Taking a young child away on holiday means you’re removing your little one from their comfort zone and are placing them in a series of unfamiliar situations. This can be stressful, scary or overwhelming for some tots, especially if mum and dad are stressed too, and it’s not clear what they should expect.
Preparing your tot by helping them to understand what’s happening and what to expect can really help you to have a smooth and stress-free family holiday. Find out how best to do this below…
Preparing for the airport...
- Talk about what will happen when you get there – explain the steps clearly, for example the drive to the airport, going through security, the lounge, the gate etc. Discuss this in ways that children will understand, for example ‘On the plane we will sit still next to each other for a while and play…’
- If you can, use videos, sticker books and story books to visually demonstrate your journey through the airport. Another fun alternative can be to use toy planes or Lego/Playmobil sets to recreate the experience for your child through play, before you go
- Make believe and fantasy games that involve pretending you’re on a plane or at the airport can also be a nice way to introduce children to these concepts
- Clearly describe what behaviour you are expecting from your child and when you’re at the airport, keep up a clear narration about what’s happening and where you are, just like you talked about with them before. When it comes to younger children, particularly those who are anxious and may fret in the run up to the trip, you only really need to start discussing this the day before you go
- Some children find it soothing to have a small bag of treasured belongings to carry along themselves – let your toddler or pre-schooler select a few small toys and books to pack in a little bag that they can bring along, which will help them to feel in control.
Preparing for your destination...
- Again, talk to your child about what they will experience when you get to your destination – sights, smells, sounds, tastes and temperature are all good things to start discussing before you go
- You may even want to try cooking some of your destination’s local dishes at home before you go, as a fun and tasty way to introduce your tot to some of these sensations
- If your children are old enough, try teaching them some of the local language. Apps like Gus on the Go or Duolingo are perfect for this, and help children to learn new words in a fun and engaging way
- Try to explain the idea of being around people who might not understand what your child is saying – for young children, the idea of people speaking a different language may seem bewildering and may not really make sense. Help your child to avoid feeling frustrated or rejected upon arrival by familiarising them with this concept.
- Find books/pictures/websites to learn more about your destination – follow your little one’s lead on this, so that learning doesn’t become a chore, but rather something to fuel your child’s interest and enthusiasm in the trip
- Encourage your child to feel excited about all the fun things they will try, see and do on holiday and try to link these to relatable things they already enjoy at home, such as ice cream and sunshine – helping them to know what to expect can help stop them from feeling as stressed and out of their comfort zone when you arrive