Are We There Yet?

Near or Far

Near and far. Two short simple adjectives which in Spanish translate to “cerca” and “lejos”. However, what is exciting about teaching these words to young learners, is that you get to discover a little bit of what their world looks like.

When we talk about distance, everything is relative. There is the common notion that if something is very familiar to you, it appears closer whereas the unknown can seem apparently far away; even if it is physically and geographically closer to you. For example, if you travel to Duluth a few times a year it may seem quite close, whereas Rochester feels just too far away to merit a visit. Of course, if we’re traveling with kids in the car, no matter the distance it can become endless if met with tears and the question “Are we there yet?” stuck on repeat.

This concept of the unknown can be a challenge for children. If we ask them to walk from the parking lot into Target they can dig their heels into the ground, cross their arms, and refuse to take that short walk from the car to the building. Apart from the millions of reasons that are passing through a toddler’s mind that we may never comprehend, there is also the concept that the distance is known and it simply just feels so incredibly far away. Instead, the neighborhood park, which is a much longer walk, they run excitedly to get there as fast as their little legs can carry them.

The notion of “cerca” and “lejos” becomes a little clearer as we explore and discover the Spanish speaking world. We pull out maps and show the kids where we can find many countries in Central and South America. So many miles from home, a different continent, a different climate, another language, and another culture. But despite this distance, we have so many wonderful people right here in our own school who come from these faraway places but are physically close to us, and close to us in our hearts.

Just because a place is miles away geographically, doesn’t mean it has to stay far away. We can get a little closer to the big world around us by getting to know our neighbors. When you become more familiar with the people around you and you enter into their culture and share what is important to them the world shrinks just a little bit.

As children grow, and they explore more of their world outside of the daily routine of home, preschool, and the park and will grow curious about the places that are far away. Help spark their curiosity by sharing with them what you already know, and satisfy it with also showing them. When they ask questions about different places, take the time to not only answer them but also show them with pictures, maps, and maybe even have them listen to music or eat food! Everything may seem so far away for them right now, but it will start to feel closer, especially close to home.

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