“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.”
There was no Wi-Fi when Samuel Johnson lived. Travel was mostly local and usually for the elites and adventurers. What he said then is just as true today. The Internet has turned the world into a global village. But you still need to travel.
Trips with children in tow can be an exercise in “survival” at the best of times. But if they are at the right age, planning a road trip in one’s own country or going abroad for a short family trip is a timely excuse to teach kids new skills. I know a bit about it – I learnt little things like estimating the speed of trains, reading maps, and the night sky while trekking across India.
Here are six ideas that could take your kids a long way on the ultimate journey called life.
Trigger interest in geography & cultures.
It’s great if you can actually teach them about reading paper maps. Teaching them how to use Google Maps isn’t a bad idea either. You can use Google Maps to trigger interest in geography and other cultures. Vacations and day trips could be the perfect excuse to practice mapping skills.
Kids can learn how to track their own trips from beginning to end, find their relative direction, or find simpler things like latitude and longitude (it takes a right-click). Calculating things like gas mileage or estimated travel times are everyday skills. Can they understand the topographical features and find their way around? Maybe, they can explore points of interest during the trip and research the places.
I would throw in a site like HistoryPin to help kids learn a bit of history while on a map. Then there are these 10 online geography games to help kids know more about the world. Four more suggestions:
Looking forward to a trip is half the fun.
Parents can encourage children to look up encyclopedias or the Web to find all the information around the trip. Asking them to search for something like the “best activities for kids in…” should be more enticing than any direct cajoling. You can turn your kid into a “trip sleuth”, setting them free to dig up whatever information they can find for the itinerary.
It can also be a fantastic opportunity to introduce them to the skills required for responsible web search. Co-opting your kids in the planning process also introduces them to brainstorming and critical thinking. But ultimately, it increases their self-worth as they feel they are a part of the decision making.
A few resources for search education:
- Google Inside Search
- A Brief Guide on Responsible Search Strategies
- Kids Guide to Google Search
- Search Engines for Kids
Fun With Geocaching
For the Indiana Joneses — take your family on a geocaching adventure.
Geocaching relies on GPS. GPS can be used for keeping your kids safe…and also for Indiana Jones like kiddie adventures. Tim had talked about 5 fun Android apps with GPS activities for kids. You can introduce your children to GPS based geocaching adventures and a site like Geocaching.com which catalogs 2,437,272 active geocaches worldwide. The international community here has hidden “treasures” all over the world. With the free Android and iOS apps, kids can be motivated to go on a learning adventure.
Here’s a nice blog post on the site which shows how geocaching has entered the classrooms.
Capturing The World Through A Lens
Sometimes children can see more with a camera.
Teaching your children how to look through a lens can give them an entirely new perspective on their travels. Photography isn’t about a location; it is also linked to culture and history of the place you might be traveling to. You can encourage your kids to shoot around a certain theme and help them better engage with the subject from behind the lens.
Even if your child hasn’t learnt photography yet, a trip could be just the first step for this hobby. You can even take them through a virtual DSLR, teach them how to hold a camera, and then just tell them to shoot and experiment with lots of snaps. Go over to Kids with Cameras and see the social good photography can inspire. Catch the video above for some basic photo tips for children.
National Geographic has a section on photography by kids. There are Flickr groups like Little Photographers. Contests like ImageMakers, Ranger Rick Magazine’s Photo Contest for Kids, and Young Travel Photographer of the Year could be further motivational triggers.
Learning A New Language
Children have a natural flair for new languages.
It’s difficult to absorb French when your child is limited to Connecticut. But imagine what a trip to Paris could do for perking up their interest. Learning a language has got easier and digital tools even help you converse with real people. But experiencing a culture gives it a frame of reference. Children are natural mimics and who knows – they just might develop an ear for a particular language. As a parent, you can share stories of the locales, encourage your child to take an interest in the names of roads, streets, restaurant dishes, and the way they are pronounced.
Traveling broadens the imagination.
Children interact and engage, learn and play. Eye-opening experiences make them ask questions and that is a sign of a curious mind. Parents can only encourage them to think and imagine critically.
I wish every school curriculum had travel built in as a compulsory activity. A simple thing as understanding how children live and fare in other parts of the world broadens outlook. A National Geographic documentary isn’t enough. A child exposed to foreign cultures might go on to volunteer and travel to work in other countries. He or she could be part of a multicultural global workplace in the future, and could slip in smoothly instead of facing a culture shock. Most importantly, they can grow up to be good global citizens.
Do You Think Travel Is Its Own Education?
There is so much that isn’t there in textbooks. Think of traveling as a really long “educational field trip”.
A new trend of roadschooling is on the rise in the U.S. and other countries. It combines homeschooling with travel. This post isn’t on this trend, but there are a few tips you can definitely pick up from roadschooling parents who are throwing in the right study tools while out and about in their adventures.
Are you a parent who loves traveling not only for the sake of traveling, but also as a learning school for your children? Suggest your own tips and tell us:
- How do you excite your kids about new cultures and new places?
- Do you see direct and indirect benefits of travel in their development?