Before I traveled with young kids, I was deathly afraid of traveling with young children and couldn’t understand why anyone would do it.

I remember reading pieces like Don’t bring your child on a plane or Leave your kid at home next time

But another thing stuck with me as well.  When I was young, single and traveling the world I would see young happy children living in these amazing places that I was going to.  AND I would see families traveling with their little ones!

The two pictures didn’t mesh well in my mind- “don’t travel with kids” and “little kids are experiencing things all over the world”.

So when my boys were born, my husband and I started thinking about how we could travel around the world with our little ones.  And I’m so glad we did.  Here are 8 reasons why traveling with kids is the best:

1. You don’t always get what you want.  Yep, it sounds like a nightmare to most parents (and toddlers) that when you are traveling you don’t always get your way.  This can end up in a tantrum.  It happens.  But when you are home, you have the temptation to give in to your kiddo.  When you are traveling, and your child wants a particular snack, a different kind of wipe, a blue cup instead of a yellow cup, they have to learn how to deal with what you have.  It can be rough for a short bit, but most kids are fast learners.  Once they realize that there is no pizza hut, they get over it.  For the first week of traveling with 2 three-year olds, they didn’t eat much because all the food we had was different, but now, they will eat mostly whatever is offered to them.

2. Building awareness.  Again, this one has a learning curve and it was something that we started before we traveled and has only grown.  I’ve written about it before and believe that it is a very important topic.  It is tempting to find ways to entertain our kids when we travel but one of the huge benefits of traveling is building awareness for our world and seeing all the amazing things out there.  Children will be fascinated with what is going on outside the plane, on the road, or next to them on the bus so allow them to just watch and ask questions.

3. Trying new things. We often get into ruts and although routines are a good thing, doing something different is also a good thing.  Especially when your kids are young.  I found that as an adult with young children, I didn’t always feel like an adult.  I felt like my life revolved so much around the young kids that I always ate the same food, I would draw silly pictures and play with blocks on the floor and I just needed something else!   When we traveled, I tried new foods (and my kids did too!).  I looked for hermit crabs on the beach instead of blocks on the floor.  I heard different music and went to new places.  It was all very invigorating for me and the children.

4. Letting go of expectations.  Have you always made your child wear shoes since you know that they could step on something sharp?  Do you stress about how many vegetables your child has eaten in one day?  I’ve done all these things and more- until I traveled with my little ones.  The one expectation that I haven’t dropped- seat belts.

5. Seeing how differently other cultures raise children.  Kids menus don’t exist in many other places in the world (unless they are heavily visited by North Americans).  Children climb trees without supervision in some places.   My friend in France said that young children went to the bakery by themselves in the morning to get the family baguette.  I’m not saying that these things are better or worse, but just observing or even experiencing another way to raise children is such an eye-opening experience.

6. Getting your routine down to a science.  I talk about creating a routine all the time.  It creates structure and security for a child and improves behavior drastically.  Traveling will take your routine to the next level.  If you always read two books before bedtime, then you will use that routine to help your child fall asleep in any old place.   If you always sing the same song before nap time, then you have that amazing tool to let your child know that it is nap time even though your are 5 hours off from your regular time zone.  Having a routine in place allows you to travel with children by changing everything else- except the routine.

7. Not having to worry about school. Once your children are in first grade, it is much much much more difficult to travel.  Every school is different, but most schools require attendance and will put you in touch with the truancy officer after missing more than 10 days of school.  But this gives you a pretty big window of about 6 years to travel with your little ones.

8. Paring down and traveling light- The first time we traveled with our 1.5 year old twins, we took two carry on bags for two weeks at the beach.  Now, most travel sites will recommend planning ahead and making sure that you have everything that you need.  Those two sentences may not look synonymous but they are compatible.   See, you do need to plan ahead, and you do need to bring everything you need, but when you travel, you really get down to the questions of “what do you really need?”  Do you really need that noise maker enough to haul it around?  Are toys that important or can your children play with sticks and string?  Can you get away with not bringing the special nose cleaner outer or the spoons that your children request everyday?  When you travel, you realize what you actually need and what is truly important.

Book your ticket today!

 

 

outside

The concept is simple enough- get outside every day.  Sounds too simple right?

But the actual task is quite difficult (daunting even) many, many days.

When I was pregnant, I worried a bit about postpartum depression and the best advice I heard about beating the blues was to get outside everyday.  Even if it was for five minutes.  Even if it was just to your porch.

There were days when it was easy.  The weather was perfect, the boys were happy.  We got a good stretch of sleep the night before.

But then there were days that it was very, very difficult and I just didn’t want to make the effort.  But even if it was just for a short bit, it made the difference in my over all mental health.

But there was something else good that came out of getting outside every single day.  It became part of our routine. 

