Kids Benefit From Travel. Here’s How:

Yes, there’s a lot to consider before you travel with kids. But if you think your kids can’t handle travel, or think YOU can’t pull it off, think again. Your kids need to travel, more than you could ever imagine. You’d be surprised at how much traveling can offer them, and what a gift it actually is.

Yes, it can be hard to find the time. Yes, it can be hard to find the money. But the priceless opportunities that family travel can offer your kids make doing so worth the effort.

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Kimmie’s first trip outside the U.S. came before her first birthday. So far both girls have only been to Mexico and Canada, but they’ve also visited many parts of the continental U.S. (as well as Puerto Rico, and soon Hawaii.) In 2020 I’ll be taking them as part of a Girl Scout trip to London and Paris.

Both my husband and I have lived abroad and traveled, and we want our girls to experience some of the same benefits we’ve found from living live in another culture, even if just for a week or two. Ready to learn more about those benefits, and why they’re especially important for children to experience early and often? Then read on:

Not convinced your kids need to travel? Once you learn about the ways kids benefit from travel, you'll never think about family trips the same way again.

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Why Your Kids Need To Travel:

1. Exposure to new experiences

Most children thrive on new experiences from infancy on up. Traveling when they’re young gives them the opportunity to do so much more than see the world:

  • They can hear other languages, and learn about different cultures and histories.
  • They can also experience different ways of doing things than what they’re used to in their home environment.
  • In addition, they can try new foods, experience new opportunities, and learn new skills.
  • They can even learn about new plants, animals, and landscapes.
Not convinced your kids need to travel? Once you learn about the ways kids benefit from travel, you'll never think about family trips the same way again.

We don’t have critters like this where we live…

And most of all, they get to explore these wonderful new environments with you as their guide, and process them along with the rest of their family, all while making priceless memories. A child doesn’t get all of this by staying put in their hometown.

As soon as they were preschoolers, I got the girls started on swimming lessons. I grew up an hour from the ocean, knowing how to swim, so to me this was a must-have skill. They never had much interest in this skill, though, until the first time they were old enough to experience swimming in the ocean. All of a sudden, swimming lessons were a lot more interesting the following summer! (And their progress reflected this!)

The same has been true for cooking. Dear Hubby and I LOVE to cook, as I’ve written elsewhere. But it’s one thing for Mama or Daddy to try to interest you in cooking. It’s another thing to learn from locals how to make something like pico de gallo, guacamole, or chilaquiles from scratch. Both the girls are always eager after a trip to try to replicate some of our “vacation food” at home.

Not convinced your kids need to travel? Once you learn about the ways kids benefit from travel, you'll never think about family trips the same way again.

Learning how to make guacamole in Mexico

 

Not convinced your kids need to travel? Once you learn about the ways kids benefit from travel, you'll never think about family trips the same way again.

Making guacamole at home.

2. Learning through language

Even if you travel to a different country that speaks the same language as your own, or a different PART of your own country, your kids will still learn. I’ll never forget the first time we visited my dear friend Raiah’s family in Canada. Our four girls were all toddlers through preschoolers, and one of my girls said something about needing to “go potty.”

As Americans, they thought nothing of this; this is the same language even their preschool teachers used. But Raiah’s 5-year-old daughter was appalled that my girls had used the P-word, and informed her parents that we’d said a “bad word”! My girls and I both got a lesson in cultural awareness!

But traveling to places where people speak different languages is even more eye-opening for young children. Children who are exposed to foreign languages at a young age are more likely to pick them up easily, especially through prolonged exposure. Moreover, these children are also are more likely to internalize a native-level understanding of correct pronunciation, and will be able to speak the language with little to no discernible accent.

Even if your travels aren’t long enough for your kids to learn a new language, though, this exposure can help plant seeds for the future. Kimmie and Essie love practicing Spanish on Duolingo because they’ve been to Puerto Rico and Mexico. They already have more interest in learning a foreign language than the average American does, and this interest will only serve them well down the road.

Not convinced your kids need to travel? Once you learn about the ways kids benefit from travel, you'll never think about family trips the same way again.

3. Different ways of being a kid

If at all possible, I encourage you to learn a little, as a family, about where you’re going before you take any trips together. For young children, learning about other kids’ experiences in the region or country they are visiting is especially helpful. Kimmie and Essie always love comparing notes with Raiah’s daughters about how their lives in Canada are different than what my girls know in the U.S., starting with the fact that Raiah’s Anglophone daughters are able to attend a public French immersion school.

Learning about traditional holidays, children’s games, customs, and favorite kids’ activities is a great way to begin preparing your child for your trip. Thanks to the internet, there’s a world of information at your fingertips, so you might as well take advantage of finding out what you can ahead of time.

For example, I thought my girls’ preschool did a great job of getting the kids outside for daily recess plus “nature hikes” about once a month. But did you know that this Singapore preschool, for example, prides itself on its nature by educating in the great outdoors? So much so that your children would never want to leave, if they went to school there! Not only is this a great approach to learning, but it also gives kids an important source of vitamin D, while being in a safe and freeing environment that allows them to think outside of the walls.

(Of course, one could make the same argument for why your kids need to travel in the first place. You soak up a lot more vitamin D on a day of sightseeing than you do in the average school classroom.)

4. Learning to accept other cultures

I’ll never forget the first time I truly got a sense of where I grew up: it wasn’t until in my 20s, when I moved away to a different part of the U.S. Likewise, I have never been more keenly aware of my identity as an American than when I’ve traveled (and especially when I’ve lived) outside the U.S. If you never experience life outside your own little corner of the world, it’s a lot harder to understand other cultures, let alone understand yourself and your own culture.

Just because we’ve always done things certain ways, doesn’t mean that is the best – or even the only – way to do them. What better way to learn that than by experiencing life somewhere else, where the patterns and rhythms of daily life are different? My girls have opened gifts on Christmas at home in the United States, then had Three Kings’ Cake and opened more gifts on Epiphany in Mexico. Needless to say, they had no problem with this!

Not convinced your kids need to travel? Once you learn about the ways kids benefit from travel, you'll never think about family trips the same way again.

Three Kings’ Cake on Kings’ Day (January 6)

By learning from an early age that different cultures have different beliefs and ways of being, your children will be in a better position to grow up as critical observers of the world around them. Rather than being ignorant of these differences, or hostile to them, they will see them for what they are – different ways of living life. They’ll grow up with an enriched understanding of the world, versus totally ignorant of cultural differences.

And who knows, if more kids grew up with an awareness of different cultures, perhaps our future would have fewer international wars over those same cultural differences?

Your turn:

Do you travel much? Have your kids traveled far from home yet? What are your thoughts on kids’ benefits from travel? Let us know in the comments!

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 Not convinced your kids need to travel? Once you learn about the ways kids benefit from travel, you'll never think about family trips the same way again.

 

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