Did you know that Monday, January 26th is Australia Day? This is a national holiday in Australia. All public schools and post offices are closed. Lots of people get together for picnics (after all, January is summertime in there!). This holiday is celebrated because on January 26, 1788, the first fleet of 11 ships from Great Britain arrived at Port Jackson, which now forms Sydney Harbor.
Here are some activities you can do with the kids to learn about Australia:
Make a cookie map of Australia and color the different states and territories of Australia with different colored icing. We did this a few days ago. The kids actually did most everything while I stood by and watched! Here is the recipe we used: 2/3 cup shortening, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel, 2 cups of flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 4 teaspoons milk. Mix and chill the dough for 1 hour before rolling on a floured surface. (Note: It is important not to use butter as a substitute for the shortening because the dough won't keep its shape.)
Once the kids rolled out the dough, they cut out the outline of Australia. Each step of the way, I took the opportunity to talk about the states and territories and tested them to see if they could name them all!
Once the cookies were baked, it was time to frost them. The kids used different colored frosting for each state and territory. We added chocolate chips for the major cities (Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane). We included Alice Springs (in the center) as well because the kids were all born there. The map might not have been exactly accurate, but the kids really learned a lot about the geography!
Color or decorate the flag. You'll find a great printable Australian Flag at Activity Village. Be sure to explain to the kids that the top left area is called the Union Jack, the national flag of the United Kingdom. Under the Union Jack is a seven-pointed star called the Commonwealth Star. It symbolizes the Federation of Australia. The five stars on the right make up the constellation called the Southern Cross which is only visible in the southern hemisphere.
Learn about Aboriginal Dot Paintings - Cut out a boomerang shape from a cereal box and have the kids practice making their own dot painting art with Q-tips.
Learn about some Australian Animals - Spot the difference between these two pictures with Australian animals from Activity Village
Read These Wonderful Children's Books Together:
Make Anzac Biscuits with the kids:
These cookies became popular during WWII when they were sent to ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) soldiers serving in Gallipoli. It is said that wives made these with ingredients that had a long shelf life to send to their husbands overseas. When we lived in central Australia, we would buy Anzac Biscuits, which are used as a fund raiser, at the local ANZAC Day parade (held on April 25th each year). ANZAC Day is a national Remembrance Day commemorating all those who served and died in wars, conflicts and peace keeping operations .
Here's how we made ours: 1 cup oatmeal, 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup butter, 2 tablespoons honey (it actually calls for Golden Syrup, but that is not available in local grocery stores), 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 2 tablespoons of boiling water, 3/4 cup shredded coconut - Mix all ingredients, form into balls and press slightly flat, bake in the oven at 350 for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned around the edges.
Do you know what is really popular at birthday parties for 4-7 year olds? Fairy Bread! White bread with plenty of butter and lots of sprinkles cut into triangles!
Fairy bread image via Wikimedia Commons