A community comes together—heart to heart!
A corner of activities for children for learning and fun
The Norwegian American
Things have been bustling at Norway House in Minneapolis this holiday season with its Gingerbread Wonderland exhibit. On any given day, within moments of walking in the door, you find families lined up to see the gingerbread structures, smell the fresh coffee and waffles from the Kaffebar, and hear the whistles from the model trains throughout the building.
When given the introductory spiel, visitors to Norway House are visibly intrigued when they hear that—in addition to an exhibit full of incredible cathedrals, Barbie dreamhouses, and koselig cabins—they have the opportunity to spend some time in The Norwegian American’s Kids’ Corner.
With so many kids coming into Norway House each day, those of us on the team at The Norwegian American wanted to introduce these kids and their families to our paper and our organization. We want to help get kids interested in their heritage, Norwegian language, and newspapers—especially one that combines all three—all while giving them a fun, creative outlet and memory for them to take home.
We also wanted to give kids and families a space where they could relax during what can be a hectic time of year. During a holiday outing, many children (and parents) benefit from a calm space to take a break from the chaos and excitement, especially after a few candy canes and gingerbread cookies. Having a separate (and contained) space allows adults to step back and take a breath, while kids have the chance to explore their creativity.
The Kids’ Corner features a range of activities, the most popular of which is a selection of gingerbread-themed coloring sheets. With a large array of crayons and four different designs (with varying levels of complexity), kids of all ages can spend as long as they like adding color to whimsical holiday illustrations.
The Norwegian hearts activity offers the opportunity to learn new Norwegian-language vocabulary. Kids can draw, write, or combine the two to create heartwarming decorations for the holiday season.
Visitors can also experience what it’s like to work at a newspaper and write their own feature stories, like one written by a grandmother about two girls who came to Norway House and ate up all the gingerbread cookies!
Thanks to Wendy Jangaard Jensen, the Kids’ Corner also features a story hour. Jensen has written three children’s books—Anna and the Scandinavian Hearts, Anna and the Rosemaling Hearts, and Anna and the Woven Hearts—and kids can listen to recordings of the author reading the stories while following along in a copy of the book.
There is also a Polaroid camera and gingerbread-themed banner to pose in front of, allowing visitors to forever remind them of this holiday experience.
And for a little extra entertainment, an episode of the classic Nordic TV show The Moomins is often playing in the background.
Between designing and printing coloring sheets, posters, and a pull-up, ordering supplies such as crayons, pens, and paper hearts, communicating about this initiative, and more, this has been a major undertaking for the newspaper staff these past few weeks.
Thankfully, The Kid’s Corner has been a huge success. All day long, passersby can hear children telling their parents and grandparents all about their creations or asking for help to achieve their creative vision.
Some parents have nearly had to drag their kids to the next stop on the day’s plan. Others, who happened to be at Norway House without their kids have exclaimed, “I just have to bring my kids over here — they’d love this!” It is wonderful to have yet another space at Norway House so full of youthful creativity.
The Kids’ Corner, however, is not the only way for kids to experience what The Norwegian American has to offer. Every month, our paper includes a Barneblad with easy-to-understand heritage content and fun activities geared toward kids. Some of our favorite Barneblad from the past few years are displayed on posters hanging throughout the room in the Kids’ Corner.
To gain access to future issues of the Barneblad, visitors can enter a drawing for a free 1-year digital subscription to The Norwegian American, found right outside the entrance to The Kids’ Corner. Winners are being chosen every day of Gingerbread Wonderland!
Finally, it was important to us that everyone could experience the Kids’ Corner not just those who visit Norway House (or for those who just can’t get enough!). For that reason, all of these activities can be found online on our website. And although Gingerbread Wonderland closes on Jan. 7, the page will be accessible through the end of the month, giving you a few extra weeks to enjoy the Kids’ Corner from wherever you are! The page also features a form where you can submit photos of your kids, grandkids, and other beloved ones. We would love to see your creations!
This article originally appeared in the January 2024 issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE.