By Lani Aquino
Everyone has heard the stories of families that spend a year or more traveling and exploring the world with their kids. There are abundant educational takeaways to be found in venturing beyond our current zip codes and allowing children to experience new places and cultures. While the yearlong travel forays are only affordable for a select few, a more budget-friendly alternative can also have some lasting impacts on children’s learning and understanding of the world around them. Putting an educational spin on vacation doesn’t mean parents have to trade in the beach for a battlefield. Parents can add some engaging learning experiences to a vacation or staycation with any or all of these tips.
Research It- Before any trip occurs, there is typically some research that goes into it. The 3 A’s of Affordability, Accessibility, and Attractions are usually the key indicators in destination selection. Have kids assist or depending on their ages take the reins on using the 3 A’s research lens. Kids could even propose select destinations in a short report highlighting the 3 A’s. When kids get an idea of all the preparation that goes into trip planning, they are often more appreciative of the experience too.
Memory Books- This activity could be a family or individual task. A photo album from the Dollar Store could suffice as the template, or craft lovers could really go all out on this one. By capturing experiences with photos, treasured souvenirs, informational pages (e.g., restaurant menu, event program, attraction flyer), scripted memories, symbolic items (g., leaf from a hike, ticket from an arcade, wristband from an event), and more, a memorable vacation can come to life over and over again. These books could then be used to assist in choosing highlights for planning similar or different trips in the future.
Daily I Spy- Depending on the ages of the children, I Spy items could change in complexity. Kids could be tasked with finding 10 examples with a particular shape, color, letter, word, concept (g., energy efficiency, economy, government), etc. in the environment being explored. Families could also focus on finding or instituting acts of kindness in their new surroundings. All of these options require paying close attention to a new environment which is a beneficial skill to hone.
Same & Different- Part of learning to appreciate different cultures and communities is embracing their similarities and differences to our own. Look for the differences in the towns and communities and venture out of the everyday routines and choices to encounter them. Try different foods and activities, but make connections to these newfound experiences and flavors and those that are usually encountered on a daily basis.
Plan It- Let a different family member plan each day or have pairs work together in planning. This can be a sun up to sun down experience. With a set budget, planners can choose activities, restaurants, transportation needs, etc. This holds twofold benefits with one being the development of time management, planning, and organizational skills and the second being the assurance that travelers get to have a voice in making choices with a personal and high-interest appeal.
Take a Tour- Tours can be self-directed or guided. This is where one of those battlefields could possibly make its way into the activity rotation, but there are loads of other options for tours at nearly any vacation destination or staycation option. Guided tours offer travelers unique information about an area or establishment being visited. Mapping out a personalized tour is also a fun way to ensure that all the must-sees are experienced by the family. As kids view other communities, cultures, and/or attractions, they are getting exposure to more unique ideas, perspectives, and ways of life. Stepping into another’s comfort zone by leaving their own gives kids that more well-rounded component that can often be lacking.
Build Relationships- One of the best things to do on a family vacation, staycation, or anything in between is spend quality time with kids. Nothing can help them more in their educational and life pursuits than having a supportive home environment. Don’t spend what can be quality family time looking at individual screens. Build the memories and relationships that will be lasting long after the sunscreen is stowed away and the binoculars get returned to their case. The most rewarding takeaways from time spent together aren’t the ones that can be replicated in a classroom.
First and foremost, family vacations should be about quality time spent together. Once that component is factored into the equation, adding some learning opportunities is a great way to bring some educational benefits to an enjoyable trip. Any or all of these 7 ideas can have families making time for learning while they’re making irreplaceable memories.
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