It All Starts with Planning
Get the kids involved with planning the journey. Most vacations are family affairs, and you want to have the kids excited about the process (they’ll usually behave better when they’ve invested time and effort). These ideas work for planning an imaginary trip just as well as a real one.
Start with a family brainstorming session. You know the budget (or set a pretend one), and have a general idea of where you’d like to land. From there, get family input on what they’d like to do. You’ll likely hear ideas ranging from swimming to amusement parts, from hiking to sightseeing. Negotiating and compromising are very important life skills, and they actually will help your child function better with educational and employment tasks, as well. There are very few learning or work settings where people are never expected to work collaboratively or be on committees. Any skills you can promote in that regard will be a help to your kids.
Once you have a general destination (or at least a direction) in mind, it’s time to turn the young ones loose on researching possible attractions. Even the youngest kids, who aren’t ready to research on their own, can get involved. Look online or at travel information together. I remember my youngest actually choosing the hotel for one of our trips-she was about three and looked over a brochure we had picked up for free at a travel agency. She spotted a picture of a children’s slide at a kiddie pool in one of the hotels under consideration and latched right on to it. The hotel was already on the list of our possibilities, so we figured “Why not?” To this day (and she’s now nearly 21), she remembers that vacation and how thrilled she was to have “picked the hotel”. It made the trip memorable for her even at a time when memories can be quite questionable.
At any rate, getting the kids involved in researching and making choices about your destination, accommodations and itinerary will not only help them feel that they have a say in the trip, but also will provide ample opportunities for watching and learning about research skills. These, of course, are needed as they move through school-related tasks from elementary through college, and then as they set out to learn things they need as adults. Sound research skills are vital to becoming informed consumers, knowledgeable patients, and active voters and citizens.
After getting a rough outline of the trip, it’s time to do some serious planning. Kids will exercise math skills and logic skills, map skills and more as they plot a course across counties, states or country on a road map, apply budget constraints to their ideas, and figure out how long it will take to go from one point to another.
As you travel, it’s time to have the kids keep track of the money being spent and help make decisions about “extras” along the way. Give everyone a small budget for their own desires, like souvenirs, and many lessons will be learned about delayed gratification and wise spending. Many children get their first taste of budgeting when they spend their allotted vacation cash on some trinket the first day, then find something they wanted even more on the third stop. Just make sure you don’t “rescue” them too much, or the lessons quickly get lost.
Everyone should keep a journal about the travels, as well. Writing a quick paragraph each night before retiring might be the best way to get the job done, and when the trip is just a memory, the record will be a great souvenir. And if this is just a dream vacation, the journal can be all the more fun to keep-what would have been the perfect day if you were really visiting these destinations?
So you see, summer family vacations, real or imagined, can be great opportunities to keep young minds active and to build not only academic skills, but life skills. Enjoy your trip!
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