13 Dec How to travel with children and why
Famous children’s author H. C. Andersen said: “To travel is to live”. Why is that so? Every person, either a child or an adult, learns and experiences something new while travelling. Every little step away from everyday life is a new journey and a new school. We encounter different cultures, climate, language, cuisines, customs, people. We thus, through our own experience, become intercultural. A parent is a role model and a learning model to a child. The child will behave the same way as the parent. Travelling is an exceptionally rich school for children.
Apart from learning to be an intercultural being, a child empirically learns tolerance, acceptance of differences, feeling for the values of others and their own values, empathy, foreign languages, independence, organisation, etc. Through everyday situations during travelling, both adults and children learn how to learn about the world that surrounds us. Travelling with children means showing them the importance of trust because new situations in which you find yourselves offer many new experiences, but also require the certainty of something that is known to you and that you trust. Travelling and organisation is not something that is innate, but something that is learned. A child needs to be taught how to travel, and a parent is the most important teacher to a child.
Small school of travelling with children
1. Choosing a destination
At the beginning, it is important to choose a destination. When travelling with children, you have to bear in mind that the destination you are choosing should be more adapted for the child than for adults. As children will grow and travel more, you will be able to choose destinations differently. For the initial trips with smaller children, choose closer destinations that offer diverse contents for children. You can also choose far destinations especially if you are experienced traveller, and you are aware what the long trips require and which one is adequate for children wandering. Otherwise, long trips create unnecessary anxiety both for the child and the parents. That is when a trip remain a bad memory for both adults and children, and you will probably not want to go through the same thing again. Bear in mind that the child is satisfied if the parent is satisfied. Approach the selection of the destination that way too. In this empirical manner, both the child and the parent learn tolerance and reaching compromise.
2. Preparations for the trip
It is very important and beneficial to include the child in the preparations for the trip. Good preparation is the foundation for a successful trip. Also, preparations are half of the performed job and will enable you to enjoy the previously prepared activities and places at the destination. Talk to the child about where you are going and what you will do and see there, as well as why you are going on the trip. What you tell the child is also very important. A child soaks every word. Be careful about what you are saying because if you promise something and you do not fulfil the promise, the child will be disappointed and ask you a thousand questions. Tell the child what you are certain about and what you know will happen, and for everything else use magic words such as: “That is a secret for you! You will see something new; something you have never seen before; something unusual; it will be magical, etc.” Study travel guides with the child, see photographs on the internet, search for hotels, amusement parks, museums, theatre, depending on where you are going, what you want to visit and how you want to spend time. Include the child as much as possible in the planning, arranging, and organising the trip. Print out the map of the city, the subway, children love them. This way a child learns how to prepare for a trip, be ready, organised, independent. Also, a child learns to search for information they do not know yet, learns how to learn, which is one of the very important characteristics in child development.
3. Child’s basic needs
The basic needs of a child, the same as every adult person, are sleep and food. Remember the feeling when you are hungry or sleepy? Is there a point in doing anything then? When a child is sleepy or hungry, they cry, scream, do not want to walk, become “impossible”. Every child is different and every parent will adapt the travel time according to the child’s sleep schedule as much as possible. Can your child sleep in the car, bus, train? Can they sleep through the night or only a few hours? Or can they not sleep at all? Because if a child is sleepy, they become nervous, so parents become nervous too, and the trip can be ruined. If a child cannot sleep, sit for a long time and spend time in transport, choose a shorter destination to begin with, and then make every next destination a bit longer than the previous one. There is a saying “You’re not you when you’re hungry!” That is something that applies to most children. Always carry food and water with you. Children become hungry as soon as the trip starts. It is assumed that this happens because of emotions. Emotions have a positive effect and use the body’s energy. If you remain positive, your thoughts and actions will also be positive. Is there a better school for a child than this?
4. Means of transportation
At the beginning, take trips with your own car because that will allow you to be more flexible and adapt more easily in moments when the child needs to use the bathroom or stretch legs a little bit. And when the child is more able to travel and sit for a few hours, take various means of transportation. Train, buses, airplanes, ships offer various types of travelling, as well as an influence on the child. The child will thus learn types of transportation from their own experience, as well as the entire process from the purchase of tickets, following the timetable, searching for the track, seat position, where to put the luggage, rules of conduct, etc.
5. Travel games
Children are very impatient when it comes to something new and unknown to them. Then they constantly ask: “Are we there yet? How much more do we have to drive? When will we get there?” For the trip to go by faster and painlessly, it is important to teach the children how to travel. Start by directing the children to watch through the window. Talk about what you see (there is always something to see – trees, animals, cars, airplanes, etc.) Comment on the environment, weather. Encourage children to think. For example, why is it raining? Where does the rain come from? What are clouds? What are clouds like? Is there any use from the rain? This motions the brain wheels in children’s heads. A child learns to think, express themselves, learns new terms, learns about the world around them, causal connections, ecology. However, such conversations cannot be led with children always and for a long time. Avoid tablets and mobile phones as much as you can because the purpose of travelling is for the child to learn something new and make the everyday life different. Write a list of new games. By playing new games, you will interest the child more easily and time will go by faster (for example, word games: guess the animal, make up a new song, make up your own story, etc.) Sing songs, record an audio story, take toys which they do not use at home because they will be interesting in the lack of others. The child will learn how to play and spend time in a different and more quality way. Also, the child will develop more communication competences, skills and the ability to talk and listen.
Before you start packing the things necessary for the trip, check the weather forecast to facilitate packing and take as few things as possible, i.e. pack only the basic and necessary things. The more things you have, the more burden and trouble you have. Include the children in the packing process. The child will thus learn the necessary clothing items, connect them with seasons and weather conditions. As much as possible try to encourage the child to pack their own things because that has an exceptionally positive effect on the development of independence and organisation skills of a child, the development of a positive image about themselves, confidence, as well as a sense of responsibility.
7. Arrival to the destination
Children expect the arrival to the destination with great impatience because that is something new, challenging and unknown. As much as possible, organise your time so that you allow the child to see where they have arrived after you come to the destination. A child needs to be given time for space self-organisation. They have to see and experience where they are and what the new place offers. Otherwise, the child will constantly ask us various questions, such as: Where are we? What is here? And where is that ship you promised we would see? Why can’t we go swimming right now? Why did we drive for such a long time and now we have to go and sleep? Organise yourself and facilitate the trip for yourself, and thus for the child. One of the reasons for going to trips is the distancing from the everyday life, so relax and be flexible in time and space organisation.
8. Enjoy the new environment
You are well-organised and you have prepared a detailed plan of activities with your family, e.g. visit to a museum, parks, theatre show, sightseeing with precisely marked sightseeing route, list of creative workshops for children, playrooms for children, tourist boat or bus rides, you have a list of restaurants adapted for family meals, pastry shops, etc., depending on wishes, needs and possibilities of the family. Now is the time for family enjoyment and togetherness in the novelties which each destination provides. Why? There is a saying: “Travelling is the only thing that you buy that makes you richer”.
Author: Lana Kihas
Lana Kihas is a Master of Early and Preschool Education. She currently works as an educator at a kindergarten in Zagreb. She has a long-standing experience in working with children of different ages and abilities, as well as working in educational institutions in certain European countries. She is the co-founder of the web platform and mobile application Kiidie, which connects parents and institutions for occasional child care. As a professional educator, she writes blogs which are mostly intended for parents, with various pieces of advice, theoretical and practical knowledge on children’s education. You can find the blogs at www.kiidie.com/blog
Photo credits: magic4.club