Turn a family vacation into a learning journey
During long breaks such as the June and December holidays, some parents get worried that being away from school for so long will cause their kids to ‘switch off’, making it harder for them to get back into learning mode when school reopens. Hence, some send their kids for enrichment classes, workshops and camps, while others rely on tutors and stacks of assessment books to keep them occupied. However, learning and skill development can be done in myriad ways – and some of the most effective learning takes place when children are enjoying themselves!
A family trip can be so much more than just a sightseeing escapade. Being on the go means that there is much to plan, see and do, and you can turn each new experience into learning one. We share with you 8 tips on how you can turn a family trip into a memorable learning journey, complete with a unique scrapbook to seal in the memories.
- Find out more about your destination
If you’re going somewhere for the first time, get your kids, especially the older ones to do some research. Surf the Internet, browse travel books, and even ask their friends who had been there. What are some of the key attractions? What are some of the unique experiences and dishes they may wish to try?
- Get them involved in the packing
No – this is not just an easy way of getting them to do some work. Ask them to set aside what they want to bring and go through the items with them. This teaches them planning skills and to prioritise what they really need during the trip. For smaller children, packing for the trip can be a fun vocabulary and counting exercise – get them to name and count the items that go into your luggage bags.
- Learn a new language
Children are especially fast to pick up a new language, so teach them to say some basic phrases in the main language of the country that you will be visiting. They may be surprised to learn of some similarities as compared to the English language (English is well-known for ‘borrowing’ words from hundreds of languages all over the world!). Such skills would come in handy at your destination, for speaking to locals in their own language is often a good way to break the ice.
- Assign tasks to each child
Help develop their sense of responsibility by assigning each child a task, such as making sure that all the bags are accounted for if you’re moving from place to place, or helping to check that all lights and appliances are turned off before leaving a hotel room. However, bear in mind that this is after all a learning experience for them, so do give them plenty of guidance and be prepared to do the final checks on your own.
- Teach them to observe and appreciate
Young children are naturally curious – guide this curiosity so that they may make the most of their learning experiences. Where possible, encourage them to handle an object or artifact, smell or taste a local snack, or join in a traditional dance. At the end of each day, ask them what they found most interesting or enjoyable about the day’s experiences. You can even put this in writing in a family holiday journal, or record as voice snippets.
- Get them to record and collect
Many cell phones come with an easy-to-use camera function. If your child is old enough to take pictures, let him or her capture shots with a cell phone or easy-to-use camera, while you do the ‘official’ documentation with the family camera. Ask your child to take photos of places and things that interest them, which may not necessarily be the typical ‘things to look out for’ in a travel guide. In addition, ask them to look out for and keep small items that can be added to a holiday scrapbook or treasure box, such as local bus tickets, postcards from the hotel, a seed or spice from the local market etc.
- Get them to be your ‘backup’ mathematicians
Very often, travelling means dealing with on-the-spot currency exchange calculations, especially while shopping for good deals at the local shops or flea market. Though calculator functions abound in phones and PDAs, get your older ones involved when quick mental calculations are needed. You can even turn this into a game.
- Create a family holiday scrapbook or multimedia project
When you’re home sweet home, create a holiday scrapbook together with your kids, which can take the form of a physical scrapbook with photos, tickets and little objects, a slideshow or even a video. This is a great way of reliving the experiences and of bonding together as a family. Get to write a story outline documenting the various stages of the journey, and collect anecdotes from various family members so each can share their unique recollections during the vacation. Given a chance, children love to tell stories – let them describe the vacation to visiting friends and relatives with the help of a scrapbook or video, or encourage them to share their experiences with their classmates in the form of a class presentation.