My boys just love to travel: they love every part of it! Planes, trains and automobiles, close to home or far away. They love the sense of adventure, discovering new places, and the excitement when something (inevitably) goes wrong. They often say that travel broadens the mind, and that money spent on travel is never money wasted: and I believe that’s just as true, perhaps more so, for kids as it is for grown ups. (Or that’s what I’m telling myself so that we can spend the money we’d originally decided to spend on replacing our ugly bathroom on a trip to Tokyo instead!)
Here are my five benefits of travel for kids, that I’ve noticed in my own children:
- Travel Encourages Kids to Try New Things
Never eaten with chopsticks before? Give it a go! Want to see what it looks like under the sea? Then we’ll teach you to snorkel. Learning to take photographs, learning to use binoculars, putting a grain of sand (or a bug) under their magnifying glass. Climb over the rocks, eat the strange looking fruit, haggle in the market: every experience when you’re away is likely to be a new experience for your kids, and it will encourage them to try new things with confidence.
This doesn’t just apply to new experiences either: my oldest is a fussy eater (in fact, that would be an understatement) but when we’re away it’s miraculous what he’ll try! He now loves Greek food, and we regularly have mezze. He eats calamari by the bucket, lobster is his favourite ‘treat’ and kangaroo is his favourite meat. We even persuaded him to try sushi last weekend because he loved all things Japanese right now: he didn’t like it, but that he tried is nothing short of amazing. These are skills (and tastes) that you’re giving your children for life.
And its amazing to me that when we’re away you never hear the kids say ‘i’m bored!’ Even without toys, just people watching and immersing themselves into a new culture is entertainment enough.
2. Travel Makes Us Closer
We’re a close knit family anyway, but I definitely think that travelling together strengthens the bond between us. We have so many new, shared experiences and this only enhances our relationships, as well as fostering a sense of fun and adventure in all of us too. Kids reluctant to touch the crabs in the rock pool? Make daddy try it first! Learn, share, grow, laugh….together as a family. I know that sounds trite, but it really is how I feel.
I also think that travelling has strengthened the boys bond with each other, thanks to their range of shared experiences: they were together the first time they went on a bodyboard, or rode in a Ferrari for the first time, they both held my hair when I was sick on the ferry to the Hoek van Holland, they hold hands every time the plane takes off. This is stuff they’ll laugh about for life, and I hope it helps to make sure they stay as close as they are right now.
3. Travel Broadens the Mind
Every place we visit presents an opportunity to learn something new, both in big and small ways. Learning how to buy fruit in the local market place is just as good a learning tool as wondering at a great artefact or national treasure. Both of the boys are fascinated with history, and being able to take them to the places they read about in their books, walk around them, and make them real in their minds is one of my very favourite things about travelling with them. They are more knowledgeable, more curious, and much more interested in every aspect of the world around them because the like to travel.
4. Travel Teaches Kids to Have Responsibility
It’s a practical one, but it’s one worth mentioning. Depending on the age of your kids, travel can be used as a tool to encourage them to take responsibility for their own belongings, as well as for their own behaviour. Don’t want to spend three weeks without your favourite Spiderman Lego figure? Then you better make sure you pack him! Don’t want to lose him and never see him again? Then hold him tightly whilst you’re walking over that bridge!
Resources are finite and decision making becomes a shared responsibility; from deciding which day trip would be the best for us as a family (without thinking only of themselves) to learning how to read a map, they are more sensible, mature and responsible thanks to the lessons they learn when they travel. Even navigating their way around a hotel room (and understanding that they have to be quiet in order to be considerate to other guests) is a new skill and a new responsibility that you are teaching your children when you take them away.
5. Travel is a Great Way to Learn New Languages
Kids are like tiny sponges, and if you immerse them in new places, with new languages and cultures, you’ll be amazed at how quickly they pick it up. Because we used to spend a lot of time in France, both boys have basic conversational French. They picked up some Dutch (a language I cannot get my head around) by playing with other kids and watching cartoons when we were in Holland. And whilst Mike and I struggle with every moment of our DuoLingo Japanese lessons, the kids are flying through them, laughing at how hard we find it as they go! The younger your kids are, the more adaptable they are, and the better they learn (often without even knowing they’re doing it). It makes travel a wonderful, life long gift that you can give to your kids, whether you take them away from a couple of months or a couple of days.
What benefits have you noticed from travelling with your kids? And how old were they when you took them away for the first time?
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