World Cup Fever: At-home activities

World Cup fever has made an appearance at our house.  The boys (eldest and middlest) have immersed themselves entirely in all things “football”.  I was surprised how much they actually know about the sport.  Sure, they play soccer every Sunday morning, but as far as I understood that was the extent of it.

The symptoms of World Cup fever are evident in their clothing choices (football jerseys gifted from travels afar by generous relatives), their outdoor playtime (baseball has taken a backseat) and even their Sunday morning friends are joining in the antics of swooping arms, praying hands and bent knees while chanting that now familiar word: Ole!

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Because I have an unnecessary compulsion to turn the everyday into teachable moments, my unsuspecting boys have been the recipients of an on-going geography lesson.

Here’s what we’ve been up to:

Flag Match

We searched the official FIFA website for all of the teams playing in the 2014 World Cup.  We wrote out each country on half an index card and glued a print out of the corresponding flag on the other half.

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We then cut the cards in half to make our own “World Cup Match Game”.  If you want to make it easier on yourself, a printable version (along with other World Cup activities suitable for kids) is available here.

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Flag Tally

Our neighbourhood is ripe with flags.  They are visible everywhere from car windows, to front porches and store windows.  We counted the flags while making the walk to and from school each day, but after that grew tiresome and school finished-up for the summer, we made a tally sheet to document the most popular teams in our neighbourhood (and on a few very long car rides).

We created our tally book by printing a simple three-column table (flag, country name, tally).  We printed the 2014 World Cup country flags, cut them out and glued them into our tally book.  This is an easy way to involve younger siblings.  Cutting and pasting are great ways to build fine motor skills.

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We used our World Flag sticker book as a resource to correctly identify the flags.  This task could have easily been accomplished by using a website, but I wanted the boys to look up the flags using the geographical index and matching each flag with the correct country.  Real books, people.  Remember those?

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There were some snags.  Many flags have similar colours.  Belgium and Germany can be easily confused, but after taking a few minutes to identify the direction of the stripes, the boys learned to be more careful in both their gluing and their matching.  Remember to stretch the sounds while spelling out the country name and look for phonetic patterns.  For example, the “y” at the end of Italy, Ivory Coast and Germany all make the same sound.  Colombia, Algeria, Nigeria, and Australia all end in “ia” and together those vowels sound like “ee-ah”.

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Countries are proper nouns.  Remind the writer that all proper nouns begin with uppercase letters.

Keep talking -while working together we discussed the various countries.  I asked them the following questions:

What language is spoken in that country?

Do you know anyone who has travelled to that country?

What continent is the country located on and what is the climate like?

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Want to take it a step further?  Consider making culinary connections by serving up a traditional dish from a winning country.

Hup Nederland!

In honour of my husband’s half-Dutch heritage, I will be painting my toenails orange this weekend, in support of the Dutch in this year’s World Cup Final. I’ll be missing the game as I’m at a dear friend’s baby shower, but Peter and the boys will be joining with the rest of the family to watch the game and cheer on the Netherlands to what I’m sure will be a convincing victory.

I’m not a betting woman, but if I were, I know where I’d look for guidance: the animal world has weighed in on their picks for World Cup Champion 2010. Mani the parakeet has picked the Netherlands as the eventual winner (and wouldn’t you trust a 70-year old parakeet?) while the infamous Paul the Octopus has set his tentacles on Spain. Rumour has it that the Greek team (now with little to do, unfortunately for the other side of my husband’s family) have slipped the Dutch a recipe for octopus; in this case, revenge might well be a dish best served marinated and grilled with some retsina on the side.