If you ever needed proof that kids are like sponges, soaking up everything they hear…

Years ago, when we first scouted our New Zealand Cultural Walking Adventure and New Zealand Family Journey, my wife and I took along our two young boys. The trip was an eye-opener in ways we hadn’t even imagined. Between glaciers, rainforests and incredible coastline, the South Island boasts scenic wonders at every turn. But of all the sights, Jack (then 7) and Matthew (5) were most fascinated by the wildlife.

We were sure that swimming with the Hector’s dolphins-smallest in the world-would be high on their list. But so was our trip to Munro Beach to see the Tawaki (Fiordland Crested) penguins. Who knew that these little guys with the flashy yellow “eyebrows” are capable of swimming 1500 miles across the Tasman Sea? As we watched their antics, our naturalist guide from the Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge shared tales of the penguins’ incredible stamina and instinct for survival. Little did we know until later what an impact this would have on the impressionable Matthew.

New Zealand penguin

Weeks later, after we had returned home, my wife was preparing breakfast for the boys. Needing to hurry Jack, the elder son, off to school, she informed Matthew that he had no time for a second bowl of cereal. You can imagine our reaction when he began to cry and said we must want him to die. Why, we asked, would you ever think that? Because, he said-with perfect 5-year-old logic-our Kiwi guide, Ian, told the kids that the mother Tawaki penguin commonly has two babies. She raises both for awhile, then determines who is bigger and most likely to survive. Sadly, she continues to feed only the hardier one, leaving the other to die. We were quick to assure Matthew that with human mothers, this is not the case!

Granted, not all of our guides’ stories are open to such dramatic interpretation. But it does go to show how a fascinating fact makes a lasting impression, no matter how young (or old) we are. On our Family Journeys, we’re fortunate to have a team of local guides-native to each region-who know precisely how to bring out the “Wow!” for kids and grown-ups alike. And that includes teenagers normally prone to “been there, done that” ennui.

If you’ve encountered a defining moment or memory on your travels-especially from your kids’ point of view – I’d love to hear it. Drop me a line at blog@classicjourneys.com. And if you’d like more information about our New Zealand Family Journey, please click here.