If your child spots a new dolphin while on Dolphin Explorer, Captain Chris Desmond’s dolphin spotting trip outbound from Marco Island, Florida, the child gets to name the dolphin.
(CNN) — She’s looking over the boat’s edge to spot a dolphin and record its markings. He’s digging for medieval tools in the fields around an abandoned friary. Or they’re simply hearing their native language spoken a bit differently in a different country, where the food doesn’t quite taste the same.
Travel can introduce kids to the world’s real-life wonders, changing their perspective on topics they may have only read about in books.
It can literally change their lives.
“There is a kid’s way of seeing the world,” says Keith Bellows, editor-in-chief of National Geographic Traveler magazine and author of National Geographic’s “100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life.” “As an adult, get out of the way, and stop marching them through an experience. When you get them to slow down and experience a place from their perspective, it’s magic. Not just the place itself, but the experience.”
Consider Bellows’ suggestions a step up from simply taking a vacation. He says these places could open your child’s eyes to the diversity of the world, help them learn what interests them and inform how they navigate it as adults.
Marco Island, Florida
Of course Walt Disney World is a Florida rite of passage for many children (and their parents) but there’s so much to the state that isn’t prefabricated. Marco Island is one of those places for Bellows, with beaches showing off the rusticity and charm of old Florida. Kids will love the beach and you can sneak in some science in the spectacular nature surrounding you.
Get on board the Dolphin Explorer with your children and turn them into citizen scientists. Capt. Chris Desmond, founder of the 10,000 Islands Dolphins Project, directs children to note the family compositions, behavior and even evidence of shark bites of the dolphins they spot. They give the data to adult biologists onboard who feed it into a computer. The bonus: If a child spots a new dolphin — most are already known to the crew — that child gets to name the dolphin. “Every kid wants to spot a newcomer and it happened on a trip I was on,” says Bellows.