The holiday season means family get-togethers and travel to relatives' houses. Whether by train, car, or plane, travel time can be stressful with young children. Navigating the busy airport or anticipating a long road trip with "bored" kids often drains the joy from the journey itself. But it doesn't have to feel that way. Traveling can actually be a wonderful learning adventure. It will take some advance planning and patience, but the outcome will be worth it.
Travel time is an excellent time to focus children's attention, observe what they're curious about, and stoke their interest in different subjects. And since learning is everywhere (not just in the classroom), this can be motivating and fun! This informal learning is what happens "in the moment" and helps deepen learning experiences. So, how can you make your family's travel time a learning adventure? Here are five things you can to do to build a little playful and informal learning into your trip.
1. Bag of Fun
Get a small backpack or bag and ask your child to fill it with things that he likes to play with, including books, puzzles, paper, crayons, and favorite small toys. You can also include a device such as a tablet, but be sure to include other items to help with variety and keep your child engaged.
Start a trip journal before you leave and add it to the bag of fun! Get out art supplies and paper. Ask your child to draw the things she'll need to pack, and make a simple map or add pictures about where you will go. During the trip ask your child to add to it each day. As you travel, talk about what might go in the journal: a snapshot, a used boarding pass, a brochure, etc. Adding to the journal each night is a great way to process memories before going to bed.
3. Chatter Box
Some of the best learning happens when you talk about what you're doing, seeing, and even smelling. Engage your child by talking about what piques his interest. Discuss how the plane gets off the ground, tell a story about the first time you ate something interesting on a trip, ask questions about what he is looking at. Take pictures or help your child make drawing and notes in his journal. Try not to pick up your smartphone as often, and talk to each other more.
4. Let's Vote!
Being able to make choices and decisions is an executive function skill that can be developed at an early age. You can help your child by creating a family voting game. Make simple cards or use a show of hands and start voting on where you'd like to eat, favorite place you've visited so far, or how much time you get to spend on devices. You can make choices as well. Do we want pretzels or popcorn for a snack? Discuss why you chose what you did.
5. Screen Time
Resorting to apps and devices is an inevitable way to help pass the time, so before you load up with games for the road or plane trip, select a few where you child will learn while playing. Here are a few apps that will keep your child engaged and help build skills: Curious World (multiple skills), Clever Kids First Puzzles (critical thinking), Lazoo Art Box (creative expression) and Alien Assignment (problem solving).
Safe travels and enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Share your family travel tips and stories with us on Facebook!