How to Raise World-Curious Kids
Around here, we think it's never too early to become a traveler. But it's one thing to say you're taking the toddlers to Tokyo; it's another thing to figure out how to do it — and get them to like it. Contributing editor Christina Ohly has been taking her kids around the globe for almost a decade. She knows how it's done.
It's a tough balance: your love of a faraway casbah vs. your child's love of the hotel entertainment system. How can you show your kids the world — and create curious, flexible, well-rounded individuals in the process? I've been figuring this out as I go and I've picked up good tricks on the way. Let's start with ground rules and move on to techniques.
As with everything, moderation is the way to cultivate a world traveler. Go for a hi-lo mix when exposing them to new places: The latest installation at the Tate Modern in London works best when juxtaposed with a day trip to Legoland in nearby Windsor.
Never let them see you sweat. If your child senses your fear of jet lag or new cuisines or the immigration line in Buenos Aires, she will pick up on it and be anxious, too. Teach kids from a young age (and I mean really young — as soon as they've had their first immunizations) to board a plane, a train, and sit in a car and go with the flow. Resilient people are made, not born, and seeing different cultures, places, and perspectives will only make them stronger in the long run.
There is great value — and lots of humor — in travel disasters. Remember this as you tour the globe and your child experiences everything from foreign bug bites and unidentifiable foods to rubbish removal systems (my kids still talk about Rome's fascinating setup). The best part of traveling with kids is the bonding you'll do on the road, second only to seeing the world in a whole new way through their eyes.
For now, focus on fun, and a love of travel will surely follow. They'll have time to scale the peaks of Nepal and explore the Guggenheim in Bilbao when they're older.
On to techniques.