Fun Family Vacations with Small ChildrenThe World Becomes Your Child’s Playground
At Galavante, we have a dedicated section on Travel for the Jet Set Family, because we believe that the world is a playground for our children too. When I look at the evolution of my opportunities, I am always in awe of how we got here. Growing up, my parents didn’t have the means to take us to the Hotel du Cap, but that didn’t change my wanderlust and the curiosity in the world that they instilled in me. I didn’t leave the country until I was 20, but we always had a National Geographic and Condé Nast Traveler, both of which took me to many foreign lands. My Friday and Saturday night choices were watching the “Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island,” or reading about safaris in Africa and this continent called Asia where my parents grew up. When we did go on family vacations, I vividly remember those few trips as some of our happiest times together. While today I will give my children, nieces, and nephews different opportunities, it was that little spark during my Midwestern upbringing that began my lifelong love of travel.
No matter what your means, it doesn’t change the fundamentals. A family vacation is not just about going somewhere. The fun starts by learning about the destination, planning what you’ll do together, and preparing the kids with a few key phrases in a foreign language. In short, travel really is about the journey, and not just the destination. And, when you return, you have the joy of preserving those memories and lessons. Travel is the opportunity to build a lifelong passion with your children that will benefit them in their careers and in their pursuit of their own happiness.
Learning the World is a Big Place
It’s impressive what a simple world map or globe will do for your child’s horizons. I remember sitting in my Midwestern classroom and spinning the globe in Social Studies, thinking about how many places there were to visit. I have a friend whose family has had a world map in their den since she was a child; they place pins on all the destinations she has traveled to. The tradition continues today, and they recently put in a pin for our Easter Island adventure, even though she’s in her thirties. Taking a trip is also education-on-the-go: The world has a whopping 196 countries, and globe-hopping among them with your family is a great way to get your kids interested in geography and international capitals.
Hello, Please, and Thank You are Not Just Polite in English
It’s pretty cool when your kids can say ni hao in China, s’il vous plait in France, danku val in The Netherlands, and ciao in Italy. Language is the gateway to the world. Starting out with simple, key phrases like hello, please, and thank you are not only practical, but will make foreign language a natural part of your child’s life. Gone are the days when foreign language only began in high school. It’s a global economy and like the Jolie-Pitts, your children have the opportunity to become citizens of the world.
If your child hasn’t mastered Chinese already, there are a few do-it-yourself programs. Our favorite series is from Little Pim at www.littlepim.com, which has DVDs and books that cover ten different languages. For those who want the CliffsNotes version, try “Can You Count Ten Toes?” by Lezlie Evans, which teaches kids how to count to ten in ten different languages. Not only will your little ones dominate their verbal skills with Little Pim, but now they’ll be math-smart too.
Appreciation for Other Cultures
Cristina, our Families Editor, stocks up on the “Madeleine” and “Eloise” books when she takes her three incredibly well-traveled and inquisitive young boys on their jet set travels. She makes it fun for them to learn about new places with characters they know and love – and she even recreates some of the same experiences when they get to their destination. Bedtime stories become an opportunity to get the little ones engaged and excited for your family travels. It may even ease the logistics of airplane travel (but that’s for our next article – stay tuned).
I am always impressed by Sharmila, our Middle Eastern Galavante correspondent, whose daughter Ela, at 3, has more passport stamps than 90% of the U.S. population. And Ela hasn’t only done Europe; she’s traveled to India and exotic lands like Jordan, too. Ela is as comfortable at home in Dubai as she is with her relatives in Turkey and Switzerland, and grandmother in the Midwest. To be exposed to different customs, religions, and culture at such an early age makes it second nature. When Ela grows up, she won’t think twice about transitioning from her Middle Eastern wardrobe to her middle of the U.S. attire when she visits family in Wisconsin. Learning about new cultures can be fun, and the sooner your children are exposed to them, the more accepting they will be of people as they become adults.
Making Memories Last
You’ll find many local crafts that you can buy for your child when you travel, which make for beautiful items to pass down for generations. After all, what child doesn’t look absolutely adorable in the traditional lederhosen or dirndl? These are the outfits that those future wedding slideshows are made of. The Latin American markets also have some of most colorful and beautiful handmade clothing for kids. To begin their art collection, another idea is to buy works by local artists to hang in their bedrooms at home.
And the cliché “A picture is worth a thousand words” could not be more true. As part of your trip, gift your child their own camera, which they can use to take photos of everything that inspires them. Also, encourage your kids to draw what they experience on your trip – or to write in their journal.
Travel is an opportunity to begin your children’s education of the world, which will grow from saying “hello” to one day possibly building bridges of cultural understanding between countries. And maybe even world peace. Parents can dream, can’t we?