You could say travel is my obsession. There’s not a day in the week when I’m not thinking about, planning, booking or researching travel. Nothing is more exciting to me than exploring new places through the eyes of my children. The look of astonishment on their little faces as we see dolphins frolicking in the wild, the excitement of trying out new languages (and nailing it!) or conquering our fears perched high above the ground in a swinging gondola over the rainforest. These are all learning adventures that can’t be had in a classroom.
For me travel and education go hand in hand. Education enhances the travel experience and travel enhances learning back in the classroom. My son loves being able to integrate the two whenever he can. From learning about Dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History in NYC to experiencing new foods in Japan, he is a constant source of information.
It may look like fun and games, but there’s an opportunity to turn every adventure into an educational experience. Art, geography, current affairs, archaeology, modern history, ancient history, languages, food, risk analysis… The learning opportunities are endless! Here are my top tips on how to incorporate learning effortlessly into your next trip away:
- Get the kids involved in the planning. We ask our boys what they would like to see and cater to their interests. My 6 year old is obsessed with space so when we were in New York last year, we made a special trip to the Hayden Planetarium which was the highlight of the trip for him.
- If your kids are old enough, get them to keep a travel journal to record all the cool things you do and see. Not only does it make a good memento of the trip, it also helps practice their reading, writing and spelling skills.
- Everyone loves a souvenir to take home from a trip but why not swap the stuffed toy for a book instead. I like to purchase a book about the destination we have travelled to so we can read it when we are back home and reflect together on the trip. Just recently I overheard my 3 year old telling someone that the Statue of Liberty is in NYC and her nose is 1.4 meters long – all from his favorite souvenir book!
- Encourage the kids to speak the local language. Whenever we ate out in Japan we got our 6 year old to attempt to order his food or at least say please and thank you in Japanese. Locals love it when you make an effort to speak to language and as an added bonus they think its adorable when the kids try too. Learning even the basics of another language is great for the kids as well as building their confidence.
- Have you ever noticed how your kids seem to pay more attention when someone else is talking to them? Use this to your advantage and seek out the experts. If there’s a guided tour of the museum, take it. If there’s a show on at the aquarium, watch it. You’ll be amazed at how much they take in!
- Its never too early to teach your kids about social responsibility and even more so when you travel. By bringing up socially responsible children I think it’s the beginning of a new chapter where our kids have the ability to look beyond our own back fence. There are several organisations such as Carry for Kids (carryforkids.org) that list items that orphanages in some developing countries need right now. When we traveled to Bali we involved our then 4 year old by asking him to pick from the list what he would like us to pack and take over to the orphanage.
- Get the kids to tell you about what they see. The best discussions are the ones that come from talking about where you went that day and what you saw. Encourage their naturally inquisitive minds to ask questions and even if you don’t have all the answers, its fun to find them out together.
The world is the best classroom and my kids are privileged to be its students. They pick up so much along the way, I’m always surprised by what they remember. By exposing them to new and unique experiences, they’ve been able to hone in on the things that fascinate them and expand their interests. We give the kids the freedom to be themselves, to discover new things for themselves and learn about who they are.