We’re settling well into a new groove in Southern Oregon. We’ve spent so many years moving around, this is a very new experience for us. We’re planting roots, doing a lot of yard work, and the kids are involved in countless activities around the community such as lessons in piano, sewing, art, and gymnastics!
As much we love the new groove, however, we do not want our kids’ love of traveling and new experiences to dwindle. We have a few tricks up our sleeves to help keep the joy of traveling alive in our home until we make it out for our next trip! Here are some things we’d recommend to others who may not be able to travel at the moment, but want to pretend like they are:
1. Read children’s books about Traveling
We’ve discovered a book series that our girls LOVE! The Adventures of Bella and Harry are illustrated books that feature the adventures of two Chihuahuas who travel the world and teach readers about different countries, customs, languages, history and even food!
The illustrations are colorful and beautiful, and the two cute dogs are the perfect characters to make the adventures exciting for kids! Their website includes some great resources, such as lesson plans and activities to help solidify the information your kids will glean from the books!
We own the Barcelona, Rome, and Istanbul book, and look forward to owning more (they have 14 available now, and more to come!). In fact, before we visit any of the destinations the author has written about, we will definitely purchase the appropriate book in advance.
I learned more about Barcelona from this children’s book than I did when we drove through it last year (forgive me—it was a torrential downpour and the kids were sleeping)! Ella (below) is looking at all of the excellent architecture that we missed, and every time we read it I am reminded that we should go back to see the landmarks they depict in the book!
Learning about destinations through children’s books helps kids better learn the history and landmarks of cities, and it also helps build their anticipation of traveling to the real-life place. This is learning that doesn’t even feel like learning!
2. Learn a language at home
Our girls used to be nearly fluent in Spanish. We lived in Mexico for several years, and both of them attended a bilingual school—where most of the staff and students were Mexicans. It did wonders for their language skills, and we were sad to leave before they reached the fluent level. They were oh-so-close!! So, when we moved to our new town in Oregon we asked some homeschool groups about Spanish lessons, and got a recommendation for a Spanish teacher who could come to our home and teach the kids lessons! For an extremely reasonable price, we now have a private tutor who visits twice a week to help keep up (and regain) our Spanish!
If having a tutor isn’t an option, try out great free apps like Duolingo that make learning a second language fun! Purchase some flash cards (we’ve found great vocab and verb flashcards on Amazon) or print out vocab and label items throughout the house. The kids will find it exciting and you’ll be memorizing words before you know it.
3. Enroll in a monthly Little Passports program
Little Passports is a monthly subscription program that teachers your kids about destinations all over the world. The first month they send you a cool little suitcase with a letter from a fictional pair of kids who travel the world on their magic scooter. They explain they will be sending a monthly care package to your kids so they can learn about the various places they are traveling. The first package includes some stickers, a postcard, a great big map, and a fake passport to fill out. Each monthly package thereafter includes a passport stamp to add to their book, luggage stickers, a souvenir, postcard, and an activity page that sends the kids scouring the map to complete the activities.
Ella, 8 years old, can complete most of the activities without our assistance, but younger Maiya, 6, needs our help to read and fill out the activity sheet. The letters and postcards from the traveling kids subtly teach about the different destinations—whether it be the food, language, animals, or the history!
There is a US Edition that is a bit different, and features 2 new states each month and different package contents, but we opted for the World Edition that focuses on one foreign destination per month.
Our first month was Brazil, and the kids received a beautiful chunk of amethyst as a souvenir. As they started the activity sheet, they were quickly studying the map to find all of Brazil’s neighboring countries and search for Brazil’s major cities’ names. They have online games as well, but our kids were more interested in viewing the big map that they spread over the kitchen table and doing the activity sheets. We weren’t quite sure if the kids would really like this program or not, but when asking our 8 year old what she thought, she responded, “No, I don’t like it. I LOVE it!” That’s quite a compliment coming from a girl that is…well…usually quite critical of everything that isn’t her idea!
We plan to use this monthly care package as a jumping off point in which to study more about the various countries. So, until the next package arrives, this household is learning about Brazil! Now I need to track down some websites, books, and movies about Brazil to help solidify our learning this month…
4. Look at Traveling Photos Often
If you have already traveled, it is so important to keep the kid’s memories fresh by showing them your traveling photos often. This helps keep the memories alive for them, and helps remind them of the experiences they have had. You will find that kids will often surprise you, remembering details that even you have forgotten!
In our new home our walls are still bare, with the exception of some traditional clocks and a few calendars. My plan is to blow up some of our favorite traveling photos onto canvas and put them on our walls to serve as a constant reminder of the joys of travel we have experienced together.
What if you haven’t had the opportunity to travel recently? Don’t worry—simply show your kids photos of other people they know (or blogs of families with kids) and read to them about the other people’s experiences in different destinations. It will help them develop an interest in traveling, and open up your kid’s minds to the possibilities of exploring the world!
5. Watch Movies About Destinations all over the World
This goes for kids and adults alike. As I watch movies that feature different cultures and people from around the world, I am bombarded with a desire to see and experiences these places first hand! National Geographic movies are great and informative, but typically not highly entertaining for kids (or sometimes adults…yawn). Instead, try movies such as Mulan, Kung Fu Panda, Rio, or even The Sound of Music! Instead of just letting them mindlessly zone out while they watch the movies, engage them in conversation about the cultures portrayed and ask them why they think people dress or act the way they do. You will turn on their brain and make them realize that the movies are based on real places where real people live! Follow up these conversations by showing them more photos online of the various cultures—proving to them that life there exists beyond movie animation.
We feel that keeping travel alive for our kids keeps their minds more open to the world, and helps them realize that there is so much beyond our own small dot on the map right now. If we can keep their minds open—the world is truly their oyster!
So, whether you are on a break from traveling, or simply dreaming of escaping the rat race to explore the world with your family, employ some of these techniques and bring the world to your doorstep!
Little Passports and The Adventures of Harry and Bella were kind enough to offer us samples of their products for review. We are not obligated to recommend or positively review their products, and have given our honest reviews above. We are happy to report that we love their products enough that we will continue to support them with our personal purchases!