When it comes to traveling, family vacations are among the most popular types of trips. While there's no arguing that bringing young children along on your travels can prove to be more of a challenge, there are actually astounding ways that children — even those that are very young — can benefit from seeing the world around them. In fact, the brain makes the most connections among its cells before your child turns 10, which means that young children can absorb more information now than when they grow older. Here are just a few fascinating intellectual reasons to consider traveling with your children this season.
Improves Mental Flexibility
If your children are consistently being exposed to new sights, sounds, and smells, they'll quickly learn not to expect or get accustomed to any particular one. Essentially, change becomes the only constant. But this is by no means a negative aspect of traveling — it teaches children to always expect new experiences and to be ready for change. The number of foreign-born individuals in the U.S. population has more than quadrupled since 1965 and is expected to reach 78 million by 2065. The United States has always been a melting pot, and there's something to be said about getting out of the country and truly experiencing cultures from around the world firsthand with your children.
Promotes Creativity and Free Thinking
Similarly, experiencing so many different ways of life helps children to expand their creativity. It keeps them longing for adventure, it encourages them to ask more questions, and it gives them a thirst for knowledge and understanding. This is particularly true when traveling to parts of the world where a multitude of languages are spoken, but it's also true of English-speaking regions like Australia, Jamaica, New Zealand, and Ireland, Europe's third largest island. Never underestimate the creative benefits that can only come from seeing the ways of the world.
Encourages Mental and Physical Activity
There's no denying that a major part of traveling, with or without children, is having to move around consistently. Even if you're not walking everywhere, being constantly 'on the move' promotes mental and physical activity and stimulation for your children. Think about it: it's not easy to develop healthy habits these days. In fact, about 54% of U.S. adults are currently trying to reduce their weight. And though it may not seem like it, your children are bound to develop a more active lifestyle after moving around so often during their younger years, improving their overall health for years to come, and potentially, for the rest of their lives.
Increases Time Spent Away From Screens
Technology has become an exceedingly useful tool for learning, but young children often learn best through hands-on experiences — ones that you can only get from traveling. Your child will have plenty of time to take advantage of technology when they get older, but it's incredibly beneficial to expose them to real-life experiences when they're young and their brains are developing rapidly. You'll be amazed at how much knowledge they'll retain.
As mentioned, traveling with children undoubtedly has its challenges. But when you consider all of these developmental advantages, it's absolutely worthwhile to give it a shot. Take it from Mariam Navaid Ottimofiore of the Huffington Post:
"As parents, we need to re-think how we travel, and a lot of it is letting go of our own expectations of "perfect trips" with picture perfect postcard memories. How enjoyable traveling with kids is, ultimately has a lot to do with the mind-sets of the parents," writes Ottimofiore. "Raising young little travelers is exciting and tiring. But so, so worth it."
Written by LouAnn Moss for The Healthy Moms Magazine.