Do you remember how it felt to take your first airplane ride? Have you ever visited a foreign country and spent time learning about its culture and customs? Have you ever visited a grocery store in another state and noticed that they sell different brands and products? Travel has the potential to provide people with unique memories and experiences that last a lifetime. For children, travel also provides tremendous opportunities to expand their horizons, learn new things, and better understand the world. While it’s fun to take your kids to visit an amusement park, don’t forget to include other experiences in your travels with your child.
Among the benefits of travel for children is that it broadens their outlook of the world. Travel helps children understand how people in different places live, whether in another country or another city in their own state. Visiting a different playground, grocery store, or school allows children to see how people around the world are different from themselves, but also allows them to see the similarities among all people.
In order to maximize the benefits of travel for children, there are a number of things that parents can do before, during, and after a trip to help make it a true learning experience. Rick Steves, travel author, and radio and television travel show host, recommends: “Before your trip, encourage your kids to learn about the countries, cities, sights, and people they’ll be visiting.” Read both fiction and non-fiction books (with lots of pictures) set in the place you’re going, and use your hometown library as a resource for age-appropriate movies that are set in your destination. For foreign travel, he also recommends that children “get a jump on foreign phrases. Type out the top 20 or so and put them on the fridge for everyone to learn.”
During the trip, have your child point out some things he or she sees and experiences that are the same as at home, and some things that are different. Bring along maps and allow children to label and color them to mark places as you visit them. Buy a postcard each day, or use a travel journal. Have the child dictate what he or she learned or experienced that day, and write it in the journal or on the back of the postcard to create a learning scrapbook. You can even take along a small bag in which your child can collect “treasures” from the trip. If you are in a foreign country, have the child use some of the phrases he or she learned.
If you’re visiting a museum or nature center, take advantage of the recent trend of making such exhibits more child-friendly. For example, many art museums now include kid-friendly activities such as a scavenger hunt. Many museums offer audio guides that are programmed with material geared towards children. Your children will also find apps that help make the exhibits more interesting and relatable.