Research Shows Preschoolers Will Remember Their First Vacation

“Will they even remember it?” It’s a question parents of preschoolers often struggle with when planning family vacations and other activities.

After all, it can already be a challenge to get through everyday life. So the thought of taking one’s curious and energy-filled preschooler to an unfamiliar destination can stop parents in their tracks. And assuming your child won’t remember much of it anyway makes it even easier to brush off the idea.

But wait! Research shows that, between the ages of 3 and 5, kids actually experience quite a bit of new, cognitive development, including the ability to make and store memories. During this time, preschoolers are learning the life skills needed to acquire, store and recall information or experiences across time.

And if you need another excuse to book that hotel room, research also shows that memories are more easily recalled when the child is a participant of an event or moment, as opposed to being just an observer.

It’s when something makes a significant impression that they can successfully store that moment in their brilliant and developing mind.

toddler puzzle photo
Flickr | quinn.anya

“We assumed there would be a connection between memories and vacations, but it was surprising to learn that some of people’s most vivid childhood memories are of family vacations that happened when they were as young as 5,” said Regina Corso of Harris Interactive, who conducted a poll of more than 2,500 adults and 1,100 youth for the U.S. Travel Association.

While your curious learner might not remember the exact date they went to their first theme park, research does show they’ll remember the event or parts of the vacation. It will just be in a more mysterious and wonder-filled kind of way. Kids tend to remember things much differently than adults.

Nora Newcombe, who is a  Professor Of Psychology at Temple University and also Co-Director of their Infant & Child Laboratory, says memory is more than a mental picture. She states that one of the bigger contributions of psychology and neuroscience over the past few decades is the discovery that children like to unpack memories into different categories: explicit memory and implicit memory.

Explicit memory is how adults categorize memories, and usually involves having a conscious recall of a specific time and place. What children experience, on the other hand, is not so much about specific events, but rather more of an unconscious and emotional recollection.

So if you’re still teetering on the fence over whether or not you should take that family vacation, this might just be the best excuse to go ahead and book it. Not only will it be good for your family to get away and spend quality time together, but the entire family can benefit from making lasting memories that will be recalled and cherished for years to come.

[h/t Fatherly]