It can be difficult to begin an age-appropriate conversation about tragedy with your children, especially when it’s an ongoing situation like the refugee crisis. So, we’ve pulled together this list of activities to help families learn about refugees and find ways to make a difference.
1. Read a Children’s Book About Refugees
Reading a picture book with your kids is a great way to begin talking about refugees together. As you try other activities on this list, you’ll find yourselves thinking back to the refugee kids and families you’ve read about.
Activity: Encourage empathy by reading books about refugees with your child. Borrow these from your local library or order a copy.
2. Leaving in the Night: What Would You Pack?
Many refugee families have minutes of warning before they have to flee from home. They aren’t able to pack much and know they’ll have to carry everything. Later on, they may have to sell valuables just to pay for food or travel costs.
Activity: Imagine that your family has five minutes to pack and leave because fighting armies are coming close to your town. What ten things would you pack? Valuables, toys, clothes, food, phone and charger? Can you fit them into a backpack or carry-on suitcase?
Learn: Look at these photos that show what people packed when they were forced to leave their homes. How do they compare with what you chose to pack?
3. Photograph A Day in Your Life
Several photographers have visited refugee camps to teach photography skills to the kids living there. They want to help kids and youth tell the stories of their lives in refugee camps. Look at these photos refugee children have taken in Za’atari, a refugee camp in Jordan.
Activity: Have your kids to take photos of your backyard, family dinner, friends playing, bedroom, or anything else important to them. Kids can also draw pictures if a camera isn’t available.
4. Refugee Simulation: Choose Your Escape Route
Families that are forced to flee their homes face difficult choices in their journeys to safety. In this online Syrian refugee simulation, older children and teens will face the challenging situations that many Syrian refugees encounter on a daily basis.
Activity: Visit the Syrian refugee simulation page and begin the journey. Will you take a land or sea route? Can you trust that smuggler to protect you?
5. Dollars and Cents: How Refugee Children Help Their Families
Many refugee kids live with their families in cities, not camps. Many aren’t allowed to go to school, or they can’t afford to pay for school. Instead, they try to find work to help pay for food for their family or they save money to travel to a safer place.
Activity: Talk to your child about ways to earn, spend, and save money. Do your kids earn money with babysitting, chores, or mowing lawns? Do you and your kids spend, donate, and save? Consider holding a car wash, bake sale, or lemonade stand to raise awareness and funds for refugees.
6. A Taste of Home: Cook a New Dish
Many refugees who are accepted to the United States say that while they like America and have met welcoming Americans, they miss their favorite foods from home.
Activity: Learn to cook a dish from a country where many refugees are from. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Try cooking some of theses meat dishes or vegetarian meals from Burma. Try substituting soy sauce or miso paste if fish sauce isn’t available.
This is a classic hummus recipe – add your favorite spices or flavorings to make it your own. Eat your hummus with veggies, crackers, or homemade Syrian pita bread fresh from the oven.
- Central America
For a refreshing drink, make mango aqua fresca or Honduran horchata. A main dish might be Guatemalan chicken and rice or El Salvadoran pupusas.
7. Speak Up Using the LIRS Action Center
A problem like the refugee crisis can seem so large that it’s not always clear what one person can do to help. This is an opportunity to show that one person – not matter what age – can speak up for others.
Activity: Choose an issue you care about from the items in the LIRS Action Center. Look up contact information for your Representative and find your state’s Senators. Together, you and your child can call or write to advocate for refugees.
8. Work Through Difficult Emotions by Coloring
We all want our children to learn empathy and feel compassion for others. It’s also important to help children express feelings in healthy ways and feel safe when they hear about tragedies around the world.
Activity: These printable emotions-focused coloring pages give you an opportunity to talk about the feelings your child may have after learning about refugees.
- Draw the refugees you’ve learned about on the blank faces.
- Ask your child to describe the faces with expressions.
- Take turns pointing to the faces that shows how you each feel when thinking about refugees.
9. For the Adults
Don’t think we forgot about you! Parents and teachers – now it’s your turn.
Activity: Let us know in a comment below what worked well and if you have other suggestions. We’d love to hear about how you used these activities with your kids.