Family time: Why is vacation more important than toys for children?

family time
Giving children vacation instead of toys has a positive effect

Family time and building sand castles with dad on vacation create special childhood memories.

© Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images

Very few people have any idea how valuable family vacation really is for children (compared to a bulging children’s room). According to experts, a change of location during the holidays should make children smarter and happier.

At children’s birthday tables you can usually find a lot of material gifts. A banknote could have the greater added value – if it is used for family gatherings, such as holidays. Sounds boring compared to colorfully wrapped surprises, but according to researchers has a positive impact on the little ones. Experience gifts and holidays must, among other things, have a positive influence on the development of the brain. And not only that …

Family vacations promote mental development

Holidays not only provide fun and relaxation, they make children smarter, more curious and strengthen their emotional foundation. The British child psychologist Margot Sunderland explained in the British daily newspaper The Telegraph that two activities are promoted on family holidays, which are far too neglected in school and work life.

Namely to play and explore! They lead to brain growth associated with “cognitive function, social intelligence, and well-focused, targeted behavior.” In her article, she quotes Washington State University professor and neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp, who found this and thus concluded that family vacations promote brain development in children.

But what is actually trained and how?

When parents play with their children on vacation and the little ones explore a lot, the beneficial endorphins are released. These provide stress relief and a positive mood in children (and adults). They also support the feeling of closeness in relationships and trigger the feeling that everything is fine.

The child psychologist explains in his report that the brain is trained every time parents play, for example burying their child’s feet in the sand, tickling them or letting them ride on their backs. When you go exploring, on the other hand, the brain is stimulated by voyages of discovery, for example when you go into the unknown forest, on the beach or on a treasure hunt.

The mixture of play and exploration leads to the growth of the frontal lobe. This region of the brain is responsible for cognitive functions, stress regulation, attention, concentration, problem solving, emotions, learning, memory, language and judgment. And similar to muscle training, these regions get stronger the more you use them.

To spend conscious family time together

For children, it is not only important to explore new places and be distracted from the stressful everyday life and routine of playing together. Being together is especially important. And we all do.

In an interesting study from 2017, “What does it mean to feel loved”, researchers found that people feel most loved when they are together. Interactions with others are crucial. This includes physical closeness, receiving sympathy or being told kind words. All of this makes us feel loved. Which gifts tend to make less.

Childhood memories are more important than expensive gifts

This is certainly one of the reasons why many seniors can often remember their childhood vacations and less what was under the Christmas tree each year. Child psychologist Sunderland emphasizes that childhood memories provide an emotional foundation that is crucial in adulthood when dealing with problems, being stressed, sad, worried or anxious. Positive memories act as “anchors” that bring comfort to children when life takes a different turn.

Maybe a reason to buy a toy smaller for your next birthday and alternatively give experience-oriented gifts, such as an activity together on holiday. Where it goes is not important. The only important thing is to create happy memories, no matter where – the most important thing is that there is a lot to discover.

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