Parenting Life

Take Your Kids On Public Transportation

Boys like trucks and girls like dolls is the common adage. For my older son, this is definitely the case. He’s loved vehicles since he was very little. As I’m typing this, he’s watching an hour-long YouTube video of footage of real trains with no music or narration…and he’s completely engrossed. (It’s a bit too early to tell if our 10-month old son will have this same passion). As parents, we made no specific point to encourage our son’s interest in vehicles, but there are many articles stating there is science behind this.

If your child loves vehicles, you can also check out this post on some great vehicle-themed picture books.

Benefits of Public Transportation

If you have a child like mine who loves vehicles, it can be a bit of a process and rather expensive to regularly satisfy this passion. For example, many kids love trains and we are fortunate to live near both Strasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania and the Wilmington & Western Railroad in Delaware. Both are fantastic, but it’s not practical or cheap for us to do these on a regular basis. These are more of a special experience. What is realistic to do on a regular basis is taking local public transportation. Not only does this fulfill my son’s love of vehicles, he honestly enjoys it as much as those special train rides. It also provides incredibly valuable bonding and learning experiences.

The boys riding a local trolley.

Families who live in the city may take public transportation regularly, but for many middle-class families living in a more suburban area like us, this is a rarity. Instead, kids are exclusively shuttled in cars (often even with an electronic device in front of them; it’s simply not necessary!). Taking public transportation allows a more intimate interaction with the world around them. My son excitedly points out places and things he sees much more than he does in the car. He also gets the opportunity to observe and interact with diverse people that he would never get to do in the car. I’ve seen his genuine excitement bring a smile to passengers on many occasions. Sometimes these passengers will then interact with him or with me, and I think this is a tremendously valuable experience he’s getting. Additionally, I get to interact with my son more. I know it sounds cliche, but that father/son bonding time is really something I treasure.

Riding public transportation also provides excellent life skills such as reading maps, understanding timetables, and general navigation skills. Being an avid traveler who did a lot of it independently, I know how valuable these skills will serve him when he’s older and wants to travel and get away from his parents :-). I’ll be able to sleep more soundly when that happens knowing he has the travel savvy to be safe.

Public Transportation is Convenient and Cheap

While we still drive most of the time to get around, we try and regularly use public transportation. This may mean taking the bus to the mall or the train into the city. In many ways, it’s more convenient as traffic and parking in a city like Philadelphia can be a hassle. Have you seen Parking Wars? Did you know most of it was in Philly? Sometimes, we even ride the bus just to ride the bus. My son will ask, “Daddy, can we ride the city bus today?” This often results in us taking the bus for 30 minutes to some random store or restaurant where we can spend a little time before catching the bus going back. For us, these public transportation excursions are fun activities just like a museum or park outing. The cost is also minimal. In fact, kids are often free.

Local bus near where we live.

Get Riding

I encourage you to explore the public transportation around where you live and take your kids on it. Many people live in an area for years and know little about the local public transportation and may have never ridden it. But if you seek it out and use it, there’s a good chance that your child will be excited about the things my son loves: the beep of the train door closing, the bus stop pull cord, and the ticket machine just to name a few. Who knows, you may find yourself excited about it too.

Share Your Thoughts

Do you have your own public transportation stories or thoughts? How often do you bring your kids on public transportation? Feel free to comment below.

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