So you have a toddler – perhaps still in diapers – and you are thinking about adventure traveling with him or her. Your first worries are the practical ones: what if they get sick? How can I make sure they get the medical care they need? But once you finally get past that stage and you believe that you as parents can keep your children safe, next comes the biggest adventure killer of all – and we hear it over and over. You’re wasting time and money and your toddlers (our children are 2 and 4) will not remember a thing they’ve seen or experienced, and we should saved the adventures for when they are old enough to remember it.
Well, we believe otherwise, and here are the main reasons why we like to take our toddlers with us on our adventures.
Check out our video of our kids hiking through Moon Valley, Bolivia
Development-wise, the early years are when a child achieves some of the most important milestones of his or her life. Here is a brief and partial list of what a child is required to know when they start kindergarten:
– Be potty trained
– Talk in full sentences
– Draw shapes and even letters (they are expected to know the alphabet before kindergarten)
– Count and solve simple math problems
– Recognize (and trace) shapes, animals, places
– Get dressed/undressed on his/her own
– Listen to stories and tell short stories from pictures
– Share, respect authority, be patient, and a list of social skills.
If our little ones have the ability to learn all of these things before they are 5, how can we assume that travel will be wasted on them? In experience, travel benefits small children in the following ways:
– Your child may not remember the details, but they remember the feeling of adventure
– Your toddlers will have the opportunity to see mom and dad working as a problem solving team, and learn some of the skills it takes to succeed at something (such as a lot of patience)
– Your child will be constantly stimulated as each day provides a new experience (not just more routine). Their brains are little sponges and they need this stimulation!
– Your family will be spending real time together as you set out on your adventure each day, not just going through the motions of a routine.
– Young children gain confidence as they learn they can manage new situations, people, places, languages, problems, etc
– Travel will positively benefit their academic performance once they start school
And it will also help you as a parent as you make sure your child hits the required developmental milestones in the following ways:
Potty training: Why not train them in the wild? Camping or other outdoors situations are a low-stress environment for potty training. And it is a lot less time consuming, because having an accident in the grass is better than an accident on a $5,000 couch or rug.
Walk/ride a bicycle and pedal: If you are adventure traveling, your toddler will have plenty of time to practice balancing and walking in new surfaces and places every day as they discover how to adapt to each surface.
Talk in full sentences: Recent research has shown that hearing different languages early on gives better chances to a child to learn a second or even several languages – and even makes kids smarter!
As for the rest of the milestones, why not teach your kids to count totora reed boats on the shores of lake Titicaca – in Spanish? Or draw the shapes they see in a castle in Spain? Or learn to draw an elephant they saw in the wild in South Africa? They’ll need to learn to dress themselves because you’ll be too busy getting ready for your daily adventures to do it, and they’ll be so excited to get going that they won’t argue. They’ll hear stories from around the world from many different cultures, and learn to socialize with other children who may not even speak their language.
So, even if your child won’t remember the details about the trip, we recommend you to take him out on your next adventure. Or would you cancel your next visit to their grandparent’s house because your toddler won’t remember it when he grows up? Or stop reading them stories or singing them lullabies?
Here are some other great articles on travel with young children: