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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

7 Ways to make the most out of travel experiences with toddlers and preschoolers


Traveling with toddlers might sound daunting but we all gather our courage and do it any way. It is a great learning experience for our little ones too. The action involved in watching their parents packing the bags, the excitement of a long road trip or getting on an air plane; all of this is very stimulating for them. It might be a little out of their comfort zone but they learn to be flexible and make do with limited supplies that we can carry. If you build enough excitement about it, many toddlers will even try new foods. All in all it’s a learning experience that they will carry with them for a lifetime.

What toddlers get out of their vacations can be very different from what we cherish about our travels. There are many things we can do before and after our trips to enhance their travel experience. I will follow up with a post about things to do post travel. For now, here are 7 ways you can prepare toddlers and preschoolers to make the most out of their traveling experiences.

  1. Read kid’s books about the city you are visiting. If you can’t find a book, look up places to visit with kids or things to do and show them some pictures. This will get them familiar with some names and build lots of excitement. Remember that they might find little things more exciting than big touristy things on your agenda.

          We traveled to Philadelphia and New York City this summer. I was showing a book called ‘Senses in the city’ to my 3 year old son. It is not a book about New York per se but has all the pictures from there. While he was excited about land marks like Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty etc., what intrigued him most was a black and silver fire hydrant in the background. All the fire hydrants we have here in Los Angeles are yellow, so the black and silver fire hydrant was a novelty he did not want to miss. His joy after spotting one in NYC was comparable to discovering the Holy Grail.


2.      Talk about the difference in flora fauna they can observe, while on the trip. Before our trip to Hawaii, we looked at pictures of Hibiscus flower and wondered if pineapples grow on tall trees. We looked at books with a tropical rainforest setting before traveling to Singapore. When driving in Philadelphia he was so amazed by the tall and dense trees along the roads that he thought we were in a jungle. He was even trying to look for a bear. This will cultivate love for nature and give them something to look for, in places that don’t necessarily have kid’s attractions.
3.      Get them to notice the difference in architecture at your travel destination. It can be as drastic as skyscrapers in New York or colorful homes in Mexico. My son could actually detail the difference in the Victorian brick buildings in Philadelphia verses more of the Spanish or modern architecture seen here in Los Angeles, of course in his own kiddo terminology.
4.      Take an opportunity to reinforce basic concepts like sense of size, estimation etc. This will come in handy when they are getting tired and cranky to keep it interesting for just a little longer. When I was talking to my son about the Statue of Liberty, he asked me, is it as tall as a Diplodocus? The discussion about how many dinosaurs have to be stacked on one another to become the height of Statue of liberty made waiting in the long line for the ferry a breeze.
5.     Sometimes, we can get caught up in our sightseeing agenda and make it overwhelming for the little ones. A visit to the local library can be a great way to unwind. When in Singapore, a visit to their National library not only gave us a peek into some local books but also brought in a sense of normalcy in a foreign land to my three year old. Even the books in a local library in Philadelphia had a different variety and a local flair to the books. Also this is a great spot to chat with local moms and they might be able to tell you about a kid friendly restaurant you must try or a local attraction that may be worth your while.

6.      Trying local foods is a great way to learn about a city or even a whole different culture. Whether it is a Samosa in India or a lobster sandwich in Boston, Congee and Kaya toast in Singapore or a Philly cheese steak; we always talk about it to our son. Describing how delicious and special it is to locals, gets him super excited to try it.
7.     We all love taking pictures on a trip. Try buying a simple, used camera for your kids and let them take pictures of what seems interesting to them from their perspective and at their eye level. You will be surprised by their eye for detail.
Bon Voyage! Don’t forget to share your experiences with me.