Travelling With a Four Year Old
How we envy childless wanderlusters at times. You see, a higher level of worry comes with parenthood. Decisions need to be made more carefully, living and travelling requires more comforts, options and of course income. A natural worry brings questions like: Will our decisions impact our child’s development negatively? Will we regret making the decision to change our lifestyle, sell all of our possessions, leave our friends behind and move from place to place?
So, it was only natural to anticipate issues with our four year old son Lucas, such as missing friends, missing toys he used to have, culture shock, character changes etc.
However, we are happy to announce that after more than seven months of travelling the anticipated concerns are yet to manifest - YESS! *major parental pride* We didn’t make a bad decision!! We haven’t ruined our son’s life or development, on the contrary! All that we hoped it would be for our family and our son, it has been. And we believe his age has been a contributing factor, here’s four reasons why travelling with a four year old is a wonderful idea:
1. Learning by Play
As a four year old, Lucas learns best by having fun, playing! He doesn’t have the attention span or understanding yet to learn via a structured learning style, you know like sitting down and studying with textbooks or even focus on a particular subject for an hour.
With travel comes exploration, excursions which make an excellent opportunity for play and a lot of learning! Most days Lucas and I will go for long walks, discovering playgrounds, visit a variety of tourist attractions such as zoos, science museums and historic buildings. We’ll try to do some writing practise each day and have conversations in Spanish. Whenever Dylan and I can introduce an educational aspect to everyday things we will, whether it’s in the form of numeracy, language, logic, science and literacy.
Geography and Space have been two incredible areas of exposure too, which I doubt he would’ve gained much understanding for if we had never left New Zealand.
Although Lucas has been going to Pre-School since he was 6 months old he hasn't yet made it to the big transition of going to school, establishing friends and finding where he sits in the world that is school life. So he is still adaptable to changes. No matter where we’re living, what languages we’re hearing around us and how different the people or things are around us, or that each day is different, he is ok, he is with his mum and dad and that is all that matters. Everything else can be accepted and adapted to live with.
3. Independant and Manageable
Any parent knows the relief of their child being more independent and manageable because you can sleep in, in the mornings :D
At four years old children can serve themselves breakfasts, take their plates up to the bench, are completely toilet trained, can entertain themselves with their toys, at least while you sleep in, in the morning. You can also give them instructions which they loyally execute without any rebuttal. They even WANT to help you do housework!
This independent stage comes handy with travelling as they can carry or pull their own bag, sit down and wait while being entertained (for Lucas this is usually via his wireless headphones either listening to music or playing on his iPad.) They will tell you when they need to go toilet and also understand it when you say “now its time to go toilet before we go and do this and that” or “don't eat too much or you’ll be sick”. That sort of thing. It’s very helpful that your child understands these concepts when travelling :)
4. Discovering his Interests and Strengths
It has been an incredible pleasure and heartwarming experience to watch Lucas live and grow throughout the experiences travel brings. For example, if it wasn’t for our early morning flight from Medellin to Miami, I would not have known that Lucas loves to process his thoughts by putting them into song. There he was in the pitch black, looking at the night sky and singing whatever was on his mind. Boy did I wish I was recording it but like many moments you’re too busy captured in the awe of it, you don't want to miss a split second just to get your phone out and press record.
Lucas has shown genuine interest in space, dinosaurs, travel, reading, story telling and language. He loves to discover and explore a variety of things, soaking up facts I honestly have no idea about. It is truly fascinating and heartwarming.
During our time here in Spain we have had a private teacher spend two days a week with Lucas. We were amazed to learn again more about his positive development. Her observations were that for Lucas’ age, he has a high level of vocabulary, he isn’t clingy to mummy despite spending a big amount of time without school, he is confident and shows a strong interest to learn and make friends even though he may not see them again.
So, if you’re a childless wanderluster avoiding love and having babies, or maybe you’re a parent thinking travelling is impossible because you have kids - don’t be! Life is full of change. Growing up, accepting and adapting change as a child provides for a strong foundation in life.