Is there any more gratifying feeling in family travel than reminiscing with your loved ones about shared travel experiences? A travel memory is one of life’s sweetest rewards. We throw around a lot of trite phrases about making memories, but we may not spend much time thinking about how that mental magic happens. It turns out the process of how we create -- and more importantly, preserve -- memories is not automatic. The good news is that there are easy ways to lay the groundwork of future travel memories for your family, and that they have little to do with where you are headed. So whether your travel involves a once-in-a-lifetime itinerary in an exotic locale, or a routine stay with extended family, you can go prepared with these tips for helping your child make memories that stick!
1. Prior Knowledge for the Win: The more your child knows about their journey before they go, the less work their brain has to do before creating rich memories. If you help your child explore the context of a place ahead of time, they will expend less energy on establishing the basics of “Where am I and what is going on here?” How to build prior knowledge?
Tune in for discussion of this post and more in Episode 27 of the Family Travel Radio podcast, with host Aaron Schlein!
- Preview the places you’ll visit: show pictures, listen to samples of the language or local music, try a taste of typical foods they may encounter, and use street view perspective in Google maps
- Put your child to work in planning some aspect of your travel (like a meal or part of your travel route), or get their input using the free “Great Expectations” activity
- Read a story about your intended destination
- Introduce your child to someone familiar with the destination and encourage your child to ask questions of them
Activities to help you get started: “The Journey Begins” and “I Can Predict That…”
2. Progress through Processing: When information is of interest to us, and we process it deeply, it has a better chance of being “promoted” to long-term memory. Much of travel is inherently interesting, but if you don’t show kids how to process all of that interesting information, it may not advance beyond short-term memory or become a building block for other knowledge and memories. How can you assist your child in processing?
- Make time for rest: a good night’s sleep is essential to the brain’s work of fully processing and storing what it encountered during the day, and resting during the day leaves your child more attentive and ready to make memories
- Get curious with your child: Ask questions (like these) about the things your family is experiencing
- Encourage your child to record the day’s events (in words, pictures, or a short video), or better yet: give them a Journey Jotter Book that they can use all day long to process what they’re seeing and learning
Activities to help you get started: “Logging My Lodging,” “It’s Monumental,” “On Display,” “Head in the Clouds,” “Considering Currency,” and “Green Report Card”
3. Embrace the Feels: Maya Angelou taught that “people will never forget how you made them feel.” Indeed, when we have strong emotions in association with a person or event, it tends to be more memorable. The more opportunities your travel offers your child to tune in to their emotions, the more memorable it can be. How to enlist emotion in your child’s travel memories?
- Ask your child how they are feeling: help them process what they’re encountering in real time
- Check on your own mood, and breathe - if your child remembers nothing more than your energy during their travels, will they associate your presence mostly as anxious, frustrated, and distracted, or as joyful, relaxed, and present?
- Look for opportunities to perform random acts of kindness: travel presents us with all kinds of novel situations in which to choose kindness, and the joyful boost from those moments will undoubtedly stick with your child
Activities to help you get started: “Made-to-Order Hero,” “How is Everybody Feeling?” and “People-Watching BINGO”
4. More than Words: Experiences that engage multiple senses tend to make a bigger impression on our memories than purely verbal ones, and travel lends itself to those! Working with your child’s interests and learning style is key to making lasting memories. How to do it? Your child might enjoy:
- Taking photos and arranging them after travel into a book, presentation, or collage
- Composing a song, dance, or skit about their favorite travel moments
- Creating artwork that reminds them of their travel experience
- Collecting a small item or series of items to catalog their travels
- Preparing a dish that reminds them of something they ate in their travels
Activities to help you get started: “Right on Time,” “Design Your Own T-Shirt,” “Extreme Souvenirs,” “Built to Code,” and “Color Me Observant”
5. Layer it on: Creating or encoding a memory is just the beginning. What really determines whether a memory survives is how well it’s consolidated. When we consolidate a memory, we process it again and strengthen the overall structure of it. How can you help your child consolidate their travel memories?
- Encourage storytelling: throughout each day of travel, challenge yourself and your child to recall as many observations as possible
- Spend a few minutes each evening playing a quick round of “High/Low”: everyone shares one of the best things from their day, and one of the worst
- Once the journey is over, ask your child to present a recap of their trip to your family or friends, and encourage them to use as many visual aids as they want
Activities to help you get started: “Travel Time Capsule,” “My Fellow Traveler,” “A Day in My Journey,” “One-Sentence Wonder,” "Poetry in Motion," and “Did You See What I Saw?”
Meaningful travel memories are within your reach, especially when your child travels with a Journey Jotter Book, which blends all of the strategies above into one convenient and engaging tool for your child’s travel. Let Journey Jotter Books manage the mental magic, and you can stay right where you most want to be: in the moment with your child! Get started by building a book today!