Although I'm not a parent, I am blessed to have children of family and friends in my life whom I love dearly. And I treat my relationships with them with the utmost importance and respect. Given my belief in the importance and benefits of travel, it got me thinking of ideas for showing kids that it is, indeed, a small world after all.
1. Nurture curiosity. Curiosity is the desire to learn. While you can't "make" a child learn, you can nurture a child's inner desire to learn. When it comes to travel, model interest in the world around you and try using open-ended questions to encourage creative, out-of-the-box thinking like "What do you think riding on a camel's back would be like?" or "How might it feel to zip through the tops of trees in the jungle?"
2. Expose them to new experiences. You don't have to live with a relative from the old country or jet set to Europe every summer to expand a child's sense of adventure and global citizenship. Start locally. Take the train rather than drive to Grandma's house. Play at a different park on the other side of town. Or show how intertwined our world is through simple lessons: Mention that the spaghetti on their dinner plates is originally a cuisine of Italy. Share that her favorite song on the radio is by a Swedish artist. Ask if they know how Fido's German Shepard pedigree originated. Point out the Dominican Republic on a map, where his MLB idol grew up. One of my favorite gifts for children is Little Passports; a monthly subscription that mails an adventure to a different country to a child through letters, games, "souvenirs", etc. Find info at little passports.com.
3. Get their input. Allow children to have input on family vacations and destinations based on their interests. For a recent staycation in Southern CA, a friend of mine had each of her children indicate what his/her must-do was and ensured that the must-dos were incorporated into the trip. This approach birthed great benefits including empowering the kids and increasing comfort with unfamiliar places and experiences- not to mention it got their natural buy-in on the trip's agenda.
4. Be flexible. If you don't over-schedule your kids at home, why start on vacation? Sometimes the best days begin with no plans. Wander in a general area or take a hop-on-hop-off bus and let the kids' interests lead the way. The "Let's go in here!"s and "That looks cool"s can lead to unexpected adventure and a positive impact on a child.
5. Skip the souvenir stands. We've all heard or seen that child melting down in the souvenir shop because he can't have that useless 3-inch Big Ben replica. Or maybe we've been that kid. Either way, set the stage at the beginning for saving mementos from the trip that focus on the experience (and are perhaps space-efficient too)! Frame all his train tickets to hang in the playroom. Create pillows from favorite photos (see shutterfly.com) for her bed. Use that massive, theme park souvenir cup as a sand toy.
So here's to showing kids what a wonderfully integrated world they live in. It's interesting how the way we approach things at home can set the stage for a child's interest in exploration of this big, beautiful world. And that experiences beyond their backyard are at their fingertips.
I'd love to hear your ideas on how to share the joy of travel with children. Any tips for nurturing this at home? Please share!
For a 10 minute getaway, join the RobinGoesTo journeys and next adventure at RobinGoesTo.com