Springtime often means sunshine and warm breezes, park play dates and bike rides.
But it also means rain boots and umbrellas. Long and lazy afternoons inside, waiting for April showers to end so May flowers can bloom.
For those times when Mother Nature keeps us in check, why not consider ‘virtual travel’ instead? A little exploration without leaving home?
Go away. But don’t really go away.
So many of the toys around our home can inspire further exploration, a little research into the who, what, why, where, when, and how. Many of our puzzles, books, and games have sparked in our kids’ minds questions and the need for further exploration.
I’m betting it’s the same for you.
This time, when questions arise, consider taking your kids on a virtual vacation.
Here’s the skinny. . .
- Virtual Travel–Explore Without Leaving Home: Some of the images on our everyday toys are just what my kids need to get their imagination going.
Did these dinosaurs really live and hunt together like in this picture?
Is there a place in the world where under the sea animals look like this?
No way these kinds of bugs are in the rainforest–I don’t believe it!
Is this what a savannah really looks like?
So rather than just throw Maddy, Owen, and Cora in front of the computer with ‘Google’ in front of them, I thought I’d take them on a little ‘virtual vacation’ of sorts.
When I was in the classroom, one of my favorite ways of activating schema–or even building schema–for my students was by taking them on a ‘virtual tour’ of a setting, event, or idea related to a text we would soon read. It was a great way of getting students familiar with concepts that they would encounter in a text without the hassle of setting up a field trip.
Why not do the same thing with my own children? I thought that surely the internet has a wide range of virtual trips for folks to explore these days? And I was correct.
So when kids are playing with the toys you have at home, enjoying the peace and challenge of a puzzle on one rainy afternoon, take them a bit further.
Take them on a virtual trip, and I’m sure they’ll never look at things the same way.
- Under the Sea: When playing with the Under the Sea Puzzle, take it a step further by visiting the 360° tour on the UnderSea Hunter. We like the Deep Sea cam, which is awesome.
- In the African Safari: The Safari Floor Puzzle is a favorite in our house. Watching any of these live AfriCams gives you the idea of what it could be like. Live streaming in some of the most dangerous parts of Africa. Yikes.
- Voyage through the Solar System: The Solar System Floor Puzzle has been completed countless times, but the kids will never look at the sky the same after experiencing NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System virtual tour. It’s a 3D tour of real NASA mission data. It’s incredible.
- Run Free with Horses: The River Run Puzzle, horses running free is a hard virtual tour to find, but the closest thing to mirror that event is the Chincoteaque Pony Swim every summer in Virginia. Ponies running free and swimming. Bam.
- Rain Forest Adventure: The Rain Forest Floor Puzzle is also a favorite of my kids’ because every time they complete it, they seem to find a new, strange animal on it. We love, love the interactive Rain Forest site from MSU and the Virtual Tours from World Land Trust.
- Dinosaurs Roam the Earth: Gulp. I admit I am more comfortable with the End of an Era Floor Puzzle than I am actually exploring the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History virtual tour of the paleobiology floor! Even the Melbourne Museum’s Dinosaur exhibit makes my knees feel weak!
This spring, when weather keeps us indoors–or even if we just feel the need for a little getaway–go virtually. You’ll be so glad you did!
Where are your favorite spots to travel virtually? I’d love to hear ’em!
fyi: This post was written as part of the Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador program. All opinions are my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and parent and longtime toy lover.
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