Family Vacations: Let Travel Open Your Child’s Mind

family vacations

Since my kids were babies, I’ve seen them take steps forward after family vacations.

I truly believe that there’s something about the stimulation of new surroundings and experiences that opens a child’s mind.

When my son was 6-months-old, we packed up the car seat–and baby monitors and sleeping sacks and strollers and bottles and binkies and puffs and diapers—and took our first plane ride to visit friends in Florida.

It was on that vacation that my son said his first words from the back seat of the rental car.

“Momma,” he said from the back seat, clear as day. Wait, what? I turned around and he was staring right at me, arms outstretched. “Momma,” he said again.

It melted my heart. I’d been waiting to hear that word since the day he was born.

Travel Sparks Growth

Of course, he was going to talk eventually, but I truly believe that something about that trip jump-started it.

And I’ve seen similar things happen with my other kids during and after family vacations.

As it turns out, my theory about travel boosting my kids’ development may not be so far-fetched.

According to a Chicago Tribune interview with Paul Nussbaum, a clinical neuropsychologist and adjunct professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, travel has clear mental benefits.

“Travel by definition is dropping your brain into a place that’s novel and complex,” Nussbaum told the Tribune. “You’re stunned a little bit, and your brain reacts by being engaged, and you begin to process on a deep level.”

“When you expose your brain to an environment that’s novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts. Those new and challenging situations cause the brain to sprout dendrites — dangling extensions,” which according to Nussbaum, grow the brain’s capacity.

When you travel, you have no choice but to adapt to your new surroundings and change your perspective.

New Experiences

Stimulating your mind with new activities—doing crossword puzzles, learning a foreign language or playing the piano—is important to keeping your brain healthy as you age.

Challenging situations improve the brain’s overall efficiency and ability to adapt and stay resilient.

The same is true for our little ones.  Reading new books and exposing young children to music can have a similar effect.

Health Benefits of Family Vacations

Beyond stimulating your child mentally, family vacations may also have other benefits.

Though most travel studies have been done on adults, many of these benefits may apply to our kids as well.

Some benefits include:

-Traveling can increase creativity.

-Traveling can reduce stress and improve your mood.

-Traveling exposes you to different environments, which can boost your immune system.

-And, of course,  family bonding is an important benefit that occurs in spending time on a shared activity.

Kids Benefit Too

So, when you’re planning your family vacation this summer, realize that the adults are not the only ones benefiting from the change of surroundings.

And don’t be surprised if your littlest travelers come home with a new skill—or at least a new perspective–after your trip!

If you can’t hit the road this summer, you can also expand your little one’s mind with a book.

following feather bottom

In Following Featherbottom, your child can travel around the globe with stork Felix Featherbottom, visiting countries from Iceland to Argentina to Ukraine.

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