Travelling is the best kind of education for all of us, and for children especially. Children are inherently open-minded, impressionable, and curious, and because of this, it is our responsibility as parents to present the world to them in all its beauty and complexity. The thing about travelling is that your journey will be full of spontaneous opportunities to learn and discover things you haven’t planned to teach or counted on at all. These are experiences that no book can offer, because, well, they go even beyond our structured parenting. Here are the important things to teach your children on your travels.
When including your children in trip planning and decision regarding your itinerary, you’re directly teaching them to make use of all the available resources, from encyclopaedias to search engines for kids. In the process they learn to focus, pick out what’s important and eliminate the rest, to plan, think ahead, and to apply their acquired information to a real-life situation – in this case, a blueprint of a trip. As you can suspect, these are valuable skills that are essentially the point of any education system, but school systems worldwide rarely manage to teach them to children successfully. Ultimately, you’re teaching your children resourcefulness – something that they’ll be very thankful for in the near future.
Gratitude and compassion
Have you ever found yourself telling a pouty child who’s just starting to cross the line, that there are children across the world who can only dream of having what they have? Well, this is something that’s essentially difficult to teach, because a National Geographic documentary is simply not enough for a child to grasp the advantages they have compared to their peers across the world. Your vacation doesn’t have to be an elaborate lesson in activism and social awareness, although it very well could. It’s enough for your child to just see, for example, that in many parts of the world children don’t play on tablets and phones. Opening their eyes to different ways of life will teach them gratitude and compassion – and as they get older, social awareness.
An inherent love for the environment
This is one of the most important things that travelling instils in children and adults alike. Take your children across the world to see nature reserves, wildlife parks, lush forests and vast landscapes. You can start in your own country, and with time, unveil the natural wonders of the world to them. From Alaska to New Zealand, Earth is a wonderful, amazing place that’s best perceived live. Countries like Australia boast their diverse natural beauty and pay a lot of attention to wildlife and nature preservation – which is something your children need to be aware of. Families go there on walking holidays because they are a great opportunity not just to take in breathtaking sights you probably don’t have in your part of the world, but to learn new things from the guide and simultaneously be active. Remember, the fate of our beautiful and wounded planet depends on the future generations, and it’s important our children learn to treat it with wonder, love, and respect at a young age.
Accepting the unknown
Otherwise known as: openness to new experiences. This is a mindset that really sets well-travelled people apart from those who rarely leave their country. It’s something you don’t even have to verbally note to your children; they will simply ease into this mindset with experience and by following your example. It’s very important, because it reflects strongly and positively on the rest of their lives. They won’t feel uncomfortable and intimidated when facing new challenges or new environments, they’ll gladly accept novelty and try to learn from it constantly, they’ll be less likely to cling to their comfort zone and suffer from apathy, etc. Also, they won’t fear (and consequently, detest) people who are different from them, and that’s one of the most important things to teach our children. You can teach them this in a number of ways on your travels: you might present them to practices such as yoga as there are many yoga-oriented holiday destinations, you might show them how fried insects are a delicacy in some Asian countries, or simply, you’ll show them temples of various religions across the world. It’s all about experience, learning, and opening up to other cultures.
As you can see, these are things that aren’t really taught hands-on in school. But there are even classical school subjects that you can teach your children on your journeys, such as geography and languages. Carry a guide with you at all times (whether digital or paper) and refer your children to it as you pass various points of interests. Teach them through experience how to use maps. And when it comes to languages, well, they won’t learn a language on a single trip but they might be intrigued by it and curious about learning it. All of these things together will make your child a critical thinker and a true citizen of the world. And remember, you don’t have to travel to a far-off exotic land if that’s complicated at the moment – start with road trips and day trips in your own country. Every journey, no matter how small, is an opportunity to learn.
Nina Simons is a lifestyle blogger and an avid traveller passionate about interior design and creative DIY projects.