttleworth (the first South African to go into space), lie down on a bed of nails (it doesn’t hurt), and take a spin on the human gyroscope.

Silvermine is next on the agenda! It is a protected nature reserve in Cape Town’s Table Mountain National Park where they can do some mountain biking, bird watching, and have a braai (that’s the Afrikaans word for barbecue, a beloved South African pastime). They will head to one of the picnic areas near the reservoir, build a wood fire, and get ready to grill their South African feast.

Baruti ‘s mother is making a two-foot long boerewors, a traditional sausage made with beef, spices and herbs, and often mixed with pork or lamb. She uses her own secret recipe, which she refuses to share, except to say that her trick is to include a bit of nutmeg. It sounds tasty (lekker in Afrikaans). Along with the boerewors, they are planning to grill toebroodjies, which are sandwiches made of anything you wish to combine, but always with cheese to hold it all together. Baruti’s mother often makes them with ham and tuna, but she says her favorite combination is ripe fig jam and cheese.

At the end of the day, Baruti and his family will relax around the camp fire  and tell stories, savoring all the fun they had in the Mother City (which is Cape Town’s nickname).

You can learn more about the fascinating country of South Africa by subscribing to the Little Passports World Edition. Click here for details!