Young Girl standing on a log with her arms outstretched

Vacations with your kids build their brains

by Jack Penland
Updated 12/22/19

Escape!  The word conjures up visions of putting the stress, cares and responsibility away, even if just for a while.  But for children, it can be a time for intellectual growth and building a tighter family bond.

Child psychotherapist and director of London’s “Centre for Child Mental Health, Dr. Margot Sunderland says there’s scientific evidence that vacation time can be a major period of a child’s mental development.

Writing in London’s “The Telegraph” Sunderland points out the research that says on a vacation you’re using your brain differently than you typically do at home.  She says that playing with your child, something that all-to-often is neglected at home, triggers something called the PLAY response in your brain.  Also, exploring new things exercises the brain’s SEEKING system.

Kids run the maze at Lavendar Wind Farm

A Washington State University neuroscientist, Jaak Panksepp, discovered those systems and found that when activated, they trigger chemicals in your brain, AND your child’s brain that reduce stress and create a sense of well-being.  They also activate warm feelings toward each other.

She says, "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."



Both Whidbey and Camano Islands lots of family-friendly fun.  We put together a list!

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Views like this can spark anyone's imagination.

And that dreaded ADHD?  She points out research that being in nature, even for just 20 minutes, can be as good as medication for children with ADHD.

So, as you parse out your household tasks, maybe let the lawn go a time or two and seek out a short family driving vacation that neither breaks the budget, nor creates new stress.  That of course, means finding something nearby that doesn’t take you through your crowded and cranky local airport.

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