When my kids were quite young, (I think about ages 6 & 8, respectively), I took them to see a touring exhibit of the famous Faberge eggs. What I remember from that day, aside from the amazing historical artworks, was a little conversation I had there. A woman approached us, and after having a look over my kids, asked me, “Why would you bring two small kids to this?” I answered her, without hesitation, “Why wouldn’t I?”.
I thought of that interaction today, having just read an article about a new study suggesting that parents ought not take their small children on overseas trips, that this sort of travel is not appreciated by them, nor do they get much from it. This reminded me of that long-ago conversation, and naturally I have to beg to differ.
While of course we were quite fortunate, (living abroad in the first place), to take our kids to many different countries – Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, just to name a few – I would like to stress that it’s not the place, it’s the whole travel experience they are learning from. Apart from the obvious cultural or historic aspects, there’s so much to be learned by the very act of traveling.
Starting from very young, a child can and should be a part of preparing for any vacation away from home. I used to give my kids little lists of what they needed to bring, we started this when they were so small I had to use pictures to explain. “4 T-shirts, 1 swimsuit, 1 pair of flip-flops”.
Over the years, their involvement in the family travel plans became even more of a learning tool. We had them research flight prices, hotels, and cultural points of interest. They’d help with the checking-in process at the airport, and carried their own passports, at least through security.
When things went wrong, as they often can while traveling, I’d try to use that as a teaching moment as well. “Delayed or cancelled flights are to be met with patience, especially when dealing with airline counter staff. It does no one any good to lose your cool, and remaining calm can have better results”. We once even got an upgrade for not being the ones yelling and complaining at the United clerk.
Our son flew long-haul by himself for the first time at age 15, Seattle to Singapore via Tokyo. He handled it without much of an eye blink. Both he, and our daughter, live apart from us now in New Zealand, and of course still travel as much and as often as they can. I’m sure they don’t remember those Faberge eggs, nor maybe parts of the trip to Phuket we took around that same year, but that isn’t the point. Like sponges, kids absorb from all experiences, so take them on as many adventures as you can, and teach them how to travel all along the way.
*Images aquired from free sources