Travelling with young children, — would they remember? An amazing revelation!

I have an awesome group of distant friends. This month many of them took part in group writing project, answering the question “Why travel with young kids, if they might not remember it later?”

I was planning to participate as well, but we were traveling. Traveling half way across the world.

As I boarded airplane I saw oh so familiar look on my fellow passenger’s faces, clearly thinking “Oh no, the proverbial baby on the plane”. Add to that an unlucky coincidence of airline putting 4 families with babies in the same area of the plane and here we had a recipe for disaster, right?

There were other parents with the kids on the same plane, 4,6,12 year olds, — all looking stressed out and nervous. Fast forward the flight. As that is the topic for another post.

I felt like some kind of hero out of place ( I do not have perfect kids, they are typical toddlers and babies, the only difference —  they are also travelers), when on arrival to Munich I was interviewed by Lufthansa personnel for their inflight magazine on traveling with children; when fellow passengers invited me over to the airport café to get me a drink and have a chat, and when I was getting friendly glanced, handshakes and offers of help from the same passengers who were giving me cold glances just a few hours ago.

Apart from learning some tips on traveling with young children, I also attribute it to the fact that they have traveled from the young age themselves and acquired skills, knowledge and experiences that made them pleasant to be around.

Like the kids, who attend formal events with their parents on the regular basics, they learn that those events are part of life, learn to behave there, follow the etiquette and actually enjoy them. I know because I was that kid, and as long as I remember it, it was a part of my life, normal part of it. I did not hate it, neither was overly excited about it. It was interesting, I enjoyed meeting new people, but I did not think more about it, then going for a hike, or to a class.

Children are natural learners, and as they encounter new situations, they adapt to those situations and learn all they can from it, in order to fit in the best way. This is especially true for young children. As a result, they benefit enormously from cultural experiences, languages and social interactions. More then that, the more they learn the etiquette of traveling, adaptability, social behavior, the more they feel accepted and welcomed by those they interact with, which in itself offers an incredible benefit. Admit it, if you meet people, and they are excited about what you do, how you behave and what you know, it can be exceptional esteem booster, but it also encourages children to learn more from these people, be more sensitive to cultural differences, language peculiarities among many other things.

It is widely accepted fact that children learn the most during 0 to 6 years old time window. Some call it the window of opportunity. And social interactions, cultural curiosity, linguistic ear and ethnic sensitivity would be some of those precious skills, which children can develop with ease when they are little.

When my little girl boarded on the plane in Turkey, she was only 3 years old, but travelled 3 times cross-Atlantic and 1 time cross-Pacific by then. I remember the same worried looks on the passenger’s faces. That flight was my “AHA moment”. I looked at my little girl and her 2 year old brother. They were very aware of everything that was happening around them. It was if they figured out the formula of successful flight and were determined to follow it. They knew they would have fun on the flight, so they were not rushing to make it happen right away. It was obviously not a stressful situation for them, you can see it from looks on their faces and relaxed body language. It was part of the routine, and they loved it. Like all normal kids, they would have their good days and bad days, they would misbehave at times, but it was not any worse or different on the road. It was one of the routines that they learned to love and it was tremendously beneficial for their development as unique personalities they are.

What country are you from?”, – Evangeline asked a girl 5-6 years older then her. “Yemen”, she answered. They played together and talked. Then later she was re-telling me stories her new friend told her about Yemen. She pulled the in-flight magazine and we found Yemen on the map, she asked her friend to write different words in Arabic. After we parted on the arrival to the States, Evangeline was keep on talking about different people she met during our time in Turkey and on the flight. She still does, year and a half later.

Just the social interactions and all the skills my children acquired through traveling would be absolutely worth it. They are growing to become sensible, social members of society with wide worldview and respect for differences. Would they remember every single detail from our travels? I am sure they would not. And even if they wouldn’t what they are gaining is so worth it in my eyes. But I got to tell you our little family secret.

Taking lots and lots of pictures and making it a family tradition to review them.

We take a lot of photos, my husband is professional photographer ( but you do not have to be!). And kids think it is as much fun to look at the photos as to go places and take those photos ( And sometimes even more!)

 They usually like to review photos and re-tell stories behind the pictures the same day, then we usually create a shorter selection of our travel adventure photos and make it available for children’s viewing in about a week. We also have our favorites, which we look at more often, but we review all different collections on a rotation basis. It works real great for us, it became our family tradition that children cherish.

It is also something that our extended family and visitors always ask for – to look at our pictures and … I just discover that unbeknown to us, we were following a centuries old memory principle that considered to be one of the most effective ways of learning!

I realized that while participating in discussion with Dr. Miles R Jones (on BrillKids Forum):

He said : “We all have a photographic memory.  That is to say we can remember pictures very well.  80% of the input cortex is devoted to visual memory followed by auditory memory, the next strongest sense.  Make sure to use them both when memorizing.  Use pictures and read (or say – my edit) aloud your summaries. 

Memory Training in the classical Greek model takes abstract info like numbers, concepts etc. and turns them into images then links them together by making those mnemonic images interact.  Ancient Greeks called this the “memory theater”.  This is one of the most neglected keys to unlocking incredible learning potential!”

The discussion was about Super Memory Review, — an incredible review system that develops memory and helps children and adults alike expand their memory potential. This system of memory development uses only natural memory, it is simple, organic, uncomplicated and it works. The whole idea is to note an important point to remember  and then review it on this schedule:

One Minute, One Hour, One Day, One Week, One Month, One Year and Every Year until mastered!

Simple enough to remember and fairly easy to implement, this principle proved apparently was used by some of the greatest thinkers and geniuses, helping them to retain memories and keep their minds stimulated and challenged.

It is not just about remembering everything you’ve seen or learned, it is about enabling children to benefit the most from their experiences and being able to apply them easily at any time.

Dr. Jones continued: “Review what you did the day before, and what you learned on the same day the week, month, and year before.  That is 6 minutes of review daily if you stick to the one minute summary principle. “

That was another “AHA” moment for me. Unbeknownst to us, while having fun as a family, we were giving our young children the best gift we can possibly give.

Yes, they will remember! And they will be able to use these precious bits of knowledge at different times throughout their lives. Traveling will make them better young adults and will help them to find their own place in this multicultural world, it will provide them amazing experiences and the best schooling possible, it will make us closer as a family, and will build the bridges between them and other cultures.

For more on this fascinating topic “Traveling with young children, will they even remember?”, check the ‘straight out of the creative oven’ articles of some of the amazing families, who travel the world with their children, world-school and explore: