Learning While on Vacation

Our three children range in age from five to eleven. We are planning to do some traveling this year over their school breaks. Can you offer any suggestions for activities that we can do with our children while traveling?

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Travel, in itself, is a wonderful learning experience. Regardless of your destination, a trip can provide lessons in geography, meteorology, topography, map reading, math, problem solving, reading and writing. Vacations can offer excellent learning opportunities through hands-on experiences.

Prior to departure, plan out the trip on a large map. This will allow your children to see the big picture, as well as give them a sense of the geography of the region you will be visiting. Your older child may be able to calculate your family's travel time and your younger children can follow the route on the map by placing stickers at landmarks along the way.

Prepare some travel kits for your children before your departure. Items to included in the kits might be: notebooks to be used as journals, pencils, pens, crayons (use caution if traveling in the car), coloring pencils, markers, blank paper, coloring books, activity books, flashcards and reading books. These will be helpful in reducing the "Are we there yet?" questions, while stimulating the children's minds. Books on tape are also a wonderful way to pass the time, especially if you are on a long car trip.

While traveling, there are a variety of games you can play with yourchildren. For car trips, "Hangman," "I Spy" and alphabet games (using letters on signs and businesses) can be lots of fun for everyone. "Twenty Questions" can be played on an airplane, in the car, on a train or on a bus. Several game manufacturers have travel versions of their more popular games that can be purchased at toy and discount stores at reasonable prices. The children can also test each other's skills using flashcards appropriate for their particular levels.

During the trip, have your children keep a journal with daily entries.Encourage them to draw pictures of places they visit and things they see. Each picture can be accompanied by a written description. Your youngest child can try to write a word or more based on his capability The older children can write two or more sentences. Encourage them to ask you for help with spelling, but try to allow them to do their own writing.

Collecting souvenirs can be a wonderful way to document a trip. Give your children a budget to work with while on vacation that can be used to purchase postcards and other items representative of the places you visit. You may want to purchase some inexpensive notebooks or photo albums ahead of time that your kids can use for their postcard collections. Encourage them to send postcards to friends or family members, too.

Clearly there are numerous learning opportunities while traveling. Make the most of your trip and try to fit in some "brain work" wherever possible. Above all else, enjoy the time with your children. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of family vacations. Your children will remember their time off school with fond memories, too.

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