Traveling with Children – How Learning About Others Enriches Young Minds

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“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness”

~Mark Twain

Children are naturally curious. They begin by exploring their bodies from their toes to their fingers. Then, they notice their parents and family, home, and immediate surroundings.  As they grow, their world expands to include friends, school, teachers, and the society they live in.  All this observation helps to shape their perceptions and personality.

Travel is a great way to help keep this wonderful learning going. Exposure to a new town, culture, or people helps kids learn that there isn’t just one way of living; there are many different ways to live. Travel can be expensive, especially with a family, but there are fun ways to do “mini-vacations” without leaving your hometown. Here are some ways to expand your child’s world with little to no expense.

  • Visit a museum. Many museums cater to children, but even those such as art museums with a primarily adult clientele, will provide scavenger hunts to help children learn about art. Many museums, such as the Detroit Institute of Arts have cultural offerings of music, dance, and art workshops that showcase different cultures.
  • Introduce your child to a variety of foods. Visit an ethnic restaurant, or bakery, or try cooking a new recipe yourself or with your children. Tie the food into a holiday celebrated by another culture, such as gumbo for Mardi Gras, tamales for Cinco de Mayo, or crepes for Bastille Day.
  • Attend an ethnic festival of a different culture.  In my hometown of Detroit, there are have many diverse neighborhoods featuring different cultures such as Hamtramck, (Polish and Ukranian), Greektown, Mexican Village, and Dearborn (Middle Eastern). All have festivals during the year where you can experience food, music, and dance.
  • Visit a living history exhibit to see how people lived in the past.
  • Read fairy tales from other cultures and compare them to each other.  There are many versions of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, or The Three Little Pigs as well as a variety of legends and folk tales from other cultures available in the library.
  • Listen to music of other cultures. CD’s are available in the library, or program a new Pandora channel.
  • Do a virtual tour via the web. Check out travel destinations and get a large map for your child to pick a country to explore.

Travel, even “armchair traveling”, can bring a sense of adventure and discovery to  children and provide many memories for years to come.  It expands children’s view of the world, and can help them understand that there are many ways and places to live, to learn, and to be happy.

 

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