By Katilyn Thomas
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. Here’s why it’s more important than ever to teach kids about AAPI culture and history, plus fun activities for celebrating together.
What Is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?
AAPI Heritage Month began in 1977 as a ten-day celebration of Asian-Pacific American contributions to this country. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush signed a law expanding the celebration to the entire month of May. The observance commemorates two events: The arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843 and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, largely built by Chinese immigrants, on May 10, 1869 (Roth, 2023).
What Activities Can You Do With Your Kids to Recognize and Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?
Read Books Together
High-quality children’s literature is a great way to provide kids with both mirrors of their lives as well as windows into experiences unlike their own. So head to the library and grab some titles with Asian American characters, by Asian-American authors.
Have a Watch Party
Television and movies can help bring AAPI culture to life for children. For younger children, Over the Moon, a gorgeously animated film from Netflix, uses the Chinese legend of Chang’E as the backdrop for its intimate family tale. Through the lens of its characters, a close-knit Chinese American family, the movie highlights customs around traditional Chinese holidays like the Moon Festival (Medium, 2020).
Other shows on Disney+ include:
Visit a Museum, In Person or Virtually
If you’re fortunate enough to live near an Asian art or history museum, consider taking a family field trip. If not, you’re not totally out of luck, as many museums have virtual tours and online exhibits. Try the Asian Art Museum’s Museum from Home or the Virtual Asian American Art Museum.
Organize a Cultural Food Adventure
Perhaps the most direct way to a culture’s heart, however, is through its stomach. And since AAPI cuisine is as diverse as its people, there’s a dish for every taste. Here are some ways to organize a cultural food adventure in your home:
– Plan a family cooking session and prepare dishes from different AAPI cuisines. Explore recipes that represent the diverse flavors and culinary traditions across Asia and the Pacific Islands. Just One Cookbook, for example, shares Japanese classics like Teriyaki Pork Donburi as well as other favorites like Fruit Sandwiches made with milk bread
– Visit AAPI-owned restaurants or food festivals in your area to savor authentic dishes and support local businesses.
– Create a “food passport” where family members can write about their favorite AAPI-inspired dishes and rate them.
So grab a fork (or pair of chopsticks) and dig in!
A Word From WIN
As you celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, keep in mind that the AAPI community is not a monolith. There is a huge range of origins in the Asian-American community. The Indian-American experience is much different than the Vietnamese-American experience, for example. Focus on learning something new with your family through a variety of activities that show your kids the diversity as well as the impact of the AAPI community.
Taylor, M. (2023). 85 Brilliant Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI) Children’s Books. https://imaginationsoup.net/childrens-books-asian-pacific-american-heritage-month-aapi/
Medium. (2020). Over the Moon: A Start for Mainstream Asian Representation in Animated Films, but Lands Instead Among the Stars. https://medium.com/advancing-justice-aajc/over-the-moon-a-start-for-mainstream-asian-representation-in-animated-films-but-lands-instead-61bb66748b0e
Roth, M. (2023). Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/asian-american-pacific-islander-heritage-month