introducing a destination to your child


Introducing a new place to a child is very different to introducing a new place to an adult. If you say “Paris” to most adults, they will likely think of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Champs-Élysées – regardless of whether or not they have ever visited Paris. If you say “Paris” to a four-year-old, she may think of her favorite Madeline book. But she may not realize that the Eiffel Tower exists as anything except the picture on the cover of the book.

I like to bring a destination alive to my children before we visit by reading books which are set in that location. My eight-year-old had very high expectations of Venice after reading Mary Pope Osborne’s Carnival at Candlelight. When we visited the city, he was tremendously excited to see the “real winged lion” on Basilica di San Marco (though he was a little disappointed that everyone in Venice wasn’t wearing costumes).

Reading like this works for younger children and specific topics such as art as well. For example, Debbie from DeliciousBaby talks about how she used My Name Is Georgia: A Portrait by Jeanette Winter to introduce her children to the paintings of Georgia O’Keefe before they visited the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe.


As we start pulling together ideas for our RTW trip, the WanderDad and I are both looking out for books which we can use to familiarize our children with history and culture of Asian countries – since we’re planning to start our trip in Asia. The Pet Dragon by Christoph Niemann is a colorful picture-book easily accessible to even a very young child. In it, Niemann cleverly depicts the Chinese Characters for commonly-used words within the illustrations without detracting from the story about Lin and her pet dragon.


Ji-Li Jiang’s biography, The Red Scarf Girl, about her adolescence in Shanghai at the start of the Cultural Revolution is a much more complicated story told in an authentic teenage voice. Her inital concerns about school, boys and peer pressure are quickly stripped away as the revolution takes hold and turns her life upside down. BigB read this book practically in one sitting, obviously intrigued by the story.

Do you have book recommendations for children’s books set in or about China, Japan, Thailand, Laos or Vietnam? If you do, please leave a comment with the book titles.

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About wandermom

". . .life is short and the world is wide" - Simon Raven I'm not sure I've ever consciously planned a trip based on this sentiment, but it definitely influences my subconscious! I've been traveling as frequently and widely as possible since I finished school. And I love it. I love the research, the planning, the fervent packing and the curiosity of exploring somewhere I've never been before. My husband & I are both Irish - as in born-in-Ireland. But we live in Seattle. We have two boys: wild, boisterous, regular boys. So, since becoming a Mom, I've been a WanderMom. Given our slightly-unusual family situation, routine "visits-to-Grandma" are international trips requiring passports, 10hr-flights and (oh joy!) airport transfers. I have rants, raves and opinions about how, where & why to travel with kids (start them as young as you can, I say!). I hope to learn even more by researching topics which other wandermoms may be interested in reading about on this blog. Passports, pacifiers, diapers and gameboys at the ready - off we go! Contact Info: Email Michelle: michelle (at) murphnduff (dot) org

11 thoughts on “introducing a destination to your child

  1. Sandra Foyt

    When we traveled to Vietnam, my older child was in 3rd Grade. That’s the year in our school district where they are introduced to world cultures. So, we collected a few countries for kids books like True Book Vietnam by Shirley Wimbish Gray. and Postcards From Vietnam by Denise Allard.

    We also read a few fiction books:

    Angel Child, Dragon Child by Maria Surat
    The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland
    Journey Home by Lawrence Mckay, Jr.

    I highly recommend all of these!

  2. jessiev

    how cool!! i got a lot of really great book recs from the little travelers. have your kids seen those dvds? they are GREAT!! and lovely you. yahoo!!

  3. Jane

    I love this idea. I have always done this sort of thing for long trips but never really made the effort for short adventures. My children have a great pop-up castle book and then we stayed in a castle for a few days (You can read about it on It’s called a Night at the Castle). And when my kids first went on a plane (they were very young) we read and reread “Airplanes”, a cute board book. I was trying to make them have some sort of awareness they were up in the air.



  4. jamie

    Your kids are too big for our Chinese favorites, but NO ONE is too big for Rikki Tikki Tembo in my opinion.

    When’s the trip? I half envy you!

  5. Uruguay Property

    Yes you are right introducing a new place to child is difficult as compare to and adult,the reason is that adult have more knowledge as compare to child.

  6. wandermom

    Thanks for all the references folks.
    Jamie, would you believe, I’d never even heard of Rikki Tikki Tembo ?
    Another gap in my pop-culture knowledge discovered. Obviously I grew up under a cabbage. No other explanation.

  7. soultravelers3

    As a mom with a passion about travel books for kids, this post made my heart sing! Thanks!

    I have done quite a few posts and videos on this topic on our blog and our Youtube channel. I think it is absolutely essential for traveling with young children. It helps prepare them, helps them to enjoy it reading them on location and it helps to keep the memories strong.

    Using favorite books to do itineraries is always thrilling for kids and families.

    I have book lists for kids on travel on my site ( still building as I have time) and here is a list that I started years ago on the bootsnall forum.

    Maybe there are some there that you or your readers might like!

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