In many cases, kids learn by absorbing the information and environment around them. As a result, exposing your youngster to the multitude of experiences that travel offers can provide unique, hands-on learning experiences. Consider, for example, these three benefits of travel.
1. Every moment is an opportunity to learn something new
When traveling, your child has the unique opportunity to continually absorb new knowledge and skills. Many children thrive when learning in a hands-on manner, and travel takes the skills and concepts your student may have learned in the classroom and puts these to use in a real-world setting.
For instance, if your child has recently studied geography, a trip to a national park such as the Grand Canyon might allow her to experience in person what she has previously only encountered in school. She might even deepen her knowledge by speaking with park rangers or participating in a Junior Ranger program at certain national parks. If you take your child on a trip overseas, she can experience all that the new culture has to offer, including discovering customs, learning about the language, and participating in day-to-day life in that country.
Travel is also a great chance for children to disconnect from technology. Your child may have seen your travel destination on TV or the internet, and this trip will give her the opportunity to put down the screen and experience these destinations firsthand. Technology is great for a multitude of reasons, but briefly disconnecting can also show her the positives of living in the moment.
2. Travel can build confidence and encourage your child to try new things
Traveling often forces individuals out of their comfort zones. While initially uncomfortable, this can have great benefits. Traveling helps children discover many things, including what type of travel he likes and what cultures and destinations he is most interested in learning more about. Exposing your student to travel can foster a love of exploration and open-mindedness about the outside world. Simple acts like ordering his own food or selecting the day’s activity can build confidence and demonstrate that he can successfully handle these types of situations. If you travel to a different country, your child may have the opportunity to participate in local cultural practices, such as learning a new musical instrument or trying new foods.
3. Travel provides the opportunity to meet new people and discover new cultures
Through travel, children will meet new people who have unique stories to tell. No matter if you travel to another country or a different part of the United States, your child will encounter people who live differently than she does. She may have heard or read about other cultures’ practices, but experiencing them firsthand and learning about their background from locals can provide insight into the culture that she may not otherwise have.
She will also encounter other travelers whom she can also learn from. She can discover why these travelers chose this particular destination, other places they may have traveled, and things they have learned along the way.
Caitlin Grove is an Associate Content Coordinator for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.
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 Chief Purpose Officer and Editor in Chief at Highlights for Children. As Chief Purpose Officer, Cully’s focus is on growing awareness and implementation of the Highlights purpose, core beliefs, and values—to help actualize the organization’s vision for a world where all children can become people who can change the world for the better....