Raising a Super Hero

a blog by Penyo Pal

The newbies guide to global grub with kids

The belly rules the mind

The Spaniards got it right, food is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to get a taste of a new culture (pun intended! Sorry lame sense of humour here).  Raising globally minded kids will be infinitely more fun if you get to take them on food adventures out of their comfort zone. You start salivating at the thought of crispy samosas, whipped hummus or sashimi, but then remember you have to take the kids too ….how are you going to pull it off?  If you are taking your children for their first time how do you make the most of the experience?  What if you have picky eaters? While each child is unique, we have a few quick pointers to stack the odds in your favour for a fun family outing.

Context is your best defense

Take the time to introduce your child to the country beforehand using fun facts from National Geographic KidsWikipedia or CIA World Factbook.  Photo galleries like this one by James Mollison helps bring a country to life and help your child put a child’s face to a foreign culture.  Taking the extra 30-45 minutes to give your kids context behind the food they will be eating will make it far more meaningful to them.

Throw in language learning 

Encourage your child to order their own meal (or for everyone).  If they have been studying the language for a while, ask them to order and thank the waitstaff in that language.  The key to making this work, is letting them know beforehand so they are mentally prepared rather than suddenly put on the spot.  If there are two languages on the menu, ask the waitstaff to read it out loud for you and your family.  9 times out of 10, the waitstaff are more than happy to share this with customers who are genuinely interested in their culture.

Flickr: heidimooseuk
2-Bite Rule, Family Style

Warn the kids well in advance that it’s going to be a 2-bite rule for anything you order tonight. Let them know that Mom & Dad are sticking with this rule too, so if they catch you skipping out they can make sure you take 2 bites too.  Let everyone choose out one dish and plan to share family style with everyone so you can avoid one child going hungry if they pick something they don’t love and you can each get a taste of the different flavours and dishes.

1 step at a time

At many ethnic restaurants there will be a few dishes adapted for “North American tastebuds.” If you have a child who insists on ordering something familiar, do not fret, it’s already a great start.  Try to order something similar that is slightly more authentic.  A great example is a niece we took to Indian food for the first time.  She really wanted to order a naan pizza they had on the kids menu, so we ordered that as well as naan with lentil dip. We encouraged her to share everything family style, and by the end of the meal she was polishing off the lentils and naan.

Flickr: anikascreations
Backup Snacks

Alright this is one of the emergency back up plans, grab a few granola bars or trail mixes to throw in your bag. Don’t let the kids see this!  This is a tummy tamer to be used only after your child has drived at least 2 bites of each dish.  In case they are still hungry, and you still want to enjoy the rest of your meal this is the chance to praise them for taking 2 bites and give them something familiar to finish off their meal.

Order takeout ....for now

This is a great plan B for younger children or kids who may not have enjoyed their experience at the restaurant the first time and you want them to give it another shot.  Encourage them to choose for everyone, this will make it more likely for them to take bites of the food.

With that, we give you permission to start daydrooling about yummy restuarants you can take the kids out to try.  With a little patience and preparation, you will have your children excitedly eating and learning about new cultures and languages at the same time.  Good luck and have fun!


Dear Diary, I'm Learning a New Language - A Simple Hack

Encouraging your child to keep a diary in the language they are learning is a great way to get them in the habit of practicing their language skills and also providing a record of their own progress over a period of time.

Start off pretending they are introducing themselves to a new friend for the very first time with basics like “Hello, my name is…. I am ….years old, I live in ….” and from there the sky is the limit in terms of possibilities.  It’s okay if they need to slip in an English word here and there, but try to make it a point for them to use a dictionary or Google Translate to find the correct translation right away.  If your child is able to type, try encouraging them to type out their message.  We are big fans of Lang-8 as a free way to get a native speaker to correct any mistakes your child may have made in their writing if you are not a native speaker.

Keeping a journal has been proven to be effective for many however in our experience and testing, with children it is particularly important to give them the feeling of writing to a friend or character.

So…. we’ve created a special email address for our upcoming character Hiro (aka Penyo Pal) and it will be manned with our translators, so your child will receive a customized reply for free.  So go ahead, if your child is up for it, we are waiting at hiro@penyopal.com for their message.

Here’s how to get your child started, introduce them to Hiro (details below) and explain that he’s a new pen pal for them.  Each day or every week they can send hiro@penyopal.com an email, and we’ll reply back with a customized message from Hiro.  This is going to bring learning language to life for the kids and make it more active!

– Jane

Making vocabulary stick: a fun way to learn language

Have your kids ever floated the idea of decorating the walls?  Did you quiver in fear of colourful handprints and imagination-fuelled doodles littering their rooms?  Before you move to put the markers and paints in lock-down mode, we’ve got a great way for you to let your children’s creative juices run wild, teach them language in the process AND keep your walls in mint condition.

Head to the local dollar store or stationary store and pick up a few pads of colourful sticky notes.  Grab a sheet of paper and help the kids plan out a fun design or image they can make out of the sticky notes on their own walls.    Then every day take 3 sticky notes and together with your child, choose 3 new vocabulary words to write on the sticky notes and post it on the wall based on their design.  Over time, as they learn more vocabulary, they will see their design come to life on their own walls.  This is a fun way to let them use their imaginations, give their rooms personality and provide a reward for learning new vocabulary.

Click on the post-it apple tree below or here for some more inspiration of what you can create.

Send us your masterpieces!  We’d love to show them off on the site: hello@penyopal dot com

– Jane