Now that our boys are past the toddler stage, we have been choosing destinations and daytrips that help them learn more about our world and the people we share it with. Last Summer we visited a lot of historic sites to give them an appreciation of the incredible events that paved the way for how we live today. But the learning that they were able to do while we were exploring new places wouldn’t have been possible if we hadn’t help them learn a little more at home.
Here are 5 ways that you can help your child learn more while they are on vacation:
Pre-research your location or city: When we made the decision to visit Washington last Summer I knew the trip would only be a partial success if my boys didn’t know the significance of the city. About 4 weeks before our trip we sat down and started to learn more about the city, it’s history, it’s relevance to the country and of course, the judicial system. And while I know this seems like a lot of information to cover with a 4 and 8 year-old, I managed to present it in a way that they picked it up quickly. We started with George Washington and worked our way down to Obama. The whole month of August felt like Washington History month here at the Arneill residence, but it worked. Both kids loved visiting the city because they could actually pick out some of the locations that we had learned about and spotted a few that we didn’t have time to touch on. To add an extra cool twist to our trip, we were there during the Martin Luther King, 50th anniversary of his “I have a dream” speech.
Take the Tour – I will admit I prefer to explore a location on my own rather than take a tour because I sometimes find that tours can be time consuming and the kids start to fade half way through. This past Summer while visiting many historical locations, it was mandatory to take a tour in order to see the building or site and we learned a lot. We often lucked out and only ended up on tours with less than 10 people, but all of the guides did a great job of bringing each site to life. We learned little details that weren’t noted anywhere else and were really able to get a good feel of the place and it’s history. Looking back some of the sites the boys enjoyed the most were the ones that we chose to take the guided tour.
Let the kids pick – While visiting different museums and attractions we picked up lots of pamphlets from the visitor centers. While we were driving my boys would look through them and pick out which places looked interesting to them. At first I thought their requests would be filled with amusement parks but I was wrong. They asked to go to some pretty cool spots. The upside to this was that they were more excited when we got there because they picked it!
Help them map the route – Grab a map and locate your destination. Plan your route and show your kids the direction you are going in and some of the places you’ll pass on your way. This is great to do if you are traveling an hour away or 10 hours. It’s important for kids to know where and how you are getting to your destination. This also gives them a better idea of where their city sits in relation to other main cities, provinces, and states. For us it also helps them mentally prepare for how long they are going to be in the car.
Give them a camera and let them capture their adventure – I am normally the photographer in our family, but over the last year I have been handing the camera off to the kids to see what they capture. My oldest was gifted an underwater camera for his birthday last year so that has come in handy to help him document pool or beach days. This also gives them a better appreciation of what they’re seeing and allows them to capture the moments that interest them the most. Plus, after they get some practice they may capture you living in the moment.
*It’s important to note that if you are going to do this they should have their own camera so that there’s no passing back and forth, which could prevent someone from ‘missing a moment’.
Tie the destination’s significance into how we live today – Most destination’s come with some history. Whether it is a building that was inhabited hundreds of years ago or a coastal town that has been popular for vacationers for 50 years help your kids understand what makes that place special and how that ties into our lives now.
Whether you learn more about your town, state or another country it’s important for kids to understand the world around them and visiting historical sites, national parks, local museums and attractions gives them a better appreciation of how much our world has changed over the past couple hundred years. Often real life experiences will ignite kids to want to learn more about an era or subject. For us that happened last March when we visited the Royal Ontario Museum. We were there to see the Dinosaur exhibit, but while walking through the Egyptian exhibit my son became obsessed with the time period, the tombs, rituals and their lifestyle. It was totally unexpected, but for the next three weeks he picked through books and documentaries about Egypt and learned so much.