When I was a preschool teacher, there were 11 different preschool classrooms and so there were about 11 different teaching philosophies under one roof.  When it came to taking the children outside, the philosophies ranged from: “That is too much work, we don’t go out very often” to “We get outside everyday, rain, snow or shine.”

I fell into the latter category and that drew me some strange looks as we marched down the hall to the playground on the worst of days.  I would hear grumbles of “It takes 20 minutes just to get them all ready and then what?”  or “All that work for 5 minutes outside? No thanks!”  And what I would repeatedly explain to the other teachers was that:

Getting ready to go outside is part of the learning process.  Sometimes it is the goal of the day.

But what I should have explained even further was that every time we got ready to get out, we were only making the next time easier.   

As a parent, getting kids ready to go outside has not gotten any easier.  But since our routine has always been to get outside at least once per day, we have the routine down.

I know that it is a lot to get your kids outside, but you have to re-frame your thinking into- “getting them ready is today’s learning goal”.  As you make it part of your daily routine, not only will getting out of the house become easier, but your children will benefit from being able to make that daily transition.

Your mental health will thank you.

Over the summer, I was struggling with trying to figure out how to carry a bag and ride my bike to the swimming pool a couple of blocks away.  It got to be so bad that a couple of times, I just ran in my flip flops because I couldn’t manage three towels, snacks, water bottles and toys while riding a bike.

But then I got a Convert-a-strap.  It will convert many bags into a backpack.  So in my case, it was a huge IKEA bag, but lots of bags will work and if you don’t have a bag that works, she has those as well.

Fast forward to the first week of school when I volunteered to wash the school’s laundry.  The boys love to ride their bikes to school and I didn’t want to take that away from them, but this was the most cumbersome awkward bag without a single strap on it so we almost had to drive to school, but the Convert-a-strap came to the rescue!

The strap can either be an over the shoulder the strap, or it can be changed into straps for a backpack just like that.   This is key for anybody who wants to save their back, or who rides a bike at all.

So I ultimately attached the strap to a messenger bag and now I can use it for anything and I won’t break my back.  I want to be able to ride my bike, be big enough to carry everything that I need but not to be too much to carry around.

Convert-a-strap was designed by a mom right here in Boulder and I love supporting local moms!

 

The days are getting longer and all I can think about is getting outside with the family.

Here in Colorado we have 13 National Parks and they are a great place to start your spring and summertime adventures.  On May 21, the National Park Trust is hosting a Kids to Parks Day to get your kids excited about what theses parks have to offer. Why do we want to get kids into our National Parks?  They are some of the most amazing parts of Colorado (Rocky Mountain National Park, Sand Dunes National Park), they have interesting history (Bent’s Old Fort, Mesa Verde) and they are great for everyone in the family.

At the end of the post, I have information about a National Parks Giveaway!

Here’s 5 reasons why it is so important to do that:

1. The outdoors are screen free!

Are you attempting to keep your child screen-free or limit the amount of screen time?  Well, the easiest way to do that is to get outside!  Every day and every weekend that you plan to be outside, you can also plan to never hear, “Can we watch that video?” or “Mama, phone!”

2. Good exercise and better mental health

Getting outside pretty much guarantees exercise and good exercise guarantees fewer tantrums, better mental health and happier families. If you head to Mesa Verde National Park, you will be climbing ladders, and if your choice is Sand Dunes National Park, you might be sand boarding or just a simple trek to Colorado National Monument and you could be hiking or biking.  Live longer and happier by just getting outside.

3. Awareness of our world

It is crazy that most people can name TV characters, sports team stats, and the names of famous people’s babies and yet they don’t know any names of birds, trees or flowers.  Getting your children outside will balance that out.  It doesn’t mean that they can’t be aware of social media or what is happening in our government, it just means also being able to recognize the song of a robin.  Just being outside a couple days a week will give your children an awareness that can be invaluable to their life.

4. Learn new skills

Depending on your kids’ ages, you can learn lots of new skills in the outdoors from map reading, to fishing, to climbing, to learning about different plants and animals.   Our boys each have an animal tracks book and a flower book to bring along on our hikes.  The National Parks Trust also has a great booklet you can print before heading out with lots of activities.

5. Nature

This one parallels #2 and includes one of my favorite quotes: “Nature; cheaper than therapy”.  Being in nature is good for mental health and when children learn to appreciate nature at a young age, lots of great things happen.  They will be healthier adults, they will be more likely to advocate for conservation, and they will have more awareness of their environment.

So start planning on which National Park you will visit this May 21 and join the almost 73,000 other people who are pledging to take their kid to a National Park!

Leave a comment below about your plans to visit a National Park and you could win a Buddy Bison stuffed animal and two books (Kid’s National Parks Guide and Buddy Bison’s Yellowstone Adventure) to accompany you and your children on your trip!   This set of books values at $25 and is a great way to make life-literacy connections. Winners will be chosen at random by May 21, 2016.  This giveaway is sponsored by The National Parks Trust and Kids to Parks Day.