Having a home filled with toys, scattered around the place, is something you will miss when your kids grow up.
Yet, let’s admit it, it is not the most pleasant sight when you enter the room after a long day at work.
Well, we have some good news!
Instead of splurging on toys, you should invest in vacations and experiences, experts suggest.
According to child psychotherapist Dr. Margot Sunderland, vacations are a way to invest in your child’s brain development:
“This is because on a family holiday you are exercising two genetically ingrained systems deep in the brain’s limbic area, which can all too easily be “unexercised” in the home. These are the PLAY system and the SEEKING system.”
Sunderland referred to the work of Professor Jaak Panksepp, a world-leading neuroscientist at Washington State University, who discovered the PLAY and SEEKING systems.
“The brain’s PLAY system is exercised every time you bury your child’s feet in the sand, tickle them on the pool lounger, or take them for a ride on your back. The brain’s SEEKING system is exercised each time you go exploring together: the forest, the beach, a hidden gem of a village.
So when you take your child on a [vacation], you are supporting their explorative urge (SEEKING system) a vital resource for living life well, and their capacity to play (PLAY system). In adulthood, this translates into the ability to play with ideas — essential, for example, to the successful entrepreneur.”
By exercising these systems, you support the growth in the frontal lobe, which is linked to cognitive functioning, problem-solving, judgment, emotional expression, memory, and language.
Children are stimulated to explore when they visit a new pace, and this activates the SEEKING system.
Yet, apart from encouraging the brain development of your kids, by exercising their PLAY and SEEKING systems, you will also boost the general happiness and well-being of the family.
The body releases more neurochemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, and opioids, and they boost closeness, activate generous feelings towards each other, lower stress, and improve mood.
Panksepp calls them “nature’s gift to us”, and explains:
“We can choose activities and pursuits that release the oxytocin stored in our own inner medical cabinet…We have this wonderful healing substance inside us and need only to learn the many ways we can draw upon it.”
According to a 2017 study, published in The Journal of Social and Personal relationships, time together is what makes people feel most loved. Researchers discovered that people feel most loved not when they receive gifts, but when they interact with others.
One of the researchers, Dr. Zita Oravecz, said:
“Our research found that micro-moments of positivity, like a kind word, cuddling with a child, or receiving compassion make people feel most loved.”
Family vacations are an ideal way to spend quality time with your loved ones, away from distractions, stress, and responsibilities of everyday life.
Therefore, instead of buying the next toy you see for your child, try to save some money to create meaningful, long-lasting memories that will strengthen your bonds and bring joy to the entire family.
Remember, creating bonding rituals and traditions for your kids to look back will boost their happiness much more than buying them another toy or a gadget.
As psychological author Oliver James pointed out:
“Give a 2-year-old a present and she’ll get absorbed in the box instead. It’s similar with children and travel. We should let them explore their own ways of finding wonder in their surroundings.”