Traveling With A Toddler
When I mentioned I’d taken my three-year-old grandson to Switzerland, I garnered strange looks and comments of astonishment. “Why would you ever think of doing that?”
If you’ve considered traveling with toddlers and concluded they are too young to benefit from an international trip, think again.
Three-year-olds absorb, understand, and remember much more than we realize. The child who travels grows up with a larger perspective on the world and more tolerance for people and the way they live.
Early exposure to travel provides a foundation on which all future learning builds. A young child is open to and eager for new experiences. Not something you are as likely to find in a teenager. Your travel budget will buy more when spent on a young child than on an older one.
In addition to sharing your love of travel with a very dear person, you have the thrill of experiencing the trip through his/her eyes. What s/he sees, and therefore what you see, will amaze you.
As I was organizing my first international trip with a three-year-old, I wondered if I was planning a dream or a nightmare. The result? I treasure that trip among my most cherished memories.
Go ahead. Try it.
You can find books, videos, and other materials (maps, globes, museum exhibits, local day trips) to develop pre-trip understanding.
You might go hiking to see what a waterfall is. Sample a selection of cheeses. Make and eat fondu. Ride on a bus. Buy a Swiss flag and an American flag and note the differences. Draw pictures of mountains. Compare coins from the US and Switzerland. Learn a few simple words (hello, please, thank you) in the language at your destination. (Regional languages in Switzerland include German, French, and Italian.)
There are many things you can do to prepare your little one for the wonder of Switzerland.
Document your trip with photos – still shots and videos.
On return use photos to reinforce ideas and talk about shared experiences. Make a photo album together. Put captions, dictated by the child, with each picture. Look at the album and read the captions often. Keep the images and experiences of the trip alive each time you interact with this now world traveler. “Remember when we. . .” “It was so funny when. . .” “The best day was. . .” “I really loved. . .”
Learn more about experiences your little one especially enjoyed – cable cars, cheese, paragliding, cowbells etc. Talk about things that are different and things that are the same in his/her life versus the life of a Swiss child. Ask questions to stimulate new ideas.
Travel offers incredible opportunities for learning. Best of all, sharing a trip with a young child forms a bond of lifelong memories. Priceless!