I love these monkeys, but they are a lot of work when we travel. Their ages are currently 5, 3, and 1. Traveling can be difficult because developmentally there are some things that they simply can not do without mom and dad’s help. This can be mentally and physically taxing for parents, but still absolutely worth the effort to help them explore the world.
Mac and Leann’s Guide to Short Term Missions describe toddler and preschool age children as “mobile without understanding.” They have the physical ability to explore, but lack some basic reasoning skills that could get them into trouble.
To help our children be good travelers in the future, we are are doing our best to prepare them right now. They don’t always understand what we are doing so I am glad we have around a year to practice. I am also thankful that each child will be a year older when we go on our first real trip.
Here are 10 things we are doing now to train our young kids how to travel around the world.
1. Teach them to listen and obey
You are probably thinking, “Yeah right, YOU try to get a toddler to listen and obey.” This isn’t easy and requires a lot of consistency, but it is worth it. I need my children to not touch a prickly cactus when I say, “Don’t touch that cactus!” I need them to obey when I say “Please, hold my hand.” Or “No, you can not pet that rat scurrying around the market floor.” (For real, there was a huge rat in a Philippines grocery store we visited.)
2. Teach them to try new foods
We have really been working on this one lately now that Annabelle and Roman are a little older. They don’t have to eat the whole thing, but they have to at least taste it. Not every country is going to have their favorite food, but they need to be open to discovering new foods. Our daughter has recently learned that she likes salmon and eggnog. Roman’s new likes are spinach and bean and cheese tacos.
3. Teach them how to read
Annabelle is 5 years old and has started the lessons in, “Teach Your Kid How to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.” I am surprised by how much she has learned to read in such a short amount of time. When we travel she will be able to read signs and pass time reading books. Even Roman has learned a few words like, “zoo” and “Texas.”
4. Teach them how to read a map
Daniel and I both love maps. We keep a map of the world up in our classroom and Roman loves to ask the name of the countries. He is 3 and can point to where we live on a map. Even if they don’t remember countries they can learn that the blue is water and green is land. I want to teach them where we are traveling and what routes we are taking.
5. Teach them manners
This year I have been more deliberate about teaching my kids to say “please” and “thank you.” I correct them if they don’t ask for something politely. I have also begun to make sure that I say please when I ask them to do something instead of just ordering them around.
6. Teach them to stop when they hear a parent yell, “Stop!”
A friend gave me this tip early on when I had my first child and I love it. If I see one of my children running away, then I yell, “Stop!” They are required to stop right in their tracks. If they don’t stop, then they are in trouble. I remember sitting my little girl in time out on the concrete shopping center sidewalk for failing to stop. It was a little embarrassing to correct my child in public, but she has since learned to stop.
7. Get used to long walks
Daniel and I love to explore foreign cities on foot. Of course, the 1 year old and probably the 3 year will be in a stroller. Our 5 year old can hop on the back of the stroller when she gets tired. We practice traveling like this now. This past Saturday we took the boys on a 2 hour walk. Zander was tired at the end, but both boys did great.
8. Teach them to observe their surroundings
Whether we are in the car or walking we ask our kids, “What do you see?” Then we ask more pointed questions. The point is to get them to observe their surroundings, so they can assimilate to whatever culture we are in.
9. Teach them to wait
Traveling requires a lot of patience. For example, one child may want a drink of water, but we are on a plane and that would require Daniel to find a flight attendant. They need to wait for their water. We ask them to be patient all the time while we tend to another child. Wherever we are they need to learn to wait patiently for their requests without throwing a fit.
10. Teach them the spirit of adventure
Whenever we visit the zoo or a new park we love to hype it up before we go. Our kids love to go on adventures. We want them to experience the fun of learning new cultures, exploring new paths, new cities, new foods, and new people. My hope is that they see how much fun it is to travel, so they can go on their own adventures as adults.
I don’t expect my family to always be on the same continent when my children are grown and have left the nest. My prayer is that they make an impact on the world wherever they choose to live. I know that teaching them all these skills will make them awesome adults.
However, before they grow up I think we will keep wearing them out with adventures.
How else should we prepare our kids to travel? What tips do you have for traveling with little ones?