Holidays are generally associated with having fun. They refresh us and help us recharge our lives with new energy. But did you ever consider that travel and holidays together as a family could also make your kids smarter?
Research has proven that holidays can encourage better brain development. Professor Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist, introduced two brain systems – the PLAY system and SEEKING system. These two genetically ingrained systems are typically unused at home, but are activated when kids travel.
The PLAY system is activated every time you, as a parent, bury your kid’s feet in the sand, splash water at them in the pool or swing them around in the playground. The brain’s other system, of SEEKING, is active when you go exploring with your kids, whether it is to do a light trek to a waterfall or by discovering a hidden cave.
When you travel and these systems are activated in your children’s, they trigger the creation of “well-being” neurochemicals like dopamine and oxytocin – also known as the “happy hormones”. They reduce stress and increase feelings of warmth and love.
And the wonderful thing is that these systems act like muscles – the more you use them, the more they become part of your kid’s personality! When you take them on holiday and actively find experiences and tasks to stimulate their PLAY and SEEKING systems, this translates into an improved ability to play around with ideas and explore new grounds as adults, possibly turning them into future, successful entrepreneurs.
Travelling also happens to be the best way to enrich children’s lives with experiences and memories. According to a scientific study, “enriched environments” turn on the genetic expression of key “brain fertilisers”. This enhances functions such as stress regulation, attention, concentration, good planning and the ability to learn, also improving physical and mental health.
When kids travel, the whole world becomes their classroom (better than learning from a chalk board, isn’t it?). They thus propelled into real-life “enriched environments”. So, whether they are learning to count at Stonehenge, understanding the concept of centre of gravity while looking at surfers in Hawaii or Australia, or learning about photosynthesis in parks, they are absorbing all of this knowledge that will help spur their brain development.
Travel adds many new dimensions to a child’s journey of learning.
Here are 10 ways travelling makes your junior smart(er)
1. They meet new people—that makes them open-minded
When children travel, they are exposed to a whole new world of experiences – one of which is meeting new people. When they speak to people in different countries, they get to hear new accents and languages, which widens their knowledge and ability to communicate. They even learn to decode body language in a foreign culture – for example, figuring out what people’s gestures mean when they are speaking a language one does not understand!
2.They get to try out new food—it expands their palates
Travelling gives your child the opportunity to stop being a picky eater and evolve into a connoisseur of world cuisine. They don’t have to necessarily deep dive directly into the world of chilli pastes and smelly cheeses – however they most certainly can begin with one bite at a time. These early beginnings could easily lead them to be more adventurous when it comes to trying out unfamiliar dishes in the future. You can also expose them to farm-to-table concepts or sustainable farming to further enhance their learning about food.
With travel, kids will learn about time in ‘real-time’!
3. They learn about time zones
This is a concept that is hard to teach a child if they don’t travel abroad. But when they see that it is 9 pm in Manchester and still bright as day during the summer, or when they are taken to the darkest town in Alaska, where they won’t see sunlight for days, they might be able to have a better grasp on how time zones work!
4. It makes them more self-sufficient – when they travel, they learn to become more independent
Little ones exposed to travel will gradually learn how to get certain things done by themselves, building self-confidence and self-esteem in the process. They will come to understand that they are capable little people, with your guidance! For example, when in a restaurant in another country, you could encourage them to confidently walk up to the wait-staff and ask for a glass of water. You can also nurture this pro-activeness in your child by asking them to choose what to do at an attraction, or decide what cuisine the family should try for lunch.
On occasion, you can also ask them to try to read a map and figure out directions. The more exposure they get to situations such as this where they have a sense of control, the more their self-confidence will grow, and that’s a very good thing!
5. Travelling could help them learn a lot about the world and how every corner of the globe is different
Whether it is the weather or simply the fact that you’re a thousand miles away from home, your child’s exposure to a foreign land could open their eyes up in ways that are not possible without travelling. They will see that even the little things such as roads may be different in other countries – like how there are plenty of cobblestone paths in Italy or brick roads in England, while most countries in Asia have tarred roads.
6. Travelling can expose them to unique things
Every country and culture has something unique about it, which could inspire and make your child more creative. For example, they could see quirky ice sculptures in China or be exposed to the graffitied walls in Houston and even visit a leech farm in Wales. You could encourage your child’s sense of imagination in instances such as these by asking them to draw what they see, or pen down their thoughts in a poem.
7. They will learn about the different seasons and weather changes
Being able to see with their own eyes how the autumn foliage makes a whole forest blaze in different shades of orange, red and yellow, or how trees lose their leaves in the winter, aids learning. It might be their first experience touching snow in New Zealand, or seeing spring burst to life in Japan. Use this moment as a learning opportunity to teach them about differences in climate from country to country, and more serious topics such as how global warming can cause climate changes.
8. They will learn to count their blessings
Whether it is through seeing children selling souvenirs in less developed countries, or understanding how blessed they are to have warm, tropical weather all year round when you take them to icy cold climates, children will learn to value what they already have. Or it could simply be to acknowledge that they are lucky enough to be able to travel with you.
The best way to encourage a love of biology and environmental sciences is to show your kids the real deal through travel!
9. They can learn about the different flora and fauna in different countries
From delicately-fragranced cherry blossoms in Osaka, to the sturdy pine trees in America, to the cheeky red squirrels in Seoul… there is so much to be learnt from nature. Use this opportunity to also teach your children about conserving the planet so the future generations can in turn appreciate the same flora and fauna. Observing the flora and fauna of different countries also allows you to teach your child about serious concepts such as biodiversity and evolution in a fun, kid-friendly manner.
10. They will learn to appreciate historical or memorial sites
Your kids might have already learnt about the Pyramids of Giza, the Parthenon in Athens, or the Colosseum in Rome at school. But showing these sites to them and talking about their significance in the world will leave a lasting impact on your children. Seeing historical monuments such as these (and others) in all their glorious reality truly brings learning to life.
As you can see, travelling will not only bring your kids closer to the realities of the world but will also make them smarter, more emotionally resilient and empathetic. It teaches them the value of family and to appreciate life without looking at it through the distorted lens of an electronic device. It’s safe to say that travel imparts on kids a well-balanced sense of overall development that nurtures both their EQ and IQ in ‘real-time’.
This article was brought to you by Holiday Inn®. Plan your next family adventure with travel tips at www.LittleBigTravellers.com. At 1,200 Holiday Inn® Hotels and Holiday Inn Resorts®, kids 12 and under stay and eat for free. Discover the Joy of Travel with Holiday Inn® today.