As we were waiting for my dad to join us at his favorite restaurant, the waiter brought a plate of food for us to sample. Both my kids were hungry, and before I knew it they were chewing in delight. When my dad arrived the plate was nearly empty, but there were enough pieces of what I thought was chicken for him to let me know that my kids had just devoured rabbit–deep fried rabbit.
For someone who has been at times a vegetarian and whose first steak was at 31 years old while pregnant, my kids eating rabbit is a huge deal. After the initial shock, I was happy my kids got to try this Spanish delicacy. We are experiencing so many new things, and food–even if I think is gross–is a big part of culture.
This is what I love about travel. Even if you just go to a new city, or a new small town, you experience so many new things, and for children–even small ones–this is a fantastic learning opportunity.
Getting my children to know Spain and its culture well is important for me because this is where I grew up and where I feel at home. It is also easier for me because I know where we are, where to go and what to do, and I have friends and family who regularly join us in our adventures. However, I think that anyone can enjoy and take advantage of the opportunities that travel gives children. Here are a few of my favorites:
- New foods: From thick hot chocolate and mini croissants for a morning snack, to rabbit for lunch and fruits and vegetables that are the same but taste different from back home. My kids have eaten an entire new diet without complaint.
- New kids/New games: Playgrounds in different countries are different, and so are the games kids play. My children have been interacting with peers in a whole new way. It is really fun to watch them.
- Language immersion: My son’s first and dominant language is still Spanish. Yet, after two weeks here, his Spanish language skills have exploded. He hears new words from different people, and since I am speaking the language with other adults, the vocabulary I use while here is also larger. My favorite is hearing him use expressions from Madrid. It is so cute. Most important, we are cementing his language skills.
After two weeks my kids are exhausted and ready to go home, but I know once we are there they’ll miss being here. I hope to be able to keep giving these experiences to my children as they grow, and add other cultures and languages too. There are things I miss about traveling before having children, but traveling with them has made me enjoy visiting new places in a new and fantastic way.
What is your favorite cultural experience for kids? How do you expose your children to new cultures?