This content has been republished from kidspot.com.au with permission
Travelling with kids, especially baby ones, isn’t always fun. Side-eye looks from fellow passengers, mountains of extra luggage and bouts of messy motion sickness will test even the most zen parents. Like pretty much everything about being the custodian of small humans, it’s much more difficult than it looks on Instagram. But the other side of that same coin is that it’s also incredibly worthwhile.
We spoke to family psychologist, Dr Leanne Williams, about the most valuable ways travel helps your kids.
1. Travel widens their perceptions
We all know that kids are constantly learning from the moment they’re born, and travel gives them a whole new world of smells, sounds, faces and colours. Dr Williams says, “While the very young may not remember their first trips, exposure to the wider world will definitely still have an impact.”
As a parent, the chance to see your young children experience new environments through their developing senses is an added benefit, too. Sure you might have enjoyed your visit to the beach before you had kids, but watching your little one splash in the waves adds an extra element to the experience.
2. It makes them much more adaptable
“Travelling with young kids creates a new sense of normal and gently pushes them to be more adaptable to changing situations. While kids do thrive on structure, and it’s good to keep as much of their regular routines as possible while you’re on the road, travel naturally encourages flexibility,” Williams explains “Travel plans rarely go smoothly and spontaneity and compromise is often required.” Travel teaches patience, and the even more important ability to fall asleep anywhere.
It’s also great for kids to observe how their parents react to the unexpected and contributes to the development of resilience, something we know is important to our children’s future happiness.
3. It teaches them about the world
Travelling gives kids the chance to experience the world for themselves and teaches them invaluable lessons about everything from history to geography, art to architecture.
“Learning so easily becomes a part of the travel experience. Travel means exposing kids to a whole bunch of new subjects; there’s the obvious things like maps and timetables, but then you also get into stuff like engineering - what is it that makes the airplane fly? - from an early age.”
They start to form a better understanding of their environment and the knowledge that it’s a big world out there. Of course they’ll learn to name the world’s capital cities eventually, but how much more memorable will it be if they’ve actually visited some of those places?
4. It puts them more in touch with nature
Animals, oceans, trees, grass, birds – travel brings all the magic of the natural world right to your children's touch. Here kids get to breathe fresh air, go barefoot, touch lizards and weird bugs they never get to touch at home. Given that the chance to see the world’s natural wonders is one of the biggest reasons we travel, the chance to develop an appreciation of the natural world is something all parents can encourage in their kids.
5. It makes them much more social
On the road your kids are going to meet people from all walks of life and age groups. With this, Dr Williams explains, “they begin to engage in conversations more freely and begin to express themselves with more confidence which in turn can help widen their vocabulary - sometimes across other languages.” Children almost always naturally have the urge to learn and speak new languages. If only it were that easy for us adults!
6. It takes them offline
Kids today honestly have no concept of a world without the internet. “Travel will be the largest chunks of waking time that they will spend offline and if you cultivate it - by leaving the iPad at home and steering clear of data roaming - the time spent completely engaging in the real world will become some of the most memorable of their young lives. Travel is extended mindfulness - something we could all do with a little more of.”
7. It builds strong bonds
“Travelling together creates unique bonds; you share these crazy experiences, new food, excitement, difficulties and personal space. You are forced see each other in different light and your family dynamic will often shift as you overcome the almost inevitable trials that go with travel”, explains Leanne. More importantly, sharing incredible experiences is something that brings people together and in today’s busy world where time is often our most precious commodity the opportunity to share and savour the beautiful, amazing attractions we see when we travel is certainly precious.
8. It teaches them to appreciate other cultures and makes them better people
The most important function travel can have is to make your kids aware of just how big the world is. They get to see how other people eat, worship, play, celebrate and live. They get a firsthand lesson in diversity, race, religion and quality of life. It should teach them to respect other people and cultures, which grows empathetic and considerate adults. And, as Dr Williams notes, “there is nothing in the world we need more.”