Now that our swim and dive seasons are officially over, it’s time for a few good family day trips. And our close proximity to Washington, DC, Baltimore, and Annapolis mean that we have a boatload of day trip options at our fingertips.
My friends at Melissa and Doug have been focusing on travel all summer in their Traveling With Kids: Tips & Tricks series. It’s been a riot to follow, but now I’m ready to do some traveling myself!
No matter where you live, there’s bound to be some nearby mini-road trips for your family to enjoy, and there’s no better time than summer to put on your adventure boots. Or flip-flops.
Perhaps it’s a nearby farm, museum, or historic building. Even exploring a new-for-you town or sporting event can be a great day trip. If you’re close to a bigger city, visitors’ centers, newspapers, or local family blogs can give you a good starting point.
When Maddy, Owen, and Cora were tiny, my ‘job’ for our local MOMS Club was to organize tours of local businesses. With only a quick call to the manager or owner, we were given super-fun, behind-the-scenes looks at bakeries, flower shops, recycling centers, farms, ice-cream shops, and more–all within a 5-mile radius!
It was a blast.
Here’s the skinny. . .
- How to Make the Most of a Day Trip to the Museum, Farm or Amusement Park: No matter where you choose to go, day trips are ideal for sneaking in some fun learning before, during, and after the adventure.
Before the trip: Before the trip can mean before you even get in the car or it can mean time in the car. Either way, there’s fun learning to be had!
- Doing pre-event research. Visit the farm, museum, or city website, and find some kid-friendly resources. Many sites have ‘Before You Go’ sections that help to prepare young children for their visit. Print out maps, view photos, and let your child in on the fun! It’s about activating schema–getting brains ready for the learning they’ll be doing by talking about what they already know about a topic. Once they get to the location, children can more easily connect what they know to what they’re learning!
- Using travel time. Time in the car (or on the bus, metro, or train) is great time for learning. Try traditional travel games like the License Plate Game, Flip to Win Hangman, or Travel Bingo. Or try The Box Girls Travel Sets like we’ve done in the past.
- Checking out these 7 Pre-Trip Educational Adventures by my friend Zina of Let’s Lasso the Moon.
- Downloading the Road Trip Mini-Mag from Melissa & Doug and Highlights
During the trip: Sometimes it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by excitement on a day excursion, but taking time to focus on the learning opportunities can help kids to slow down and really appreciate where the adventure!
- Asking for information. When you arrive, ask for brochures, fliers, maps, or free resources for families. Most often, locations are happy to share what they’ve created, and you can use them as a guide for the day, as well as for follow-up at home.
- Attending on-site events. If there are demonstrations, shows, or hands-on events for children, definitely attend them! Allowing kids to experience the location in a multi-sensory way will help them to remember, appreciate, and enjoy the learning.
- Finding beauty. Take time to point out beautiful art, buildings, signs, animals, or displays. Though we, as adults, think that kids will naturally notice these things, often they will not unless we bring it to their attention. It’s as simple as: Wow! Look at the feathers on that peacock! The blues, greens, and purples shine in the sunlight! or Can you even believe how huge this building is? It seems to reach the sky!
- Incorporating their strengths. If your child loves math, make a point of counting the butterflies you see. If she is a scientist at heart, be sure to make connections between experiments she’s conducted at home and what you see today. Loves geography? Talk about where you are and where you’re going in relation to other places he’s been.
- Reading environmental print. Read signs, labels, descriptions. Read posters, pamphlets, and anything printed in and around the area. It all counts, and it all helps build reading skills!
After the trip: Keep the energy going even when you get home. Even if it’s the day after your adventure, taking some time for reflection and follow-up is totally worth your time.
- Making Day Trip Art. Free time to create art based on the day’s adventure is a fabulous way of allowing kids to wrap up the experience and talk about what they learned. Ask kids to sit down, and together, brainstorm some of the event’s highlights. Talk about what you all loved and didn’t love, and then let them go! With a few stickers (try the Alphabet and Numbers stickers and Pink Sticker Collection) and drawings on the Melissa and Doug Picture Frame Pad every little drawing looks like a masterpiece.
I totally heart the works of art Maddy, Owen, and Cora created after a recent trip to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. We saw bones–big bones!–belonging to some really big animals. And we saw a rockin’ iMax movie on Surfing and Waves. Clearly they were some of my kids’ favorites.
With a little bit of planning and a tiny bit of prep, you can really sneak in learning before, during, and after any day trip–no matter where you choose to go. These few tips will surely help you maximize learning–and fun!–not to mention create memories to last a lifetime!
fyi: I wrote this post as part of the Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador program. Melissa & Doug has long created rockstar products that nurture creativity and thought in our children, which is why I am so proud to be a part of this program.
Affiliate links are used in this post.