Traveling with the kiddos...
I think as parents we build up our nervous anticipation of traveling with kids. Usually, trips go more smoothly than we predict they will, and the (sometimes literal) gross disasters are fodder for years of family stories to come.
And what better way to educate our children than to travel? For it is through travel that we see new sights and sounds, eat new foods, experience new cultures, and push our comfort level. Our children learn to occupy themselves when bored, become comfortable with their own thoughts and imagination, and communicate with others in a whole new way.
Travel can be as simple as a road trip around your state. Each town has a unique personality to meet along the way. An airplane flight to a neighboring state to visit grandparents teaches children how to wait patiently, how to follow oral directions, how to read signs and posters, and how to find gate numbers. What better way to get hands-on learning?
Your children experience new people with all that people-watching: new mannerisms, new ways of dressing, and overhear conversations on novel topics. What could be a better “classroom” lesson for the day?
When schedules allow, it isn’t hard to get away for a weekend. I believe prioritizing your child’s education, as we all do, includes these rich experiences. Patience, flexibility, and fortitude are lessons taught remarkably well on the road. As parents, we can prepare our children for the journey ahead, knowing full well that hiccups will occur, but they often won’t be something we can’t handle.
Here are a few things to try on your next adventure:
- Talk with your child about expectations and what the traveling will be like. Kids do well with a framework on which to map their experiences.
- Allow extra time to pull them aside, out of the hustle and bustle, and explain what is happening next. Before you go through the security gate at an airport, for example, take them aside and kneel down, telling them what to expect in the next few moments.
- Help them use their eyes and ears to observe the world around them. Give them a visual scavenger hunt (like “I Spy”) or pictures in their journal to find and draw. For an upcoming trip, I'm printing photos from the internet and sticking them inside journals. My daughters will be able to use the pictures to identify important landmarks and historical monuments. They can color or write their own ideas, too!
- If your child has special needs, they will need some accommodations in your plans. But even our special kids need these experiences. Plan ahead and bring some fallback comfort items to keep them at ease. They will respond well to your energy level, so take a deep breath and meet them where they are at.
You can find all sorts of great suggestions on the internet for travel-specific tips and tricks for kids. Use what works for you, discard things that don’t. But by focusing on the actual travel as a learning experience, you can see the experience through your child’s eyes and focus your attention there.
Where will your next trip take you? Do you have a great kid-friendly travel experience to share? Leave a comment below and let us know how you did it!
*My family and I are heading on a road trip soon to visit a new baby niece. I’ll take my girls on a plane flight to visit grandparents for spring break, while my husband stays behind. Our girls have proven themselves good little travelers, other than the occasional baby explosion, so we’ll put them and their potty-trained backsides to the test on an international trip in late spring. I will let you know how it goes!