Americans love to travel. And, they love traveling with young ones in tow. A 2018 Family Association Travel survey explained that parents travel with their kids to foster a shared passion for discovery.
Above all else, they want their kids to revel in new experiences and learn how to adapt to other cultures. Whether it's a short drive to a popular resort or a flight to another continent, the travel experience can broaden a child's perspective. If you're wondering how you can raise happy adventurers, here are a few tips to help.
Encourage Your Kids to Use Their Imaginations
Children can sense your enthusiasm when you talk about traveling to exotic lands. Did you go to Paris during your college days? If so, pull out that photo album and show them pictures of the Eiffel Tower. Tell them how you felt the first time you saw it in person.
If you've gone scuba diving in the Caribbean, describe what happened the first time you spotted a school of stingrays. Focusing on the descriptive details of your travels will spark your child's natural curiosity and imagination.
Next, help your child imagine the possibilities of visiting a particular destination. Did your child learn about the Grand Canyon at school? If so, talk about seeing bighorn sheep or elk at this world-famous national park. Ask them what they would do if they spotted these creatures. Getting children to dream about places (and experiences) outside their comfort zone is a healthy way to eliminate any latent fears about traveling.
Give Them the Right Tools to Aid Exploration
You may not be able to take your child on an African safari, but you can arrange a fabulous day at the local zoo or farm. Short trips to museums can become a springboard for discussions about local history, while themed backyard campouts can inspire interest in indigenous peoples who live in tropical rainforests.
Whatever you do, get your kids their own cameras so they can capture and create their own personal stories. There are even cameras for kids as young as three years of age. Children who are encouraged to explore their surroundings will likely want to continue that exploration into adulthood.
Become Armchair Travelers
Nothing can inspire interest in faraway places more than watching a movie or destination video. And, you don't have to leave home to introduce your child to exotic locations. The Internet is bursting with meaningful firsthand accounts of travels to faraway places.
In addition, you can rent movies like Rio, which will encourage your child to think of faraway places. In the movie, Blu (an endangered male Spix's macaw) and his female friend Jewel (another Spix's macaw) escape the clutches of a smuggler group. As the story wraps up, the macaw couple can be seen raising three chicks in a Brazilian jungle. This movie can be used to spark discussions about forests, endangered animals, and the South American continent. It can also spur a desire to see Rio's famed beaches and iconic Christ the Redeemer statue.
Meanwhile, there are several wonderful websites where you can get a real-time, bird's-eye view of world-famous locations and streets, such as EarthCam.com and webcamtaxi.com. Be ready to answer questions as your child explores life beyond the neighborhood.
Get Serious About Maps
We live in a GPS world, and while it's easy to rely on it to get from point A to B, it's also important to learn how to read maps. In fact, map reading skills are critical for helping children develop spatial and analytical skills.
Younger children may also benefit from picture books like There's a Map on My Lap! All About Maps by Tish Rabe. Such books are a fun way to get your kids interested in geography and environmental science. If you'd like more resources, National Geographic also offers numerous digital mapping activities and online mapping tools that facilitate learning about the world.
Explore Global Cuisine Together
Yes, kids can be picky eaters. However, you may be surprised at what they'll eat if you make dining an adventure. By introducing children to various cuisines, you can expand their interest in different cultures. Most importantly, your kids will learn to connect a particular food with its country of origin. Accompany the meal with stories about that country, and you have a ready-made learning experience on hand.
Don't have time to cook? Gather the family and head over to a restaurant that offers ethnic food. Order small plates of unique appetizers, teach the kids how to use chopsticks, and let them choose from the menu. Many ethnic restaurants also feature traditional decor and music for an immersive experience.
Seek out Cultural Festivals
Almost every city hosts annual festivals. From Chinese New Year celebrations to Saint Patrick's Day parades, there is no shortage of special events to share with your child. Many of these festivals also highlight regional cultures or events of historical significance.
Since music also plays an important role in many cultures, be sure to draw your child's attention to the special sounds at a festival. For example, the World FolkFest in Springville, Utah, showcases the traditions of diverse cultures through dances set to ethnic music. For the event this summer, you and your children will get to see folk dancing groups from all over the world perform.
Looking for more family-friendly festivals? If so, check out Camp Bestival in the U.K. This festival caters to families with young children and has won many awards in the last 10 years. If you prefer festivals closer to home, we recommend the National Cherry Blossom Festival or the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival.