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Making friends with ease..
I love watching Small interact with other children, especially on holiday. In fact, making friends with such ease is one of the most magical things about being a child. While I'm busy rating the service, sunset or wine list, ask Small what he likes about a hotel and the chances are he will talk about the people he's met. The waiter that cut his sandwiches into the shape of a crocodile, the butler who played hide and seek in the garden or the local kids he kicked a ball with on the beach. I didn't travel anywhere near as extensively as a child, but I still have a friendship to this day that began over a shared pain au chocolate in a tent in Biscay.
Prepare before you travel..
Exploring a place is about knowing its people, so encourage your kids to learn the language before you go. This is much easier for children than adults, though trying to master a few phrases yourself will make it more fun for all of you and will go down well if you plan to barter with the locals. Prepare by finding out about customs and traditions before you fly. If you are in India during an important religious festival, see what decorations children wear in their hair and dress yours up for the occasion. Children learn and adapt quickly, so try not to hide negative elements of the culture from them. An important turning point in Small's ability to empathize with other children came about by experiencing poverty in North Africa.
Allow children to play together..
Allowing children to simply play together is key. I usually pack some extra crayons and notepads, marbles or bouncy balls for him to share with local children. Even without a common language they always find a way to communicate through play. By making friends wherever we go, Small has been exposed to different attitudes, habits and values and is already developing a respect for other cultures. Not to mention maybe making lifelong friends in the process. That's got to be better than a kids club?
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