We’ve picked up our travel considerably over the past 2 years and with that, I’ve watched my kids go from water babies playing in the sand to incredibly intrigued adventurers. They manage to turn an experience which some may consider just ‘play’ into something extraordinary and highly educational.
So in my observations, I’ve come up with 7 ways to make a family vacation educational using executive function skills – the skills that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions and juggle multiple tasks successfully. The idea is to highlight how essential these skills are in childhood development – shaping your little one’s future self.
Last weekend, Adalyn (age 7) asked if she could research our upcoming vacation to San Luis Obispo. She was curious about the food, activities and landscape. So I set her up on my Macbook and she spent a good hour googling ‘San Luis Obispo + Kid Friendly’ and came up with heaps of info that she noted in her travel journal. She then shared her findings with the rest of us, creating even more excitement for the trip.
We’ve all heard it, our kiddos are like sponges, soaking up everything they come across. Intentional research before a vacation can not only build anticipation, but create ongoing talking points and a valuable educational outline (without seeming like ‘homework’).
As I just mentioned, Adalyn uses a travel journal to document our experiences, whether it’s a 2-hour road trip or a 6-hour flight, she always has two things on hand – a journal (or notepad and pen) and her camera (a hand me down that is now being revived!). Using the executive function skill of memory, she reflects on the daily adventures while traveling, and she continues to update her journal even after we’ve returned.
Allowing your child to take photos on vacation, whether it be on your phone or even a disposable camera allows their independent creativity to thrive. It’s also interesting to see a vacation through a child’s eyes…what do they find fascinating? It’s often something adults overlook. Take it a step further and have them create a photo album when you return home, maybe work together and use the executive function skill, teamwork!
Kids have the magic ability to turn almost anything into a game. Use it to your advantage! Create a ‘look and find’ game allowing siblings (or friends) to be on teams (kids vs. adults) and create a competition of ‘who can find…’ It works perfectly on a road trip and is another example of the executive function skill, teamwork. Of course, this originates from the ‘slug bug’ game. :)
If you’re fortunate enough to have a child that is willing to try new cuisines, then the skill of adaptability will come into play here! Whenever we travel, we always try to have at least one localized meal – something that is well-known in the region. This is a great opportunity to expand your child’s taste buds and help them become more acquainted with the culture.
In addition to food, it’s so important to expose kids to other new things…maybe they try snorkeling for the first time, or zip lining or rock climbing. Allowing them to problem solve, another executive function skill, provides the space for accomplishment, self-esteem, and pride. Encouraging our kids early on to be adventurous (in a controlled setting), sets the stage for a lifelong mindset of ‘I can do this!’
One of the most important executive function skills on vacation is self-control. There is a lot of down-time (between flights, car rides, baggage lines, etc.). Showing our children how to be patient, thoughtful and gracious is indispensable.
I’m excited to share that my friends at Primrose Schools, a national family of accredited early education and care schools who focus on Active Minds, Healthy Bodies and Happy Hearts are offering a GIVEAWAY!
10 lucky winners will receive a $250 Barnes & Noble gift card and 5 children’s books! Super easy to enter >>> Just subscribe to Primrose’s newsletter!
*Photos by Jasmine Klein Photography