Vacation: A Learning Experience
Revised November 2008 by Kathleen A. Olson, Extension Educator — Family Relations; reviewed March 2016 by Lori Hendrickson, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency.
Children learn from all the experiences you provide for them outside of school. The more positive and constructive learning experiences children have outside of school, the better they do in school. And there is probably no better time for you and your children to learn than when you're on vacation. Everyone is together, everyone is ready for an adventure, and, in many cases, everything is new. Here are some strategies for getting the most out of a family vacation.
Before the Trip
Check out library books or the Internet to gather information about what you will visit. Here’s how children can help you plan the trip:
- Each child can investigate one aspect of the trip and report on it during the trip to the rest of the family.
- One family member can plan one day of the trip, or one outing.
- Take turns making decisions on where or what to eat or deciding on what excursion to take. Parents can provide some guidelines for cost or time allowances.
For younger children, a parent can read about the area or site while riding in the car. They can help with other parts of planning by figuring out a route and tracking it on a map or by making a list of things to pack.
During the Trip
Once you're on the trip, you have multiple opportunities for your children to learn:
- Your children can serve as navigators and keep a trip log.
- Sharpen observational skills with car games like "I spy with my little eye, something that starts with the letter..."
- To teach financial responsibility, you can give them an allowance for souvenirs, or gifts to bring to others.
- Practice writing skills by having children buy postcards and writing to friends or family back home.
Of course, you'll want to see, and talk about, some objects of interest like museums and zoos. Remember to plan some down time. Bring some books for rainy afternoons or break times.
After the Trip
Once you're back home, the trip may be over. But the learning is just beginning. Have the family put together a trip scrapbook or photo book.
Family vacations are a form of escape from the pressures of everyday life. They are valued as a time for family togetherness and for improving family communication. They can bring families together and bring about some positive sense of family by creating memories.
Shaw, S. M., Havitz, M. E., & Delemere, F. M. (2008). “I decided to invest in my kids memories”: Family vacations, memories, and the social construction of the family. Tourism Culture and Communication, 8(1), 13-26.
Rhattigan, M. (2015, June 5). Creating learning adventures out of family vacations. Scholastic Parents: Learning Toolkit.
Learning Opportunities to Discover — Get tips to help support your child’s learning away from school.
Eating on the Road (307 K PDF) — Keep your good habits by making good food choices while traveling or eating away from home.
In the Car Exercises (299 K PDF — Simple exercises that can be done in the car, air, or anywhere.