Preparation is key…
Ever since a very young age, our son has been quite a shy and nervous character. For this reason, we have always forewarned him about different experiences. Whether this is a trip to the doctors, a party, first lesson at a club, a holiday, or any other kind of new activity. We usually tell him what is likely to happen and talk about people he might see or talk to and where possible show him pictures. This has always worked very well for him and as a family so is something we continued to do with both our children.
Quite a few months ago now, we decided we wanted to take our two young children (aged 2 and 4) on a world trip. It has taken a lot to make this happen. We’ve sold our house and we are selling all of our possessions to help make our dream a reality. The main reason why we made this decision was to have more family time together, however, we are also very excited about using this amazing trip and family time to help shape, develop and continue to raise our children.
While many believe our children may not remember this experience and it may be wasted on them due to their young age. We wholeheartedly disagree. While they may not remember all of our experiences intrinsically it will be remembered extrinsically. It will be remembered by them, in the way they’ve grown and developed and the little people they would have become. You can read more about our reasons behind our decision here: reasons why you SHOULD take your young children travelling.
Unsurprisingly, we will be encountering many new experiences as a family. Our children’s first long haul flight will be the start of our adventure and our first long haul flight with 2 children under the age of 5 – it’s sure to be a memorable one. Sleeping in new environments often, different climates, new foods, new people, new surroundings. Everything will be different and while discovering and enjoying this is all part of the adventure we also believe it is important to prepare the children for what is to come.
As a primary school teacher and an avid researcher, I’ve done everything I can to prepare the children for the adventure we are soon to embark on and I have to admit, I think I’ve done a very good job! Both children are incredibly inquisitive and keen to learn about the new destinations we will be visiting and they are both excited beyond words. My son has kept a daily countdown since it was 265 days to go!
There are many ways to prepare children for travelling and we have used a combination of all methods. While I’m going to do my best to include as much detail as possible into this post, there is no way I could include it all. Therefore, soon you will be able to find this information and more on our ‘Before you go’ page on our website and I will do my best to update destination specific resources to our destination pages.
When searching for books which may help prepare our children for our world trip I definitely struggled. There didn’t seem to be much, especially things suitable for young children. However, I am pleased to share some absolute treasures I have found and will probably cherish forever. If you know of any others we would love to hear about them.
Moon: night-time around the world
My space loving son chose this at our local library and within just a couple pages we all knew it was a very special book and I immediately recognised its suitability for our upcoming travels. The story takes you through all different destinations around the world including: tree frogs in the jungle, puffins admiring the Northern lights, turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs, an African savannah and more. All the while through all these destinations, the book shows the changing shape of the moon during the lunar cycle with beautiful peek through pages. The illustrations in the book are simply stunning and we found this book not only helpful as a discussion about different countries around the world but also as a reminder that no matter where you are in the world everybody looks up at the same moon in the sky. This is a great comfort to the children and will be an invaluable reminder to the children when they start to miss family members, where ever we are in the world.
Going on an plane
While this story is quite short and basic it is perfect for introducing the children to an airport environment. The short story follows a family on their trip to the airport. It takes them through check in, passport control and the aeroplane. While it is a little dated, it has been a useful tool in discussing airports and aeroplanes with the children.
The Snail and the Whale
We are huge fans of Julia Donaldson and we have virtually all of her books. While we’ve read this story many times, it wasn’t until recently that we realised its significance to our situation. A little snail wanted to leave the rock he shared with all the other snails, and go on an adventure around the world with a whale! A great story with some lovely parallels to help us discuss our travels and plans with the children.
The Invisible String
I cannot tell you how much I love this book and recommend it to everybody. I initially purchased it for my son when he was struggling a little with separation anxiety. As soon as I started reading it I loved how perfect it would be for helping our children prepare and manage being away from family we are leaving at home (their beloved ‘Popsie’ and Nanny in particular!). The book starts with 2 children who are afraid to be away from their Mum at bedtime due to a noisy storm. The Mum goes on to explain and introduce them to ‘the invisible string’. She explains: ‘Even though you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel it with your heart and know that you are always connected to everyone you love.’ The children then test this by asking if it can reach deep in the ocean, the jungle, outer space and more.
