American Culture for Children – fun facts, food, music, language & more

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Food

Typical American food is different across the country.  New England is known for seafood, particularly lobster, and a creamy soup called clam chowder made with clams and potatoes.  The Southern states are known for “soul food” like collard greens (leafy greens), chicken and dumplings, black-eyed peas and cornbread. Grits (ground, boiled corn) is a popular breakfast dish in the South.  The Midwest has historically been a beef and grain producing area so meats, potatoes, and bread are traditional foods here. The city of Chicago in Illinois is also famous for its deep-dish pizza and barbecued ribs.  Over in the Pacific Northwest fresh salmon is a specialty and down in the Southwest “tex-mex” meals like chili (a spicy beef stew) and chiles rellenos (stuffed chilis) are popular.  California and Hawaii are both known for growing many different types of fruits, while Alaska is known for its fish and King Crab.
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Clothes

Traditional American clothing was different during different times in history and different areas of the country.  What someone wore also depended on their job and what country their family came from before living in America.  Each Native American tribe had different types of ceremonial dress though many of them wore clothes made from a kind of leather known as buckskin and decorated it with beads or embroidery.  Feathered headdresses were also worn by some tribes’ chiefs and warriors.

The pioneers and cowboys who helped settle the West were known for wearing sturdy clothing.  Men wore trousers with suspenders and work shirts while women wore dresses made from a fabric called calico with aprons to protect their clothes and bonnets to keep the sun off their faces.  Cowboys and ranchers wore boots and large hats to protect their feet and faces from the weather and these are now known as cowboy boots and cowboy hats.  Jeans were invented for miners and other men who did very hard dusty, dirty work.

In American history, most clothing was different for men and women.  Women usually wore skirts or dresses, sometimes puffed out by a petticoat of many layers of material worn underneath.  But during World War II a lot of women went to work in factories and began to wear trousers for their jobs.  After that women’s pants become normal.

Festivals, Holidays, Celebrations

Two famous American holidays are the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving.  The Fourth of July, also known as Independence Day, is a yearly celebration of the day the United States declared independence from Great Britain in 1776.  Across the country, it is celebrated with parades, fireworks, carnivals, picnics, and decorations in red, white and blue, the colors of the American flag.

Thanksgiving is a holiday which always falls on the fourth Thursday of November and celebrates a day in American history when the settling Pilgrims and the Native Americans came together in peace.  It is a day of giving thanks for everything you have, and families enjoy a traditional feast of roast turkey and side dishes like vegetables, mashed potatoes,  sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce.  Pumpkin pie is a traditional Thanksgiving dessert.

Famous Stories or Epics

America has many folk tales.  One favorite character is Paul Bunyan, a lumberjack who was also a giant and usually had Babe the Blue Ox with him.  It is said that Paul Bunyan created the Grand Canyon when he dragged his ax behind him while walking and that the Great Lakes were actually Babe’s original watering hole.

Some American heroes were also real people.  Pocahontas was a Native American who interacted with British settlers at the Jamestown (Virginia) colony and the story goes that she saved the life of Captain John Smith.  Molly Pitcher got her nickname for carrying a pitcher of water to soldiers on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War.  Johnny Appleseed was a man who planted apple trees across what are now the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, and Davy Crockett became known as the “King of the Wild Frontier” after stories about his hunting and outdoor skills became popular.

Children’s Game

Duck, Duck, Goose is a game played by children across America.  Children sit in a circle and one player, the “fox”, walks around the circle tapping each player’s head and saying “duck” until the fox taps one player’s head and calls out “goose!”  The goose must jump up, chase the fox around the circle and attempt to tag the fox before the fox can sit down in the goose’s empty space.  If the fox sits down safely, the goose becomes the fox.  If the fox is tagged (s)he must continue to be “it”.

Verbal Or Nonverbal Communication

Around the world, American’s are known as people who say what they think, but Americans do value “small talk” or chatting before talking about important things.  Swear words and insults to another person’s race, religion, or gender are not acceptable in American conversations.

Americans like to look each other in the eye when they are talking and don’t like people who won’t.  Men shake hands when they met, though men may kiss women’s cheeks and women may hug each other or offer handshakes.  Most people don’t like it when other people stand too close.  A “thumbs up” is a sign that something is good in America.

Values

Traditional American values come from America’s history.  Americans value freedom and independence for their country, families and themselves.  Americans also believe in the value of hard work and education to become successful in life, and that being able to make your own way in the world without help is a good thing.  Privacy is valued by Americans and most believe in progress and hope – that is, that tomorrow can be better than today if everyone works at it.

Fun Facts

America uses a lot of food-related phrases when describing itself!  It has long been known as a “melting pot” because it is the home of people from all over the world who blend together, but more recently it has also been described as a “salad” because each group also manages to remain unique.  It seems that everyone can agree on apple pie though since the phrase “as American as apple pie” has long been popular for describing something typically American!

The American flag is decorated with white stars (representing states) on a blue background and 13 stripes of red and white (representing the 13 original colonies).  The original flag depicted a circle of 13 white stars, and a new star was added in a new design to represent each new state after.  Hawaii became the 50th state on August 21, 1959, but the current American flag of 50 stars did not become official until the next Fourth of July.

People think Halloween (observed on October 31st: children wear costumes, carve pumpkins, and walk around asking for candy (trick&treating)) is an American tradition. Actually, Halloween was actually first celebrated in Europe. Did you know that American children American children play the game called Apple Bopping (trying to catch apples swimming in a water tub by teeth) during Halloween?

Famous Places

America is full of famous places.  Plymouth Rock (Massachusetts) was where the Pilgrim’s first landed.  Independence Hall (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written.  Mount Rushmore  National Park in South Dakota contains a sculpture of the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln carved right into the granite of Mount Rushmore, and the Grand Canyon is a National Park in Arizona known for beautiful views and for being carved out of the earth by water erosion.  America’s cities are home to the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty (New York City), Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco) and the White House (Washington D.C.).

Important Note: This article was written by a person who is familiar with American culture based on his or her personal anecdotal observations. Additionally, there are quite a few generalizations to make the article easier to understand for the children. Dino Lingo does not accept any responsibility for errors, omissions or subjectivity in the content of this post.

We are wondering what you know about American culture…Why don’t you tell us what you know by leaving a comment below? (make sure your comment is written in a language that can be understood by small children)

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