I know a family trying to visit as many different states as possible with their children. They track their progress with a pin-map on their kitchen wall–low-tech and old-school, but a great conversation starter when guests come for dinner.
I have a friend whose mother had a wish to visit all 50 states in her lifetime. Sadly, she didn’t quite achieve this goal. But now my friend has committed to visiting the few states her mother missed, in her memory.
Most of us–kids and adults–enjoy traveling. And the good news is that we don’t have to travel internationally to see wildly different landscapes and experience different cultures. I’ve forgotten the writer who said this, but I agree: The United States is so diverse that we should need a passport to travel across it.
Whether you go by plane, train, or automobile–whether you sleep in hotels, homes of friends and relatives or tents–it’s great fun and educational for kids to travel. And the journey itself is as valuable as the destination. Through travel activities and games that encourage family members to engage with one another and their surroundings, kids can learn a lot. My son, for example, developed great map skills by studying the atlas in the back seat as we traversed from state to state. My daughter enjoyed writing and illustrating a vacation journal.
We all had fun playing license plate games–reading the tag lines on the plates and talking about their meanings. My sometimes-stubborn son got a kick out of learning that his birth state was nicknamed the “Show Me” state. And Live Free or Die was good for several miles of lively conversation! Confined in a small space for extended periods of time together (oh, the horror!), my son and daughter decided that playing together nicely was preferable to arguing or doing “nothing.”
I, on the other hand, am a fan of kids doing “nothing” for a while. I sometimes confiscated the headphones, DVD players, and hand-held game consoles, urging the kids to spend a little time in their own heads, looking out the window, thinking and dreaming. If our kids are always plugged in and focused on a screen, when and how will they learn that out of quiet reflection and introspection come a better understanding of themselves–who they are and who they want to be?
So cheers to long car rides and all other kinds of travel! Family trips bring us together, provide new experiences and increase both our knowledge of ourselves and the world we live in.
Christine French Cully is the editor in chief of Highlights for Children, Inc., where she is responsible for shaping the editorial direction of all the magazines, online content and products the company develops for children and their families. She plays a strategic, ongoing role in the development of the Highlights vision and brand across all markets and channels/around the globe. Cully, a mother of two, resides in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.