Children in Washington travel the world in a day

Bolivia check. Norway check. Turkey check.

Brunei? a young boy asked, glancing from his passport to his friends.

Before waiting for an answer, the boy took off across the crowded atrium, his friends trailing behind with their own passports in hand.

No, this is not the opening sequence of an Amazing Race-style reality show for kids. This was the scene Sunday afternoon at the Ronald Reagan Building in downtown Washington, where hundreds gathered for the sixth annual International Childrens Festival.

Coinciding with the start of Passport D.C., a three-weekend-long event that allows adults to pop in and out of mansions on Embassy Row, the International Childrens Festival is an opportunity to introduce kids to world geography, traditions, foods, dress and song. Each child received a paper passport to collect stamps from 22 participating embassies.

We want to promote U.S. engagement in the world, said Sharon Wilkinson of Meridian International Center, which helped organize the festival. Global awareness should start at a young age.

The United States led off a parade to start the festival, with children dressed as cowgirls and cowboys marching across a stage to the tune of Its a Small World. Cameras flashed, children screamed and handfuls of cereal streamed across the auditorium. Other countries followed, displaying traditional garb from Kenya, Egypt, El Salvador and Norway.

After the parade, children watched dance and musical performances, made Australian boomerangs and Afghan kites, and sampled Bahraini pastries.

I think its a great opportunity to expand their horizons, said Shazia Kanani of Vienna, who attended the festival with her husband and two children.

Although her boys a 5-month-old and a 2-year-old were too young to participate in many of the activities, Kanani said she was excited to expose them to sounds, colors and flavors from around the world.

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Children in Washington travel the world in a day

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