Spending time with our kids is good parenting. Doing so on a vacation is just plain genius! All of us know that travel is a fun way to learn some of life’s most important lessons. And when our little ones are exploring new things and expanding their horizons, we are more than happy to indulge.
So here are a few tips to make that vacation a memorable one:
Read and you shall discover. Yes mommies and daddies, reading is the first step towards a memorable vacation. Encourage kids to read travel books that talk about your destination. Lonely Planet is a great place to start, offering travel tips, expert advice, destination information and much more. If your kids are older, recommend novels that they can read or other works of art that has your destination as the setting. Suggest travel magazines that they can gleam.
Also, say if Europe is your choice of destination, besides reading travel books and magazines, make sure your kids peruse Roald Dahl and/or Robert Louis Stevenson’s books or short stories. You too can glimpse poems by William Wordsworth or pick up a copy of The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James for its descriptions of England and the ruins of Rome. Europe thus seen through the eyes of the literary giants will be a mesmerizing experience.
A few weeks before your trip, watch the allure of the Eiffel Tower as portrayed in the adorable animation movie Ratatouille or the delightful The Devil Wears Prada. Or check out the ethereal beauty of Taj Mahal in the melodious song “Bol Halke Halke” from the film Jhoom Barabar Jhoom or in Mere Brother ki Dulhan’s fiesty song “Dhunki”. And I promise you, your experience of visiting these monuments will be far from ordinary.
Make a Flow Chart
Before you begin your journey, sit with your child and make a flow chart of your whole travel plan. What’s your destination, how will you get there, where will you be staying, which places will you be visiting, etc. This way the kids will be clued in to what’s going on and instead of feeling clueless and therefore bored, they will be looking forward to each next event in the flow chart. Make it vibrant with photos, facts and trivia. And remind them that any distraction from the plan is to be welcomed and made the most of.
Remember, the purpose of travel is to discover how different places, cultures and people are different from us and yet so similar! Any photo ops in between are an added bonus!
Before you embark on your journey, try the foods at home. If you are planning a trip to the USA, besides the well known cheese burger and chocolate chip cookie, also try a cob salad. If it’s Greece you plan to visit, try Spanakopita, a spinach dish made palatable with feta cheese and a flaky pastry cover. Or if it’s Aamchi Mumbai, you have to soak your senses into the goodness of a vada pav. This will help you and the kids to know what to expect when it comes to food, as well as, prepare their palate for the new gastronomical experience.
A Notebook in Hand
Encourage kids to carry a notebook with them on tour. They can refer to it for what they have read, seen, heard before about the place and what they are experiencing now. Once the trip is over and all of you have settled into your routine, encourage your kid to revisit the notebook and the notes they took and write a page or two about the place. This will not only give them a chance to re-live the best moments of the trip, but will induce them to give deeper thought to their travel and experiences.
J.R.R. Tolkien once said, “Not all those who wander are lost!”
Let us teach kids to read and understand maps from a young age. Once they learn to read maps, they will see the world in a new light. Maps provide more than just a location. It gives perspective, in turn developing children’s problem solving and reasoning skills. For example, ask your child how far is the museum from your hotel and what is the best way to get there and you will be surprised at the results. It will turn the journey into an adventure.
For more on how to teach kids to read maps, read my article How to Introduce Maps to Kids
Rise and Shine
When on vacation, avoid sleeping in. Instead encourage kids to get up early in the morning and join you on a leisurely morning walk. Mornings are a magical time, the sun is at its friendliest, the serenity is tangible and the charm of a city’s morning routine can give any onlooker the warm fuzzies. Let your child experience this magic and you are halfway there to making your trip a memorable one.
All of us agree that a language is a bridge connecting different worlds. So why not make the most of our vacation and learn a new language. We may simply learn a few basic words like thank you, sorry, please, etc. But it will be the starting point of falling in love with a country, its people and culture. After all building bridges is always better than building walls!
Once we have spent time understanding a place’s history, its culture and traditions, it forever forges a place in our hearts and mind. It enriches each thought we have, each conversation we make, every smile we share. So go ahead, take your kids out of the comfort zone of their rooms, TV screens, computer, mobile phones and friends, and introduce them to the world outside!
Remember what Mohamed once said, “Don't tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled.”
So get set to take your little big tourist on a journey to remember!
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