Turn "Are we there yet?" and "That’s so boring" into "Cool!" and "This is fun!" while taking vacations with your children.
Amy Broemmel, assistant professor of education at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, offers parents five strategies to make vacations educational and fun.
"There are easy ways for children to stay engaged in reading, writing and math while on vacation without feeling like they are at school," Broemmel says. "Many things children enjoy are free or inexpensive, and most times they don’t realize they are learning because they are having fun."
Here are five tips:
- Do the Math — Talk to children about miles per hour and fuel mileage while traveling by car or bus. When you are traveling by airplane, ask flight attendants for information about the cruising altitude and how much gas the plane uses.
- Collect Brochures — Let children pick out several free travel brochures that are available on racks at hotels, rest stops, gas stations and restaurants. They can read the brochures and learn about culture and history, and they may even find a tourist attraction they would like to visit.
- Be a Scientist — Pack a magnifying glass (cheap plastic works fine) to examine shells, leaves, bugs and more. Ask children to describe what they see. Take along a stopwatch to see how different activities like walking, riding a rollercoaster and swimming affect heart rate.
- Listen to Audio Books — Check out children’s books on tapes or CDs from your library to listen to while traveling. Try ones with different voices like "Hank the Cowdog" or "Chronicles of Narnia." Even parents might enjoy them.
- Keep a Journal — Each night, let children jot down a few sentences about what they did that day. Some children especially enjoy using hotel stationery. For parents, it’s a way to view the trip from a child’s perspective.
Broemmel and her husband are veterans of long road trips with their children ages 12, 9 and 4. She also suggests letting children, particularly preteens and teenagers, help plan the trip.
A former elementary school teacher, Broemmel specializes in reading education and teacher preparation.