I grew up in a family that travelled… Back and forth, up and down and all over Canada, through the United States, Asia, Latin America…. It was part of how I was raised, and something that we wanted to pass onto our kids. Jon, on the other hand, hardly ever travelled anywhere except around England and then once to Florida to go to Disney World. He wanted those experiences I had, for his kids. I’m glad we agreed.
In 2012 we went on our first overseas trip, to England, and now in 2014, we are going on our first family beach vacation – to Jamaica! Sure, we aren’t doing major exploring, but we’ve got to start somewhere with the kids while they are young.
Here’s what we think about the benefits and value of travel for kids:
- Multi-sensory learning experience.
- Increased Intelligence: When you travel to new places, see different landmarks, experience new foods, and hear different regional accents, your brain is assimilating new information. This causes your brain to stretch, grow and expand its neural pathways.
- Adaptability: Things go wrong and children learn to accept and/or make-do.
- Heightened Interpersonal Awareness: Other than the increase of adaptibility, interpersonal awareness deals with how well we understand and empathize with others. When we stay in one place around the same types of people for long periods of time, we start to lose the ability to relating to other people. Traveling to different places throughout our lifetime will keep us mentally flexible and better able to appreciate and understand other people’s feelings and lifestyle differences.
- Problem solving: When adapting to new situations or circumstances, children learn how to solve problems. They can brainstorm options and help choose the best ones.
- Group decisions: They learn that they must either provide positive leadership to the group, or must go along with group decisions. Not everyone can get their way even some of the time.
- Patience: Travel requires so much waiting around that children learn to be patient. They wait in long lines for check-in, for security, and for boarding. They wait for take-off, they wait for food, and they wait for
the washroom. They wait for landing and more line-ups. It’s endless.
- Self-entertainment: Children learn how to cope with boredom from lack of media
devices and electronic devices. They get into sandcastle building, drawing, card games, board games, word games, scavenger hunts and good old-fashioned conversation.
- Socializing: They learn to be polite to relatives that they have never met before or learn that strangers can be friends for travelers and it’s okay and enjoyable to strike up a conversation with them.
- Logistics: For older children that wish to get involved in trip planning, they learn useful skills such as how to book itineraries, rentals, and accommodations. They can learn how to acquire documentation such
as passports, visas and consent letters. They learn the protocol for security at airports and museums. They also learn mapping, budgeting, and documentation (photos and journals) skills. They learn how to secure transportation and groceries.
- Different rules: Rules and courtesies we take for granted in our country are not the same in many other countries.
- Culture: Travel gives the opportunity to sensitize your child to cultural differences. This will lead to greater social awareness as an adult.
- Leadership Opportunity: Encourage your child to take (small, measured) risks. Ask them to lead the way.
- Curiosity: As much we hate the ‘why’ stage, it’s a sure sign of healthy mental development. Even though it can be annoying, we not only need to nurture that state, but keep encouraging it. Curiosity is the forefather of learning and learning gives birth to intelligence. So go places. See things. Prompt your children with questions.
- Heightened Geographical Awareness. It’s important for kids to know Geography. (And maybe it’s just a major pet peeve of mine when people don’t know where certain countries are….) Reading a map is an essential skill.
- Tolerance: Travelling with family members means that family members live in close proximity with each other full time. Children get very practiced at learning how to cope with different quirks, personalities and people’s feelings.
- Confidence: Trying new things builds confidence. When we travel, we experience first-hand the sense of accomplishment that comes with trying something new, and that confidence transfers over into all areas of life.
- Learning New Languages
- The destination is not always the best part. Travel can teach your children to enjoy the journey. Don’t rush through vacations or through life.