According to the Internet, the United Kingdom is made up England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland... wait a minute. Those are each countries, aren't they? How can a country be part of another country??
So what's a country? I thought briefly that each of those places should have a week all to themselves because they each have their own flag... but then again, U.S. states have their own flags, too. I started asking for second opinions. Phillip started talking about the Prime Minister but that just confused me more. Even my trusted adviser Google was absolutely no help.
In the end, I reasoned that since the United Kingdom is represented in the Olympics as a country, I went with that. If you're from England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland and disagree with my decision, I blame the Olympics. (If it'll make you feel better, it's perfectly okay to tell me I'm an idiot in the comments.)
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The kids found the UK on our map and filled out a page of their passports with information about the United Kingdom. My son was annoyed at all the bordering seas and bodies of water he had to write in. Sorry, bud. They're islands.
|I have no idea what that random hand is doing or which child's it is.|
If you want to download the passport pages, click here.
Then we drew the UK flag, the Union Jack. It doesn't look that complicated (it's just a bunch of straight lines, after all) but getting the proportions and the angles to come out right was really hard for my kids to figure out!
|Union Jack: Looks deceptively straightforward.|
They weren't completely happy with the finished product, but I told them that "better is the enemy of good enough," something Phillip is constantly saying just to bug me. (Since I'm a perfectionist, I usually pretend I didn't hear him.)
We read A Visit to the United Kingdom by Rachael Bell and watched a short 13-minute video by Shlessinger Media called Countries Around the World: United Kingdom. I really like that video series because they're short, intended for kids' classroom use, and we can get them at my local library.
I looked around for general UK-themed activities that other people have already made but I couldn't find any I really liked, so I made up a worksheet that would help the kids recognize and identify the 4 countries that made up the United Kingdom and their flags.
The blank UK map is courtesy of Printable Maps, and the flags are from Printable Colouring Pages. You can download the PDF below:
Download the PDF
In this activity, the kids had to find which flags belonged to which countries, color them the right colors, then label their maps and put the flags in the right places.
I didn't anticipate my 3-year-old to want to be involved in this, but she begged for a worksheet, too. Here is her finished work:
|A preschooler's creative rendition of the flags of the United Kingdom. Very colorful.|
This was how the older kids' turned out:
Meanwhile, the baby was on the floor hard at work, too.
For dinner we had bangers and mash, an English dish with a much cooler name than "sausage and mashed potatoes." They're apparently called "bangers" because they sort of burst out of their casings, but when I asked my kids why they thought so, my daughter guessed "Because they bang the pigs on the head before turning them into sausages?"
We planned to spend one day on each of the 4 areas of the United Kingdom for the rest of the week.
Today was Northern Ireland, but we went to a big awards dinner for Phillip's work so Northern Ireland sort of got the shaft.
Sorry, Northern Ireland. We'll talk about you more when we visit the Republic of Ireland for a whole week next year.
We didn't have time to cover much, but we did talk about why Northern Ireland is part of the UK and the rest of Ireland isn't. Of course I didn't really know so I read a little about it from these smart people over at Quora. Then I acted like a genius who's just always known this stuff when I repeated it to the kids later that day.
Up for today: England! Which makes me a little nervous, because I have many blogging friends who live in England. (Citizens of England, please see the above statement about calling me an idiot in the comments.)
We familiarized ourselves with some of the landmarks and attractions in England by reading Katie in London by James Mayhew.
We attempted to watch a video from our library called Visions of England, which I do NOT recommend for children, any adult with narcolepsy, or adults without narcolepsy. It combined an extremely soft-spoken narrator with sort of a comatose voice and a hard-to-understand accent with an hour of sleepy arial footage of England's landmarks put to music you'd hear at a day spa. It was like one of those YouTube videos called "WATCH THIS IT WILL PUT YOU TO SLEEP!"
Seriously, my kids have a long attention span. We don't have a TV at home, so they will watch the most boring, longest thing on a screen just because it's on a screen — and even we couldn't finish this video.
(At one point my 9-year-old said, "I think for this video they should've picked someone who was a little more excited about England...")
However, we watched it long enough for them to at least get a feel for some of the landmarks and moved on to our activity: making a travel brochure for somewhere in England.
I showed them a few real travel brochures and we talked about the features of each: colorful pictures, an explanation of what and where it is, something about its history, and why you should visit there.
My kids chose Tower Bridge:
and Hadrian's Wall:
For dinner I threw a roast in the crockpot with carrots and potatoes, and we had Yorkshire pudding. The kids were a little confused at what this bread product had to do with pudding, but they liked it, anyway.
We started the day by reading Cultural Traditions in the United Kingdom by Lynn Peppas.
Continuing to talk about England, we talked about similarities between their culture and ours. One big difference is that we in the United States don't have royalty!
I'd checked out a book about Princess Diana, but it talked about all the affairs and wasn't appropriate for the ages of my kids. But we did read an awesome Rookie Biography called Elizabeth the First: Queen of England by Carol Greene.
After that I asked my two oldest to pretend they were newspaper journalists. They needed to create an article with a picture of her and at least three Q&A with Queen Elizabeth. They were hilariously creative.
My oldest wrote a newspaper called The Time Traveler's Gazette. The paper is published in the year 2115 and the reporter goes back in time to different periods to bring them exclusive interviews with historical figures.
As it happened, the kids left their articles outside and it poured rain that night. I learned the next morning that you can dry paper in the microwave. (Regular power for a minute and a half... who knew??)
For dinner we made bubble 'n squeak, which Allrecipes assured me was English. My kids liked the name.
We moved on to Wales today, and relied heavily on YouTube. This video of 10 facts about Wales was a decent intro.
We watched this animated short to show the kids what the Welsh language sounds like. I have no idea what it's about, but it's all I could find. Believe me, I searched YouTube for a while for something appropriate. Since only 562,000 people speak Welsh, I understand the slim pickings.
This YouTube video tells about Wales' patron saint. St. David's day is celebrated March 1st. My kids absolutely loved the cute 4-year-old narrator's accent.
Because we learned that sheep outnumber humans in Wales 3 to 1, we made the cute stand-up sheep craft from Red Ted Art.
Of course right afterwards we made Welsh cawl for dinner... using lamb. My 3-year-old was running around the table showing everyone her bowl going "There's a sheep in this! They killed it so I could eat it!" And at bedtime she asked me sweetly, "Mommy, sometimes can we have sheep for lunch?"
|That hairy arm isn't mine, by the way. Phillip volunteered.|
Last day: Scotland! We read B is for Bagpipes by Eve Begley Kiehm
This was another YouTube-heavy day. What did people do before YouTube??
We mostly looked up interesting things from the book to see what they were like. We saw Scottish dancing here and here, someone playing the bagpipes, and what curling is. We also looked up a Highland Games sport called "toss the caber:"
Phillip's comment was, "I threw my back out just watching these guys."
We ended by having them write a story about the Loch Ness monster with the help of this printable from Activity Village.
At dinnertime we listened to Scottish folk music while eating Shepherd's Pie. My kids liked it, but let me know in no uncertain terms that it was NOT pie.
All in all, visiting the United Kingdom was fun, and as a bonus for me, I finally figured out the difference between Great Britain and the UK. The kids' main takeaway was that the food is the most interesting thing about the UK: Yorkshire pudding isn't pudding, Shepherd's Pie isn't pie, and how can you not love dishes named "bubble and squeak" or "bangers and mash?"