Kids love to be a part of almost everything their parents are up to. Sometimes that’s helpful, and sometimes it actually creates more work. Here are a few ways to include a child in the travel process in ways that are natural and that won’t add extra hours to your to-do prep lists.
Use your child’s natural interests to make a destination come alive. Does your kid love painting? Music? Dance? Sports? Animals? Have your child research ahead of time about activities or places that might speak to his existing passions. Have him gather as much info as he can, and let him choose a way to dig deeper into that interest — a play, an exhibit, a match, a festival. Then all you have to do is let me know, and I can make any necessary reservations.
Get a travel journal. If your child likes to write or draw or collage, this can be both a wonderful way to document experiences and a way for kids to have quiet time if they need it, or wind-down time in the evening before bed.
Try a scavenger hunt. How many kinds of gelato can you try? How many colors of cowboy boots can you spot? Can you track down all the famous buildings built by a favorite architect? Make a list of landmarks that were important to a local band? This is something that can be adjusted for younger and older kids, and can be an effective way to engage older kids especially.
Use photography as a way to help them pay attention. For a kid who loves photography, the lens can be an excellent way to help ignite curiosity and help her be present to the travel experience. For younger children especially, an inexpensive disposable camera works just great and can make them feel very grown up; older children might have access to a simple digital camera or a smartphone with a built-in camera. They might choose to just photograph whatever strikes their interest, or they can also decide ahead of time to keep an eye out for something specific: interesting flowers, unique doorways, motorcycles or scooters they like, desserts, street signs, gardens, markets, sunsets. Being aware of and respecting cultural etiquette around taking photographs, of course, there are tons of incredible creative opportunities. This can be a wonderful way for a child to discover a new interest he didn’t even know he had.
If you choose to go the digital route, you can even set up an Instagram account specifically for your trip if you like, and your child can use a smartphone as her camera. This is a great way to visually and verbally record what they’ve seen and experienced. They can use it to build vocabulary in a new language by photographing an object, asking a local what it is, and then labeling the image with the word and its translation. If your child doesn’t enjoy traditional journaling as much, this can be an alternative way to have time set aside each day for remembering, documenting, and processing in a different medium.
Use a recorder to capture new sounds, voices, and music. If your child is more aural than visual, you can use a small digital voice recorder to capture the unique traits of your destination. Car horns, street music, sounds of natural surroundings, food cooking, traditional ceremonies, language, laughter — all of these paint an auditory picture of your vacation that will spark wonderful memories for years to come. Again, if your child doesn’t gravitate towards traditional journaling, keeping a audio journal might be just the thing that will really spark his interest.
Use the power of compare and contrast to sharpen curiosity, create awareness, and start good conversations. Have as a goal each day — and this can be something the whole family can do — to note one thing that’s similar to what you do at home, and one thing that’s different from what you do at home. Do kids play similar games? Eat different foods? Wear the same kinds of clothes? In addition to observing similarities and differences, talk to them about their thoughts around what they’re noticing. What questions come up? What’s comfortable for them, and what feels totally unfamiliar? Do they see things that they wish kids did more of back home? This can be a powerful tool for kids to be present to what’s happening around them, and can help them process the culture shock that can accompany the newness of various environments, as well. It can be a way for you to get to know them better, and it can be a way for them to understand more about themselves, too.
Traveling with children provides a one-of-a-kind educational experience for them, and a powerful bonding experience for the whole family. I would love to help you design the perfect travel experience for your family! To get in touch with me, just click here.