How To Teach Children About Culture While Travelling

It’s never been easier or more cost-effective to travel as a family – so many children now have access to destinations that would never have been dreamed of when I was growing up in the 1980s. Traveling with children is an invaluable educational experience that helps to shape their worldview. It’s also a chance for them to cultivate a deep appreciation for diverse cultures. When given the opportunity to encounter lifestyles, traditions, and perspectives that differ from their own, children can nurture their sense of empathy and their natural curiosity. These are two qualities that will help them recognise the beauty in diversity.

Parents have the privilege of being able to guide their children’s discovery of new and different ways of life. It’s possible to maximise children’s learning opportunities while you’re traveling to another region or country together. In addition to making wonderful family memories, you’ll be able to sow seeds of open-mindedness and respect that will accompany your children throughout their lives.

Here are some ideas to help children become global citizens who celebrate the world’s different cultures:

Research The Country’s Historical, Religious And Cultural Traditions

Before setting off on your journey, it would be good to involve your children in some pre-trip research about your destination’s culture, history, and customs. You can do this by reading books, watching documentaries, and browsing through online resources together.

Make it a point to incorporate what you’ve learned about your destination in your preparations. Let’s say your kids like to wear shorts while on the road, and one of your itineraries requires a modest dress code due to religious or cultural reasons. You can get around this issue by bringing a pair of denim leggings with you and packing similar items in your children’s suitcases. Let your kids know the logic behind such a decision, and get everyone ready to quickly change into an appropriate outfit whenever the situation calls for it. 

Set Time For Cultural Activities

Participating in cultural activities can offer immersive learning experiences for children. The good news is that many communities are also eager to share their culture with tourists of all ages who sincerely want to learn.

When traveling, seek out opportunities to attend local festivals, workshops, or traditional performances. These activities are typically open to visitors, and they will provide your children with a genuine cultural experience that honors local contexts.

Why not, for instance, attend a Thai cooking class during a trip to Thailand? On top of teaching your children about Thai cuisine, you’ll be able to introduce them to the importance of food in the local culture. You can also talk about differences between your home cuisine and foreign cuisine and learn about the origins of a particular cultural preference, like a taste for spicy food amongst citizens of a tropical country.   

Learn Common Words In The Local Language

As part of your travel preparations, how about encouraging your children to learn a few basic phrases in the local language? You can start by teaching them how to greet, say thanks, or say sorry. Having a firm grasp of these words can help them connect with locals and demonstrate respect for their culture. While visiting a market in a Spanish-speaking country, for instance, encouraging your child to say “¡Hola!” and “¡Gracías!” to locals. Doing so will likely elicit smiles and friendly interactions.

Practice Respectful Photography

Teach your children the importance of respecting people’s privacy when taking photos, especially in places that you are not familiar with. Explain how, in some countries, it’s considered inappropriate to photograph individuals without their express permission. By instilling this awareness in them, you’ll help them become mindful and considerate travelers.

Be Open To Conversations About Culture

Engaging in open conversations about cultural differences and similarities in your home or while on the road can foster greater understanding amongst your children. Encourage your kids to ask questions and express their observations with other family members. Discussing topics like local customs or the meaning behind traditional clothing can encourage thoughtful conversations and help your children gain a better grasp of the differences and similarities between cultures and communities.

Encourage Local Interactions

When it’s safe to do so, encourage your children to interact with local children and families. Visit a park or join a community event to provide your family with opportunities for cross-cultural interactions.

For example, letting your children play with local kids in a park in India can lead to spontaneous cultural exchange and friendships. Perhaps your children can pick up new games or observe similarities between the games that they play at home and in the country you’re visiting.

Engage In Storytelling

Share stories and historical anecdotes related to the places you visit, like ancient ruins. Tell your kids about the people who lived there and the events that shaped their culture. While exploring the Colosseum in Rome, for one, you can narrate stories of gladiators and Roman history to make the past come alive to them.

Visit Museums And Historical Sites

Museums and historical sites offer windows into a culture’s past. How about including these spaces in your itinerary? Look for interactive exhibits that engage children’s curiosity. If your child is interested in animals, maybe it’s a good idea to include a museum that focuses on natural history in your list of places to go to. A trip to a local historic district can also provide you with opportunities to share more about your vacation spot’s storied past with your children.

Reflect On The Experience

After the trip, encourage your children to reflect on what they’ve learned and experienced. This reflection will solidify the lessons you’ve taught them and help them connect their travels to broader concepts, like the importance of community. You can also discuss how interacting with local children or witnessing cultural celebrations impacted their understanding of the world around them.

Enriching your child’s travel experiences with cultural insights can shape their perspectives and instill values that promote mutual respect and global awareness. By following these tips, you can craft memorable journeys that will nurture a lifelong appreciation in your kids for the world’s rich tapestry of cultures.

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