In her Stanford Crash Course on Creativity, Dr. Tina Seelig instructed the class to turn a trip to the mall into a new exercise. As I sat on a bench people-watching I watched a tired Mom trying to pacify her 3 preteens while trying to check out, another playing referee between her 2 girls, and finally one young Dad that had clearly given up and kept his kids quiet with Angry Birds. There has got to be a better way….and there is. Turn a trip to the mall, into a new way to stretch their minds and teach them about global connections.
Here’s a collection of simple activities to keep yourself sane the next time you take the kids to the mall …in fact we’ll do you one better, keep the kids learning while you shop!Ages 4 and up
- Play clothing show and tell! Encourage your child to choose 3 clothing items that catch his/her eye, and you do the same. Explain to each other why you chose it, and then show them how to check the tags to find out where the clothing was manufactured. Use Google Earth on your phone or print out a map beforehand to point it out them.
- Head to the food court and pick out a type of cuisine you do not normally have at home. If you've got picky ones on your hand, buy a little sampler appetizer to encourage them to take at least one bite of something new. The tried-and-true choices that work include spring rolls, wonton soup, shwarma, samosas, sushi and hummus.
- Take them to the shoe store and try to track down a pair of UGG boots and TOMS shoes. UGG boots are an example of a trend that spread around the world, originating on the beaches in Australia. TOMS shoes were developed by an American fellow who wanted to help Argentinian children, so he set out to create a 1-for-1 shoe company that gifts shoes. We are not endorsers of buying the product, but they both have unique backstories that can get your child thinking more deeply about the products on the shelves.
- Explain to them what you are looking to buy beforehand. Both you and your child should guess where that product will be manufactured (i.e. You need new underwear, I'm guessing it will be made in India). See who wins after!
- Before you go to the mall watch a video together on how to use chopsticks and learn a few fun facts (did you know they have been around for over 3700 years?) Stop by the food court and choose a cuisine that lets them put it into practice.
- Watch The Story of Stuff together before heading to the mall to give your child some perspective as to the global journey these products need to take to arrive in the mall at a specific price.
There are of course other common sense rules that will make your trip enjoyable including keeping the trip short and keeping their bellies full, but for the most part these are some ideas to get you rethinking a trip to the mall. It is really incredible we can purchase scarves made in Thailand, electronics manufactured in Japan or bags made in Italy all at the local shopping mall. Take advantage of that to teach your kids about the power of globalization and how they may be connected to countries in ways they never realized. So don’t stress and don’t fret, the next tim you need to go to the mall you can turn shopping into country-hopping!