Parents, teachers, or anyone who has spent ample time with children can surely appreciate how malleable they are. Under the right conditions and guidance, those little ones can grow up to become well-rounded adults.

A mother reads to a boy and girl
Reading to your children can instill lifelong lessons © MoMo Productions / DigitalVision / Getty

Obviously education can have a huge impact. But so can travel, which is “fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,” according to Mark Twain.

Need a little help indoctrinating the kiddies? Try these – they’re some of the best picture books I’ve discovered as a parent to instill a sense of wanderlust, adventure and understanding in our children.

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The Snail and The Whale

“This is the tale of a tiny snail and a great big, gray-blue humpback whale,” writes picture book extraordinaire Julia Donaldson. More specifically, The Snail and The Whale is about an itchy footed mollusk’s desire to leave home and see far-away islands, underwater caves, and storm-filled skies, this despite the other snails’ counsel to “Be quiet! Don’t wiggle! Sit still! Stay put!” With the whale as her ride and Axel Sheffler as illustrator, this book is undeniably charming, as are Donaldson’s and Scheffler’s other masterpieces.

Beautiful Oops

It’s OK to make mistakes. Unfortunately, fear of mistakes keeps many adults from worthwhile endeavors, travel very much included. To counter this, author and illustrator Barney Saltzberg shows clumsy kids and grown-ups alike how mistakes such as spills, tears, stains and detours can turn into something wonderful. Not only are mistakes human nature and the way we learn, Saltzberg reminds us in Beautiful Oops, they’re usually the beginning to bigger and better things.

The Gardener

This heartwarming work is by Sarah Stewart in no way an endorsement of recreational travel. Rather, it's a touching story of a young girl from rural America moving to a big city during the Great Depression to live with her uncle while her parents are out of work. Told through a series of letters, The Gardener perfectly captures the spirit, anxiety and excitement of going somewhere new, being intimidated by it once you arrive, and making the most of it as you learn the lay of the land. It might not make your children want to add things to their bucket lists, but it will prepare them for doing so in a "the world isn't as scary as you think" sort of way.

Grandfather’s Journey

Written and illustrated by Allen Say, Grandfather's Journey is a deeply personal and award-winning book about one man’s love for two countries and his constant desire to be in both at the same time. Not only will it teach your child about what makes a home a home, but it will help them see the good in different places. “The more he traveled, the more he longed to see new places,” writes Say of his grandfather. “The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other.”

Sayonara, Mrs. Kackleman

This brilliant work by Maira Kalman is arguably the most fun book on this list. Told through the eyes of a brother and sister traveling to Japan, Sayonara, Mrs. Kackleman clearly demonstrates the idea of “lost in translation” and what it’s like to experience something new for the first time – white glove taxi drivers and cute generalizations very much included. From fish markets and outdoor baths to sleeping on straw flooring and a frog who writes haiku, it’s all here.

Wherever You Go

Join an adventurous rabbit and his animal friends as they journey over steep mountains, through bustling cityscapes and down long and winding roads to discover the world outside their doorstep. "When it's time for a journey, to learn and to grow, roads guide your footsteps wherever you go,” writes author Pat Zeitlow Miller. “Roads give you a chance to seek and explore. Want an adventure? Just open your door."

Want to explore more of the world from home? Check out the books from Lonely Planet Kids.  

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