September 21st is the U.N.’s International Day of Peace. We contributed to the celebration with a global peace themed meeting geared at our toddlers.
Can you Say Peace? by Karen Katz was written with the goal to read this book on “Peace Day” (as she suggests on the first page of the book). Can You Say Peace? is mostly illustrations of children around the world with the word for “peace” in the language the children might speak in their country. The text is simple, the illustrations are colorful and lively (in Katz’s typical style), and the book’s format begs toddlers (whose language is blossoming through mimic) to repeat the many different ways to say peace. At the end of the book, Katz describes peace in a toddler-appropriate way. She explains that peace is being able to walk in your town or city, play outside, go to school, and share food with your family and feel safe to do so. The description is a perfectly gentle way to describe a rather complex concept to very young minds.
We used this description of peace as the jumping point for our activity: fine motor “peace beading.” Each child received a little bag with a pipe cleaner and five beads (found at our local craft store). The beads represented Katz’s description of peace:
Butterfly bead: walk in your town or city
Soccer ball bead: play outside
Heart bead: share food with your family
Letter bead: go to school
Each child also received a peace symbol bead.
The children were then able to string the beads onto the pipe cleaner and when complete, the parents helped them turn the pipe cleaner into a bracelet if desired. Pipe cleaners and beads (with medium to large holes) are a great fine motor activity for 2-3 year olds because they are able to hold the pipe cleaner steady while stringing the beads.
After we finished our peace beading, we played a game with a large inflated globe ball. We turned on some of my favorite children’s peace music: Mosaic Project: Children’s Songs for Peace and a Better World. In particular, we played the songs, Salaam, Amani, and Paz. Each are songs specifically about peace in languages from around the world. As the music played, we passed the ball around and then when we stopped the music, the child closest to the ball was supposed to pick up the ball and say, “peace!”.
After all of that playing, the kids (and probably the parents too!) could barely wait to dig into our international snack buffet that we had been smelling the whole time! For this meeting, each family brought a food that represented a culture from around the world. We had a delicious smorgasbord thanks to the wonderful families who are a part of our book club! We had rice to represent Uganda, fruit with Tajin, Dolma, Halva, and Lefsa to name a few of the snacks (there were several more)!
We believe it is never too young to begin teaching about peace, understanding, and cultures outside of one’s own. We hope that International Day of Peace will bring exactly that for so many people in need of it around the world.
From our book club to you: Shanti, Paz, Mir, Peace.