Winter is almost over, and many of us are beginning to dream about a spring or summer vacation. We all know that vacations are a good way to de-stress from everyday life — but did you know that taking time away could improve the overall development of your child? Here’s how:

A Lasting Experience
Remember that toy you gave your child for her birthday three years ago? She probably doesn’t either. Studies have shown that giving kids experiences, not things, are what truly connect them with us. Our children will recall the thrill of finding the perfect sand dollar with dad or watching the sun set over the mountains with mom long after they’re grown and have kids of their own.

The Name’s Bond
We don’t have to tell you how busy families stay these days. Between school, work, and after-school sports and activities, it’s easy to get in the habit of rushing from one thing to the next without taking the time to engage in meaningful conversation or simply sit still with one another. Time away from regular routines helps kids to slow down and relax, which fosters bonding with the family.

Stress Less, Feel Good More
Jaak Panksepp, a leading neuroscientist at Washington State University, discovered that a vacation can activate two brain systems in children he called PLAY and SEEKING. These systems trigger “feel good” neurochemicals like dopamine and opioids. Studies have also shown that spending just five minutes a day in nature can reduce stress –imagine what a week’s vacation will do for your child!

Free Your Mind
Vacations help kids learn about and explore different cultures and customs — they’ll see first hand how people who live in other regions talk, dress, eat, and think. Even traveling from one end of your state to the other will open your kids up to ways of life other than their own. They’ll learn how to interact with and appreciate people from all walks of life, which increases their social skills.

Time to Talk
Less stress and getting away from their usual routines will often spur kids to open up; you might find they talk more about their wishes, dreams, and even their worries when you’re on vacation. Don’t feel like you have to broach a certain subject or drive the conversation. Let them lead the way, and practice active listening.

Vacations don't have to be elaborate or expensive. If you can’t afford to travel far, simply taking your child on day trips to nearby cities or recreational destinations will be beneficial. They’ll still get plenty of exposure to people and places they don’t normally see, and the time you spend with them on the drive there and back can be a great opportunity to reconnect.