I’ve always been of the mindset that travel is educational, whether you’re a child or an adult.
In the fall, my daughter is going to start kindergarten. I don’t know if I’m emotionally ready for that big step, but I certainly know that my daughter is ready. At age five, she is chomping at the bit to learn as much as she can about the world around her, spouting facts she has learned about nature from TV shows like Wild Kratts, and showing me all the new sign language words that her teachers at her preschool have taught her.
I know that she is naturally an inquisitive girl, but I like to think that part of her passion from learning comes from travel. At age five, she has already visited seven countries and gone on three international trips. We are a traveling family, and she has learned so much already from her travels. But once she starts school, we know we are going to have to adjust our travel habits more around her school schedule.
The school district in our city has a rule that students can’t take time away from school for family vacations, unless the students write a report about how the trip is educational. Even then, it’s up to the teacher and the school to accept the absence as an educational trip. I think that’s a shame! To me, a trip can be much more educational than sitting in a classroom and looking at words and pictures in a book. If I had my way, we would be traveling full-time and using the world as our text book and classroom. In my opinion, travel is educational for kids, and quite possibly is the best type of education for them.
Travel teaches kids geography, whether it’s learning about new cities, new states, new countries, or even new regions of the world. When we do our road trips to Spokane or San Diego to visit our parents, my kids learn that cities can be relatively close together or far apart. And when we do overseas trips, my kids learn that other cities can take a bit longer to get to.
We have an illustrated world map on our kids’ bedroom wall next to their bed, and we talk about the places we’ve visited in the past, and where we will visit in the future. Both my younger kids enjoy looking at the pictures and seeing the differences among the countries.
A great way to expose your kids to different languages is through travel. When we were in Indonesia, my kids picked up simple words like terima kasih and sama sama, and it gave everyone we met a kick to see these American kids speaking to them in Indonesian. At the very least, travel introduces your kids to the concept that people can communicate in a variety of different ways. For older kids, exposure to new languages helps them make linguistic connections between different culture. Even if you’re traveling within an English-speaking country, it’s fun to listen to the different accents and dialects that are being spoken.
Having to deal with currency exchange rates is a great way for kids to practice their math skills. When we travel overseas, my step-son is always trying to figure out how much things cost in U.S. dollar terms. Even if you’re traveling within your own country, there are plenty of opportunities to show that travel is educational in terms of math skills for your kids. If your kids are old enough to understand the concept of money and costs of goods, give them a walking around allowance for the duration of the trip, and let them buy their own souvenirs. This teaches them to work within a budget, and how to prioritize their spending.
My favorite part about travel is meeting and connecting with new people. Another perk is being able to experience first hand some of the traditions of another culture. As a result of our travels, our kids got to learn about America’s immigrant history in Ellis Island, they had a chance to experience rural farm life in Paraguay, and had the opportunity to be blessed by temple priests in Bali. These valuable lessons in social studies will stay with them all throughout their lives, and is just another reason why travel is educational.
Nothing gets you out and about like travel. Even when we travel to urban destinations, we end up doing a lot of walking, since it’s cheap and gives us a chance to take things in at a slower pace. Where ever you travel with your kids, there are plenty of opportunities to incorporate physical activity, from trekking in the jungle, swimming on the beach, helping out on a farm, or even walking through an old city. Many major cities have playgrounds or parks for local families to visit, so there is always some way to keep your kids active during your travels.
I love traveling the world with my kids, and I firmly believe that travel is educational for them. My kids have learned so much from every trip we take, whether it’s a short out of town weekend trip, or a multi-week overseas adventure. Travel has opened their eyes to the wonders and lessons of the world.
Do you agree? How has travel been educational for your kids?
Don’t miss out on my latest tool, the Overseas Family Vacation Checklist. Click here to receive your free copy and subscribe to my newsletter.