Children are curious by nature. Less cautious and more open-minded than us adults, they are able to transcend language barriers and make friends when presented with the opportunity to. Over the course of our travels with kids, we have witnessed how they are able to socialize easily with other children and adults, regardless of nationality.
So, what are some ways you can help your children to make friends while on vacation?
1. Stay in family-run accommodation
With platforms like AirBnb and HomeAway, travellers can now stay with hosts in a vacation rental rather than in hotels. When we stayed at a family-run hostel in Otaru and their family, our boys helped “babysit” the hostel owner’s 1 year old son, who bounced around behind our boys throughout the hostel. He was so happy to have other kids coming to play with him!
The owner of the farmhouse that we stayed at in Kyoto also bought little toys for the boys which he picked up from the local supermarket while doing his grocery shopping.
2. Find a hotel with a Kids Club
If you are not comfortable with staying in vacation rentals, no worries. Many hotels and resorts these days have a Kids Club for children to gather and mingle during their stay.
If you stay long enough in the hotel or resort, pretty soon your children would be friends with the other children at the Kids Club – and also the staff!
3. Dine in a local home
If you like the idea of visiting a local home, but you’re not comfortable with staying under the same roof as the host, no worries. What if I told you that you could still visit a local home where you will be treated to a home-cooked meal by your host? BonAppetour links travelers to carefully curated hosts who will serve you a delicious meal and wonderful memories.
Send a message to hosts in the city you are visiting to find out if they are able to host your family with children, and where available, pick out hosts who have children of their own. They will be more than happy to have your children over as playmates for their own children! When we were in Phuket, the boys not only made friends with our host’s daughter, they ended up having their own kids-only ice-cream party in the room!
4. Go on a cruise
When you are moving from city to city on a single cruise ship for a few days, you can’t help but make friends with fellow passengers on the same ship. Many cruise ships have organised activities for children on board, and your kids will get to interact with children from all over the world through playgroups (for babies and toddlers) and adventure clubs (for older children).
Chances are that they would even make friends with the friendly waiter who serves you dinner every evening!
5. Join a class for children
Before visiting a city, google around for classes for children. Enrol your child in a kids cooking class like a macaron-making class in France or pizza and pasta-making class in Singapore. If you’re visiting a ski resort in winter, send your kids to the ski school.
These are perfect opportunities for children to not only make friends, but to learn something new!
6. Visit a local festival
A local festival is where everyone lets loose, and locals and travellers alike gather at a common place to mingle. When we were visiting the Hokkaido Shrine Festival, we took a seat along a stream together with the locals to enjoy the food we bought, and our boys went to make friends with the Japanese boy sitting next to them.
Despite the language barrier, they even traded some of their candy floss for the boy’s crackers!
7. Visit a playground
Many kids-friendly attractions around the world have dedicated playgrounds for children. For example, the Singapore Zoo in Singapore and Zoorasia in Yokohama have wonderful playgrounds! If the attraction you are visiting has a playground, allocate ample time for the visit to allow your children to play at the playgrounds.
They will have a great time mingling with other children, and will be much happier than if they were rushed from point to point to check off the attractions you have on your list (admit it, you have that list).
8. Queue up
I know many people complain about the long queues at attractions like Tokyo Disneyland and Kidzania. But being stuck in the queue – with other kids – is one of the best time for (bored) kids to make friends.
Ditch the smartphone and force your child to try to entertain himself or herself while in line. Chances are, your child will start making friends with the people in front or behind you. Try it!
Over to you
We hope that these tips will enhance your travels by creating opportunities for your children to interact with people from around the world and learn more about the country you are visiting. However, always exercise due vigilance, and keep your children under close supervision at all times.
While it is great to socialize, continue to be alert to possible dangers, and teach your children to be cautious and never follow their newfound friends anywhere without you.