One of our goals for homeschool this year is to be able to identify all of the continents on a map and learn some facts about each one. We are also focusing our activities around a different book each week and since it is impossible to find a single book that can represent an entire continent we will be learning about some specific countries, cities, wildlife and habitats as we go. This post contains affiliate links.
Of course we started with Africa and I chose Next Stop–Zanzibar Road by Niki Daly as our book of the week for so many reasons. It shows life in a South African town through the antics of Mama Jumbo (an elephant) and her son Little Chico (a chicken). Much of the book is very South African (I loved the slang) but in other ways it is representative of the region (the market, the transportation, the African print cloth). In my opinion it’s a fun introduction to Africa for kids. Next Stop–Zanzibar Road is also a great book to start introducing chapters – it is an average length picture book that is really fun to read aloud in one sitting but it is broken into five short chapters with lovely messages of friendship, inner beauty and community spirit. It is our first Niki Daly book but it definitely won’t be our last. I need to get Welcome to Zanzibar Road to find out how Mama Jumbo came to live at Number 7-Up Zanzibar Road and how she came to adopt Little Chico.
We found Africa on our Discovery Kids World Map and placed all the African animals on their continent. I love this map because the continents are all clearly defined by color.
Then we pulled out the two other geography resources I found on our last trip to Botswana. A world map foam puzzle and an inflatable globe. They are hits at our house because Boo’s current nickname is The Puzzle Queen and Kooks loves beach balls! We found Africa on each one and then South Africa (which was a good opportunity to define what south means and point out that so many countries fit into the continent we live on). We also found the other African countries that the girls have been to. We repeated this each day before we read the story.
We decided to act out Chapter Two, “Mama Jumbo Goes to Market” because it lends itself well to sequencing. We grabbed all the things Mama Jumbo traded with at the market – except we didn’t have paw-paws (papaya) so we substituted bananas. Here Kooks is dressed up as Mama Jumbo in her African print cloth and Boo played everyone else: first the tree that dropped the paw-paws in Mama Jumbo’s lap, then Old Granny Baboon who traded beads for the paw-paws and finally Kwela who traded a mirror and a piece of African print cloth for the beads. We practiced our bargaining skills just like Mama Jumbo did and played a number of times so that both girls had a chance to play all the parts.
We did some bead sorting and made our own necklaces to give our fine motor skills a work out. I used the only beads I had on hand and their holes were much too small for Kooks which left her a bit frustrated. I should have planned a little better with this one as it would have been a great activity if the beads had been just a little bit easier to string.
Arts and Crafts:
We learned about how African print cloth (also known as wax print) is made and we made our own glue batik t-shirts by following Becky’s instructions at Kid World Citizen. We watched the portion of the video that Becky recommends in her post to see how real wax prints are made and then followed her instructions to the best of our ability. She recommends Elmer’s Blue Glue Gel but we couldn’t find that here so we used regular white school glue. Becky also recommends using acrylic paint but we only had red so for the other colors we used white interior paint tinted with food coloring. It worked but if you look at our shirts below and then Becky’s shirts you can see that her’s definitely turned out better. However, by making do with what we had my girls learned something very Zambian – making a plan – which is a common expression here and a skill that they will need to hone to thrive in Zambia. They love the shirts and necklaces they made themselves and are wearing them with pride. In researching wax prints, I learned about how these cloths became so popular throughout Africa and found the history really interesting.
Daria at World Music for Children has just posted August in Africa where she shares some great resources including how to make your own African instruments and some fun songs. We learned the South African song, “Here Come Our Mothers,” from that post and my girls loved it! Since it was about mothers bringing gifts for their children it seemed especially appropriate paired with Next Stop–Zanzibar Road and our glue batik t-shirts because Mama Jumbo brought a gift of African print cloth to Little Chico and made it into a new shirt for him. At the bottom of Daria’s post is an African link up with lots of ideas for learning about Africa.
Another fun activity would be to make vetkoek (pronounced fet cook) which is referenced in the story, “Africa was as hot as a vetkoek in a frying pan.” There is a recipe at Instructables for the vetkoek (fried dough) and a recipe at A Cook on the Funny Side for my filling of choice – curried mince (ground beef). I was introduced to vetkoek when I spent some time in South Africa awaiting Boo’s birth – I’m planning to try these recipes soon as I haven’t had vetkoek for ages and it is really so good!
Pan Macmillan South Africa has instructions on how to make your own Mama Jumbo shopping bag out of paper which would be a fun craft to do before acting out the story.
Sesame Street Tie Ins:
I love finding Sesame Street videos to support our weekly topics and here are the ones we found on YouTube and watched this week:
- African story about the sun and the moon
- Global Grover visits South Africa (and learns how wire cars are made)
- Global Grover goes to school in Africa (includes a cute African Animal Alphabet song)
- Pollution Song – South Africa (Takalani Sesame – The South African Sesame Street)
More Great Children’s Books About Africa:
It’s probably no surprise that our home library is fairly Africa heavy. I’m sharing some of our favorites for preschoolers below (we read them all this week) and Lisa at The Squishable Baby just posted a list of African Animal Folktales and Fables that I’m looking forward to exploring.
This Is the Tree, A Story of the Baobab by Miriam Moss is a captivating book about the relationship of this iconic African tree with its environment. There is a section in the back of the book that explains some of the many uses of each part of the tree.
Water Hole Waiting by Jane and Christopher Kurtz is a sweet story of a very thirsty little monkey learning to wait his turn for a drink at the waterhole.
Honey… Honey… Lion! A Story from Africa by Jan Brett is a popular myth about the relationship between the honey guide and honey badger and about what happened when the badger didn’t share the honey.
Safari, So Good!: All About African Wildlife from The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library by Bonnie Worth is a fun read that gives a lot facts about a wide variety of African animals.
Bringing The Rain To Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema is a Nandi tale from Kenya (East Africa) that has lovely rhyming and repetitive text that my girls adore. It tells the story of how a man shot down the rain with his bow and arrow to end a drought.
Papa, Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse is a story about the unconditional love between a father and a child. It is set in a Maasai village (East Africa) and provides a lot of information about Maasai culture through the simple story. I really love the glossary in the back of the book that gives further information about the Maasai.
The Hatseller And The Monkeys by Baba Wagué Diakité is from Mali (West Africa) and is the African version of Caps for Sale. It is the story of some monkeys that stole BaMusa’s hats on his way to the market and how he was able to trick them into giving them back to him.
This year we are devoting more time to planned activities than last year. We have a routine that we go through each morning before reading our book of the week and we are doing math and music sessions that are not related to our book a week activities – I hope to write more about them soon. Boo and I are also getting more serious about working on reading.