LAST UPDATED: MARCH 20, 2020
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While I don’t have kids, I have been around plenty of little people over the years not to mention I of course was one myself, and so I think these five things would get (most) kids interested in the wonderful institution that is travel. I’ve been traveling since I was a kid and became mildly obsessed with it once I turned double digits. There are so many things parents can give to their children, educate them on, open their eyes to, and yet I feel that travel is all of those things and more-it lets children see and experience diversity firsthand, it lets them try new things whether it’s a food or words in a new language, and it opens their eyes to the fact that there’s another whole world out there.
If time and money don’t permit to physically travel somewhere, have them travel through books
There are innumerable children’s books that truly transport readers to the destination where they are set. Madeline, Eloise, Olivia–these are some of the more well known and beloved children’s literary characters, ones who have traveled around the world. And then there are the lesser known titles but still equally worthy ones-Linnea in Monet’s Garden, Tintin (this is less known to American reading audiences, obviously Tintin is quite popular in Europe), Dodsworth, The Three Golden Keys. Set in locations ranging from New York City to Venice to Prague, both the stories and gorgeous illustrations will easily captivate and transport readers to these destinations and perhaps even inspire them to ask mom and dad one day, “Hey, can we go to Monet’s house?”
For many families, a trip to Europe or other faraway continent isn’t in the cards. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of fascinating and culturally rich destinations within driving distance of home. Obviously major cities have major draws on their own (varied food selections, performing arts, museums), but I’m talking about cities that have fantastic ethnic and cultural significance. New York and San Francisco’s Chinatowns are considered to be some of the best outside of China (they’re so immersive you would think you are in China). Miami is a beacon for all things Latin America (streets signs in some neighborhoods are in English, Spanish, AND Haitian Creole). And one doesn’t need to travel to foreign countries to see ancient ruins firsthand-there are countless Native America ruins in Western states like Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. No passports or expensive international airfare required.
Make history come alive
History needn’t be considered boring or dry when you can actually see places of historical significance that you read about in books firsthand. Nothing was cooler than visiting Colonial Williamsburg, home to one of my favorite literary characters from childhood, Felicity Merriman, an American Girl. For the slightly older readers, the Dear America books did a great job of introducing young readers to countless events in American history, ones perhaps not taught in schools as much (the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, mill girls in New England, the Great Railroad Race). And for young boys, one only need visit a battlefield either from the Revolutionary War or Civil War and explain that young boys just like themselves were right there too, either as soldiers who lied about their age to enlist or drummer boys. War has sadly never been solely a “grown up” affair.
Encourage your teen to go abroad
Whether through a class trip or a short-term study abroad program, encourage your child to (temporarily) leave their bubble and see what else is out there. There’s no reason students need to wait until college study abroad to travel internationally. Obviously family vacations are great, but so is having your child travel somewhere without the safety net of mom and dad being right there. Having a child step outside of their comfort zone will only make them more confident, more independent, and more globally aware. Not all teens are mature enough to handle such an experience but for those who are, encourage it.
Go to an ethnic restaurant
One of my favorite things to do is eat, but more importantly, eat ethnic food. Ethnic communities are sprouting up all over the country now, not just in major cities, so even if you don’t live near a major metropolitan area, odds are there is probably some ethnic cuisine eatery somewhat nearby. There’s nothing more impressive than a small child who knows how to correctly pronounce the ubiquitous Vietnamese soup pho or wants second helpings of paella. You can learn so much about a country from its food and while I’m not saying pass on the pizza and burgers, broaden your child’s culinary palate too (and perhaps yours at the same time). And contrary to popular and incorrect belief, ethnic food does not automatically mean it’s spicy.