Teaching your kids about world cultures helps them appreciate the differences in people and their traditions, and St. Patrick’s Day provides a great opportunity to learn more about Ireland and its people. Put down the textbooks, step away from your computer, and take a proverbial trip around the globe without ever needing a suitcase. Use the St. Patrick’s Day holiday to teach children to not just pinch people who aren’t wearing green, but to also learn more about the country of Ireland in an effort to increase your children’s cultural IQ. The more aware children are of different cultures, the more sensitive they become to respecting our differences and acknowledging our similarities. Here we go:

History. St. Patrick’s Day began as a religious feast day for the patron saint of Ireland and is now an international festival celebrating Irish culture with parades, dancing, special foods and a whole lot of green.

Map it out. If you don’t have a globe, get one. This is a great chance to teach geography, and to pin point your own travels as well as your virtual field trips. Ask your kids to replicate the Irish flag and teach them about the symbolism. The green represents the older Gaelic and Anglo-Norman part of the population, while the orange represents the Protestant portion. The white in the center signifies a lasting truce between the Orange and the Green.

Learn through language. Did you know that the ancestral language of Irish people is Irish Gaelic? Nowadays 1.6 million people claim a self-reported competence in Irish, but only 380,000 fluent speakers remain. Take this opportunity to look up basic expressions and try them out at the dinner table. Try using Digital Dialects, a great resource to learn Irish phrases, vocabulary, and more.

Play an Irish game (or two). Many classic Irish games are similar to American sports that you’re familiar with. Teaching your children the difference between American freeze tag and the Irish Leprechaun tag is easy.  Try to wear green if possible. According to Irish legends, the color was worn by fairies and immortals, and also by people to encourage their crops to grow.

Try new foods. Start with something simple, like bread, a common, delicious comfort food spanning cultures. Irish soda bread can be eaten with peanut butter and jelly to gently introduce this new dish, and gradually present a wider variety with items like corned beef and cabbage.

Download some Gaelic music. Blast it in the kitchen while you’re baking some soda bread. Mama Lisa’s blog offers a great selection of Irish songs, and also has a wide variety for songs around the world. Cap off the evening with a screening of Riverdance and go to bed dreaming of the performing your own Irish gig.

Find a four-leaf clover.  One estimate suggests that there are about 10,000 regular three-leaf clovers for every lucky four-leaf clover. If you do, remind yourself of the legend that says each leaf of the clover means something: the first is for hope, the second for faith, the third for love and the fourth for luck.

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