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The Importance of Buying Less Toys and Taking More Family Vacations

If you don’t have a family vacation on your calendar yet, it might be time to start planning one.

Sure, kids are always going to beg for the hot new toy that has hit the market. And I don’t mean to discourage parents from buying any toys for their kids. Can you imagine the disappointment if they didn’t have any presents to open on Christmas morning?

Maybe We Should Spend Less on Toys, More on Vacations

But there is something to be said for spending less on those plastic playthings that inevitably end up forgotten at the bottom of a pile after kids lose interest with them. Face it: we spend a lot on those objects. A new study by the Toy Industry Association shows that the average American home has 71 toys, with a whopping 10 percent of homes having over 200 toys.

Instead, parents should think about spending less on material things and spending more on the experience of a family vacation. These trips aren’t just fun, but they are also important for a kid’s emotional growth as well. Family vacations have been shown to have a profound and lasting impact on a child’s overall happiness and well-being.

Traveling is Beneficial to Kids’ Brain Development

Traveling with your kids can advance their brain development, and it’s not just about them learning while on vacation. When on vacation, you are exercising the “play” and “seeking” systems in your brain’s limbic area, which go somewhat unused at home on a regular basis. By activating the “play” system, we are supporting their capacity to play, and activating the “seek” system supports their explorative urge.

The more we activate these systems in our children’s brains, the more they will become part of their personalities. This translates into helping them develop the ability to explore and play with ideas once they become adults.

“Happiness Anchors”

Family vacations help children build lasting, positive memories. In fact, most adults will choose a childhood family trip as their favorite happy memory, as opposed to the time they received a gift, or the time they played with a toy. The memories of our experiences tend to last longer. Long after the sand has been washed away, your kids will continue to remember the way that they felt.

As adults, your kids will be able to reflect on happy memories of time spent together as a family, which can be a powerful tool to help get them through tough times later in life. According to the director of the Family Holiday Association, John McDonald, “by using these memories as an anchor to take us back to more cheerful moments, we’re often able to approach problems with a fresh sense of perspective.”

Family Vacations Are Just Plain Fun

The most important reason to hop in a car (or plane, or train, or boat!) with your family is really because it’s just good, plain fun. Scientifically, heading out for a family vacation will trigger those well-being neurochemicals, like dopamine, oxytocin, and opioids. These chemicals will make you feel more relaxed, and activate those warm, feel-good feelings.

Plus, it could be a lot of fun to surprise your kids with a family trip reveal! Imagine all the ways you could break the news, and watch the anticipation build as you get closer to your vacation date.

This article was originally published on and is republished with permission.

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