The Buddha books:
We absolutely adore this collection of books. They are all made up of a series of important, stunning and valuable short stories. While not all the stories are directly linked to travels and global adventures, many are. With teachings of how people love and think about you even if they can’t see you and they are far away; how life changes and is a journey which can’t always stay the same; and about how important it is to try and travel this big, wide world. All the stories and meditations in this collection are incredible and I recommend them all whole heartedly. There are not many pictures however our 2 and 4 year old adore these books, have always been fully engrossed and they have requested we read one before bed every night for the last year or so (we have read the book front to back many times). We will also be taking one of them travelling with us … the question will be which one?
Children’s Picture Atlas
While there are many children’s atlas books on the market, my children adore this one. It is a good size (larger than average book) and very colourful. The large maps are filled with pictures of famous landmarks and lots and lots of animals. Our children never tire of looking at the different animals and learning more about them and talking about what they hope they will see on our travels. While there is oviously no story to this book, I love the fact that we can share and discuss it together but the children also love to flick through the pages on their own and because of the huge array of pictures they can enjoy the book independently.
Another fantastic resource for helping the children understand the trip we are soon to embark on is a world map! I cannot tell you what an essential resource this has been. The children love to have us show them where we will be going, how we will get there, how long it will take and it’s amazing for us to then see them telling other people the same things while demonstaring with their world map.
While there are many world maps to choose from, our absolute favourite is this:
The children adore this puzzle. I am amazed at how much they have learnt from it, not just for our world trip but about the whole world. We have to complete this puzzle almost daily because it is their favourite. The inclusion of many pictuires of famous landmarks and animals make it easier for the children to do and unknowingly teaches them a great deal. It is amazing to hear them discussing it as they complete it: ‘the statue of liberty goes in America’, ‘this panda must be in Asia’, ‘the koala goes down in Australia’. Not only this, the puzzle also comes with a huge, colourful and detailed world map poster!
Made up stories
The children adore hearing about the adventures they will be embarking on, the activities they might do and the adventures the will have. They are forever asking to hear about another one of their adventures and will often ask to hear about specific destinations, whether this be at bedtime, in the car, waiting for a doctor’s appointment or pushing them in the trolley while doing food shopping! The way these stories prepare them for the adventures to come is invaluable and the fact that there are no resources needed and we can call upon these ‘stories’ at any time is ideal (especially when you plan to travel the world with just the one bag!). Not only that, there is something truly special and heart-warming about seeing your children’s faces light up as you make up stories for them, knowing full when these stories will soon come to life.
You Tube, cartoons and films
Depending on where you are choosing to visit, there are a whole array of helpful resources waiting to be discovered. Some of our most recent favourites include:
Lava – this is a short computer animated musical (approximately 5 minutes) by Pixar Animation Studios. Set on a tropical island in the Pacific, the story/song follows a lonely volcano’s journey to finding love. It is a beautiful song and film which has become a favourite with us, not forgetting its brilliance in discussing our upcoming trip to Hawaii.
Moana – the epic and beautiful Disney film released in 2016 which follows Moana on our adventurous journey across the open ocean. Another great resource for introducing the children to Pacific Islands and Hawaii in particular!
You Tube – amazing resource for many, many things! I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve watched clips of turtles hatching on the beach, educational kids videos about the Great Barrier Reef, wild orcas swimming in the ocean and more…we can’t wait to hopefully experience some of these wonders in real life too!
Bears by Disney Nature – This was released in 2014 but I only discovered it a few weeks ago. It is a beautiful nature documentary film which follows a family of brown bears through Alaska. The children adored watching the 2 bear cubs first year of life told with excellent narration and stunning landscapes and filming. This has been an excellent resource for our upcoming trip to Canada where we hope to spot bears in the wild.
We hope you’ve found some of our tips and recommendations useful and we will be sure to share anything else we learn along the way.
This post does include Amazon affiliate links. This basically means if you purchase any of the items through our links we get a few pennies towards our travels (at no extra cost to you but greatly appreciated by us).