When you have little ones at home, it can be easy to go about your day and fail to realize that your children are unaware of how large and expansive the world is. Instead of teaching them about things found in their everyday life, consider putting together activities related to things from another country across the ocean, like Africa. Africa is known for incredible and diverse cultures and animals, and your children will be blown away when they find out.
African Animal Activities
Little children will often identify African animals more than anything else because they are so colorful and diverse. From lions to elephants, African animals are exciting and can be an ideal basis for many crafts and activities you can do with your little ones. Make a face mask of a lion with your kiddos. Encourage them to draw a lion's face on the front of a paper plate with washable markers, then cut and glue strips of orange and yellow construction paper around the outside edge of the plate. Curl the end of each strip around a pencil to make a curly lion's mane, or leave it straight. You can also make a funny African elephant trunk. Just poke a hole in the bottom of six large plastic cups, then attach them together with yarn. String the yarn through one of the cups, then knot the yarn to hold the cup in place. Slip a second cup and knot the yarn again until you have strung all of the cups. Tape or glue on a piece of elastic, and your little one will look like a real elephant!
African Biome Activities
Africa has many different biomes on one continent, which is why there are so many different animals and forms of plant life. When you talk to your children about Africa, don't just talk about the jungles or deserts; explain that the continent is gigantic and full of all sorts of landscapes. Make a few dioramas that show the different biomes in Africa. Get out a few shoe boxes, maybe one per biome, and help your children paint the inside of each box to match its habitat. If you are making an African jungle biome, paint the inside of the box green, but if you are painting the savanna, paint the inside of the box tan or light brown. Once dry, help your child glue or tape in little plastic animals or people figures, trees, buildings or plants from each African biome. You can also make these things out of construction paper if you cannot find plastic versions. Place snakes and camels in an African desert diorama and gorillas in a jungle diorama.
African Tribal Activities
People have different customs and traditions all over the world, but your children might find some of the tribal customs in Africa exciting. Don't just talk about it -- get your little ones involved by acting out some tribal dances and movements. Look for videos that show some dances found in African tribal cultures, like those on the DVD "Ipi Ntombi: An African Dance Celebration." You can also talk about the different clothing that people in Africa wear. Some tribes and cultures wear brightly-colored clothing and jewelry, like those found on the Swahili people, while others wear bright white robes and head wraps, like those found on Egyptian people. Try playing dress up with a few colorful fabrics from a fabric store to see if you and your little ones can dress up like someone from Africa.
Books About Africa
There is so much to know about African cultures, animals and habitats that you might just need a little help from a few children's books. Look for books about Africa that toddlers and preschoolers can enjoy, and make sure that they have full, colorful pictures and simple, yet informative descriptions. A few suitable choices include "We All Went on Safari," by Laurie Krebs, "Africa Is Not A Country," by Anne Sibley O'Brien, "Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain," by Verna Aardema and "Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters," by John Steptoe.