Spring break season is finally here. If you’re a parent, there’s a good chance you’re packing up the little ones and heading out to the beach, the mountains or another favorite vacation spot. However, if a family vacation wasn’t on your radar this year, you may want to start planning next year’s trip. Family vacations have been proven to be incredibly valuable to child development. Not only can family vacations boost long-term happiness, but they can also provide children – and adults – with high levels of social, physical and sensory exploration.
Sure, going on a vacation is bound to put your child in a better mood. After all, they’re escaping the everyday drudgery of reading, writing and arithmetic. However, the cognitive benefits of family vacations go far beyond a short-term mood boost. Exploring new places allows children to interact with new people, new food and even new languages. This benefits kids’ cognitive skills in several ways. First, it increases their confidence and improves their social and interpersonal skills, opening kids up to new ways of living and helping them relate better to the world around them. Additionally, new experiences can activate the genetic expressions in the frontal lobes of your child’s brain. That, in turn, enhances the brain’s executive functions – functions like stress regulation, attention and concentration. Activating the frontal lobes can also contribute to good planning, learning and adaptation skills, as well as overall improved mental health. Finally, studies have shown that children who travel get higher grades in school than those who don’t.
If you’ve caught the travel bug, you know that experiencing new places provides a rich canvas of curiosity – no matter how old you are. Over time, experiences like family vacations can strengthen your relationship with your children in a way that material gifts can’t. Children who enjoy quality time with family in exciting new places are more likely to maintain stronger bonds with family members. Those cherished memories are the best gifts money can buy.
While kids may be tempted to spend their spring break indoors playing video games, a vacation is a great way to get active as a family. Active vacations that include hiking, camping or other outdoor activities can be a great way to promote lifelong healthy habits. Of course, that also applies to parents. A host of studies have highlighted the potential cardiovascular health benefits of taking a vacation. One trial produced by the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial for the Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease followed 12,000 men with a high risk for coronary heart disease. The study followed the subjects for nine years, concluding that subjects who took frequent annual vacations were 21 percent less likely to die from any cause and were 32 percent less likely to die from heart disease. Those are staggering statistics. Overall, getting out and exploring new places has major health benefits for every member of your family.
From cognitive benefits to a reduced chance of heart disease, the benefits of family vacations can’t be overstated. Haven’t planned a family spring break trip this year? No need to fret. You can reap the same benefits by taking your family to explore a new part of your city, enjoy an urban hiking trip or try an exciting new restaurant.
Want to find out about other ways to encourage lifelong wellness for you and your family? Reach out to Kare Health and Wellness in Springfield, Missouri at 417-881-4994. Our goal is twofold: to improve your immediate health and prevent future health issues through functional family medicine in Springfield Missouri.