Summer travel with elementary age children requires a bit of planning and preparation to make sure that your children are engaged and having fun. As children get older, they are more likely to be interested in history, culture, and even the arts. Interested at their still very egocentric level, but interested. They also become more vocal, opinionated, and as you approach teenage years, moody.
Keeping a child engaged during a long trip requires balance. Balanced activities, balanced expectations. Balanced unstructured times. But it helps if your child is excited and interested in where they are going.
Sparking Interest in Travel
Tools like virtual tours of destinations and guidebooks geared towards children help create background knowledge and a thirst for more information as does looking at pictures of places you will visit. We read about and looked at many pictures of the ruins in Coba on the Riveria Mayabefore taking my daughter for the first time. By preloading the history of what we would see she was better prepared to take it all in once we got there. Children can make predictions about what they might see based on the picture and then see if their prediction was right once they are there.
For example, last summer before traveling to Colonial Williamsburg, my daughter and started reading The Colonial Caper Mystery at Williamsburg. These travel mysteries by Carole Marshinclude scavenger hunts that gave us things to be looking for as we explored. Another book series that can be of interest to children in early elementary school is the Magic Tree House series by Mary Osborne Pope. The books are works of historical fiction, but are great to read to cultivate interestes in foreign lands and history.
Before exploring Mount Vernon this spring we took the virtual tour online to plan out our trip. The virtual tour gave us an idea of what to expect instead of being overwhelmed with facts and tidbits once we got there. After our trip we went back to the virtual trip to learn more about what we had not been able to see.
Fostering Educated Travelers
As we prepare for an almost three week trip to Italy we have gotten a large map and marked our destinations and routes. We will be getting city maps as well that show landmarks so that we can keep track of what we have seen and done. At the moment, my daughter is learning more about the geography of Italy from the Maps4kidssite and especially loves it when she learns something that her real life Italian Mamma does not know.
Another great source of learning and travel prep for destinations in the United states are the Which Way USA by Highlights magazines that combine facts and map learning with riddles and games. Kids Discoveris another magazine aimed at kids that goes into detail about countries, cultures, and more.
In the end, travel is all about learning. We cannot expect our children to want to spend all day in a museum, but we can give them balanced hands on experiences that will them make the most of their travels at a young age.
Elena shares her stories about living life, one moment at a time at Ciao Mom.