Planning a child-friendly mini vacation can be a difficult task; you will want to choose a destination that will be memorable, safe and fun. With young and energetic children, families should choose destinations that offer a wide array of activities. Comprehensive research, via the Internet or your local travel agent, is integral to a safe and smart mini vacation for your family. Consider the following tips when arranging your next family trip:
Zoo or Aquarium
Zoos and aquariums introduce children to thousands of new animals and species. The majority of zoos and aquariums use creative ways to involve young children in what is usually considered a ‘look-but-don’t-touch’ environment.
- Opportunities to pet and feed the animals will allow your child to explore and discover in a hands-on way. Children may or may not recall something that is told to them, but if you allow them to do it and touch it, it will make a lasting impression.
- Make sure the zoo or aquarium offers educational programs that target young children.
- Ensure that the zoo or aquarium has a strong commitment to safety, including several first aid stations and ample security.
- Visit the zoo or aquarium Web site before finalizing your trip to make sure that it will be an appropriate fit for your young child.
- If your child is a journal writer, encourage them to journal their experiences and feelings.
TIP Read a book about animals/aquatic life with your child before your zoo or aquarium visit – this helps build excitement about the upcoming trip. Providing children with a little background regarding animals they may experience may produce a higher probability of knowledge and experiential retention.
Beach or Lake
If you are near a beach or lake, make it a day! Children love to explore sand and water–let them play in it!
- Bring a plastic magnifying glass so your little trekker can become a geologist, analyzing the sand and shells.
- If the beach you are planning to visit has a bay area, or if you are visiting a lake, rent a canoe for an afternoon and take your child for an aquatic adventure. This is a great opportunity to teach your child the importance of water safety and aquatic life – always wear life jackets.
- It is imperative to re-apply your child’s sunscreen every two hours. Shade your child from extra rays and use an umbrella and hats.
- Maintain eye contact on your child at all times, regardless of the presence of lifeguards.
- Consider painting your seashell treasures when you get home. These personalized memories are wonderful gifts for grandparents, aunts and uncles.
TIP Bring a large make-up or powder brush (with talc) for an easy, pain-free way to remove sand before sunscreen application or at the end of the day.
Museums are a great attraction for family trips. Children’s museums focus on learning through play, where children are encouraged to explore with their senses.
- Museums generally allow your little explorers to participate in activities such as working with fossils, climbing tree houses and even performing on a TV set or an opera house stage.
- Exploration centers, imagination factories, sensory stations and education-based play spaces are common attributes in many museums. Even your infant will enjoy learning.
- If it looks like a mini-supermarket, understand that to your toddler or preschooler it is a supermarket. Allow you little one to explore this environment as if it was a ‘research and development’ project.
- Does your museum display art? If it does, ask your child open-ended questions: What do you see? What colors did the artist use? How would you change this painting/sculpture?
- After your museum adventure, take a few moments with your child and draw or sculpt (with dough or clay) a memory.
TIP Allow your child to explore every facet of the museum. The museum’s design is based upon research in child development; even the ‘silliest’ activity may improve a developmental skill.