Our children live in a world that has become increasingly accessible. This new era of easy travel provides them with opportunities that could only have been dreamt about not long ago. For many, the world has become their backyard, with an increasing number of parents taking their kids out of school for an extended amount of time to travel.
Taking kids travelling brings priceless benefits. Recently, I had the good fortune to take my young daughter to India. I went myself at the age of 20. It was a country that made its mark on me and I was keen for my daughter to experience the same.
The trip was enriching beyond measure and what she learnt, immense. Let me share some of the adventure and some of the learning with you!
Learning from great historic structures
The Taj Mahal is of course, a sight to behold, even for a young child. But it also lent itself to so much more. Not only did it provide a learning opportunity for some of the country’s history, but the love story that lies behind it, sparked and engaged my daughter’s imagination. Together, we imagined a love so strong to build something that would take approximately 20 years to make.
Standing at Agra Fort, looking out at the Taj Mahal in the distance, we imagined the feelings and thoughts of the Mogul emperor, Shah Jahan, as he stood there looking out at the symbol of his love from his imprisonment. We also looked at its surroundings; the blue sky, the water, the trees, the birds; nature itself. It lent itself to such an array of learning – history, mathematics, language, creativity, analysis, imagination, curiosity…
Taking kids travelling also brings benefits on a much deeper level. With the best will in the world, shielding our kids from stereotypes and prejudice is a battle we will inevitably lose. They’ll be exposed to it all, but as parents we have considerable say over how they deal with it and whether they choose to become open-minded, tolerant, global citizens.
On our trip, I shone a light for my daughter to see both sides of this fascinating country. Moving around in a tuk-tuk, she witnessed the poverty that many are forced to live in. Later, she tasted the delectable cakes in a wonderful café, busy with people far wealthier than us. Being exposed to this reality would help ensure that the stereotypes, the generalisations she may have already encountered or would encounter, could be dispelled.
Enhancing problem solving skills
As the taxi pulled up outside one of the hotels I’d booked, my heart sank! It barely bore a resemblance to the photos displayed on the booking site. Not to put my daughter off, I kept my disappointment to myself.
Walking into our room did nothing to shift my first impressions. I was considering what to do, when my daughter spilled some water on the floor. She got some tissue and proceeded to clean it up; then thrust it under my nose. It was black with dirt. My decision was made.
With my daughter in tow, I spoke to the very friendly and very obliging manager, who offered us an upgraded room. It still wasn’t great, so I negotiated with the manager to stay for two of the three nights booked. The hotel wasn’t great, but the staff certainly made up for it.
Listening to my negotiations with the manager, my daughter took everything in and I realised just how much it had provided her with a valuable learning experience. She learnt how to deal with a situation you’re not happy with in a way that is respectful but assertive (and that humour can help too!). She learnt how to effectively solve a problem.
And maybe above all, she learnt about the importance of resilience. Even when you come across difficulties, it helps to see the positive. We didn’t really like the upgraded room, but as my daughter explained, ‘this is an adventure, Mummy!’. We also saw the funny side and noted that we’d always remember turning up to the awful looking hotel and how we’d laughed about it. I realised too that it stood her in very good stead for when she travels and has to deal with things as an adult. She won’t be as phased by things as much as she may otherwise have been; she’ll know how to solve things when they don’t go as expected.
Learning about great figures in history
We can learn a lot about historical figures in our history books, from technology and the internet. But nothing is as effective for a child’s learning than being able to walk in the steps of history’s great figures. I deliberately didn’t tell my daughter about Mahatma Gandhi before the trip. She first learnt about him standing in his final home, right next to his bed. It was powerful.
There were also several interactive rooms for kids. It was brilliantly designed, and she learnt more, understood more, remembered more than if I had told her about him. And this is true for any learning. It’s when kids are actively involved in their learning, that they truly learn and remember. I think she may be at an advantage when he’s introduced to her later on in a history lesson!
Learning the joy of giving
Learning about the importance and joy of giving isn’t of course confined to travelling. But it does provide a great opportunity to reinforce it with our kids. Before the trip, my daughter bought a stash of pens and writing pads to give to any child she came across. Rather than hand them out and carry on, (which I half expected, as she’d never done it before), she impressed me with her actions. She got down to their level, took the time to write something in the pad and chatted to them; even when the child was too shy to say anything back. The joy of giving was obvious, but also the experience of interacting with the children, and honing social skills was priceless for all involved.
We also experienced something priceless and what sits at the very heart of Minds of Wonder. It happened the day I bought my daughter some bubbles. On the way back to our hotel, a mother with a young baby aged about one, approached us. My daughter gave the bubbles to the baby and the mum carefully blew bubbles for her child. The sheer wonder, the sheer joy and excitement on the baby’s face watching the bubbles fly from the stick, was a sight to behold. It was a powerful reminder of how learning should be for kids – something wondrous, exciting and fascinating.
Taking kids travelling: the benefits
Above, I have shared some personal experiences of how a trip benefitted my daughter in a multitude of ways. Below are some additional learning benefits that travelling can have on kids.
- Helps children become more adaptable and flexible.
- Teaches them that we may look different but we are all the same. Diversity is something to be celebrated.
- Encourages and teaches responsibility.
- Ignites a child’s sense of curiosity, imagination and sense of adventure.
- Encourages appropriate risk taking.
- Enables them to try something new.
- Sparks an interest in the world, its geography and its people.
- Encourages social skills, especially the art of making friends.
- Creates a time for your family to slow down, to be mindful, to be together and make memories.
Of course, we don’t always need to travel to a different country to reap these benefits. Travel within your own country can achieve the same results.
Over to You…
Do you travel with your kids? Do you have any travelling stories to share? If you do, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. And don’t forget, if you want to join our Kids Postcard Exchange, remember to sign up above, or sign up below for our free resource library!