Why you should travel with young kids

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In a previous article, I shared my favourites tricks of the trade when it comes to traveling with tots. A recent trip to Laos reminded me of the why we should travel with kids.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Travel builds empathy

This past February half-term break, our little family of four (along with Grammie visiting from Canada) went to Luang Prabang in Laos. It quickly became apparent that we were the only guests at our resort with children. This realisation set in quicker for our 4 year old than it did for the rest of us. As a result, he took to wearing his school backpack (full of toys) every time we left the hotel. His fervent hope was that he would find some friends to play with.

My son: I have 8 toys in my backpack so I can only make 7 friends.

I love that he had done the math and that he knew that he had 7 extra toys. I also love his belief that A) he would find 7 friends and B) that he had already thought this whole thing out.

Fast-forward to a boat trip across the Mekong. My son found three friends.

Why you should travel with a young child

You can’t see it but there is also a baby in this picture being held on his mother’s lap. My son was so disappointed because this was the only time when he forgot to bring his backpack full of toys with him and he had nothing to share. At one point, the other kids disappeared into their home and came back with a broken piece of rebar and a blue section of what looked like plumbing tube.

And, so, they began to play.

Because that’s what kids do. They make do with what they have and they are creative in ways that we adults have forgotten how to be.

On the way back to our hotel, my four year old asked me, “How come that boy and girl doesn’t have any toys? And why doesn’t the baby have a diaper?” This is something that he thought about quite seriously and that obviously resonated with him. It’s one thing to tell your toddler that some kids don’t have toys to play with; it’s quite another for them to experience it first hand.

A few days later, we found ourselves at a busy market next to a popular waterfall. My son spotted a couple of local kids straight away and, with backpack at the ready this time, asked if he could go play with them. Off he trotted.

His Dad and I were watching him from about 30 feet away. Our little boy was holding out a plastic toy airplane towards his new ‘friends’ in the hopes that the little boy (who it turns out was the same age) would come play with him. Unfortunately, the boy wasn’t responding in the way that our son imagined that he would. The toy airplane he was offering up was, after all, my son’s new favourite toy. So our little guy returns and says to us, “Can I take some food over? Maybe I can share and then the boy will play with me?” So once again, off he went; this time with a bamboo pot of steamed rice in hand with the hope that the boy would accept his offer and finally play with him. The offering of rice worked and soon the pair of them were building a tower taller than both of them combined out of plastic chairs.

I love how my son sees every other kid as a playmate. I love how he always brings something to the table. I love how, when faced with an obstacle, he is able to hypothesise a solution.

When it was time for us to leave, I went over and told my son to collect his toys and say goodbye to his friend. He gave his friend a big hug and collected all his toys but one: the one he’d given the little boy play with in the first place. He told the boy that he could keep that one; and that it was his favourite.

Let’s not forget that this whole 30 minute play session occurred between two 4 year old boys whose only common language was that of boyhood. That alone is worth sitting back for a moment and reflecting upon.

On the ride back to our hotel, I told my son how proud I was of him for sharing his toys so generously. As he was falling asleep on my lap, he looked up at me and said, “It’s good to share your toys with boys who don’t have any toys.”

You can’t teach that sort of empathy. It simply has to be lived.

Photo Credit: F. Montino via Compfight cc

My name is Jodie. I'm a 38 year old Canadian working and living in Bangkok, Thailand. My husband and I are both international teachers - though I'm taking this year off to be a full-time mom.

When we're not busy with other people's kids, we try our hand at raising our own very curious nearly four year old son and his 9 and half month old brother. When it comes to parenting, like most of us, I’m making a lot of it up as I go along .

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