When planning our family holidays it can be easy to get caught up in scheduling our “fun” down to every last minute- trying to squeeze in as many memories and adventures for our kids as possible. This usually means padding our itinerary full of big attractions, amusement parks, and sightseeing; maybe even a museum or two. If you’ve ever come home and felt like you’re kids just weren’t themselves on your vacation, despite having all the fun in the world, you’re not alone. The truth is, they’re probably not trying to be ungrateful. Sometimes, a highly scheduled itinerary is stressful for young children and puts “adult” expectations on them, even if it’s one that’s full of kid-centric activities. To help improve this balance on your next vacation, we’d encourage you to look at how you can incorporate simple play into your next vacation for a more relaxing, enjoyable experience.
Here, we’ve compiled a quick list of tips and tricks to encouraging play while abroad and how it can improve your family holiday.
Children have brilliant imaginations and their capacity for imaginative play is inspiring. This desire to exist in a fantasy world is only encouraged by trips afar and exploring unknown places. Rather than squandering this, we as parents should do our best to provide our children more space to use their imagination and play when they are called to. Here are some quick tips for helping your children engage in imaginative play while traveling.
When children engage in pretend play, it’s like they are writing a story in their minds. Think of the story your destinations and attractions might be telling? Are these geared towards your child’s interests? A trip to the beach could inspire pirate tales, a castle visit could excite children who prefer the royal fantasy of knights and dragons. Do you have a dinosaur lover at home? Perhaps you could help them to search for fossils and pretend they are a paleontologist. You know best what your children like to imagine for themselves when playing back home, so do your best to cater to these interests abroad too. It never hurts to make a suggestion to your kids either to set them on the right track and let their imagination run wild from there.
If you want your children to play, it’s important to choose attractions/destinations where play is allowed. For example, some museums have all their artifacts behind no-touch glass. There isn’t much room for interaction ad imaginative play here. In contrast, some historical monuments still allow you to climb/walk amongst ancient ruins, or sit on top of an old war cannon. These locations will be much more effective at inspiring your children to play make-believe and have fun with their surroundings.
Children are wonderful at playing by themselves and they don’t necessarily need anyone else to play with them to keep their make-believe storyline going. That being said, your kids WANT you to play with them. If you’d like to keep the fun going, show them you’re interested in the narrative they are building and test out your acting skills. This should help them to stay invested in their games but also provide a wonderful chance for your to connect as a family and create lasting memories.
This could mean one of two things. The first would be to dress your kids in practical items they can play in. As cute as it might be to have them in matching dress shirts ad chinos for family pictures, if you’re going to spend the day fretting about it getting dirty, you will be unintentionally avoiding and interrupting their opportunity to play without reservation. In terms of imaginative play, allow your children to get into character (which may mean packing with some intention ahead of time). If you think you’ll be somewhere where you might be make-beliving as a princess, pirate, knight, mermaid, etc. there’s nothing wrong with letting your child dress the part. I’ve never met a princess-obsessed toddler who didn’t want to wear a pretty dress in a castle, and a simple eye patch can go a long way in keeping your child entertained on a boat cruise. Trust us, NO ONE is going to think it’s out of place- they will just see a child having fun and wish they still had an overactive imagination and sense of wonder.
Here’s a truth that many parents forget when on vacation. Sometimes kids just need to run and scream and get it all out. When planning activities for a holiday, we often forget to pencil in the “crazy time”. We instead pack our itineraries with structured activities and call it “play”. While these activities are fun for our children, they often require too much focus, attention, and good behavior. While we think this is allowing our children to play, it can sometimes cause a build-up of energy that needs to be let out. That’s why a great solution is to build in some time to play the way they would play back home. We often see the local playground as an uninteresting destination abroad but for our kids, it’s an opportunity to let loose, explore and interact with other children. This wild, unstructured social playtime will not only help to ensure your children are having fun, but it will likely also lead to better cooperation at more structured activities, which lessens frustrations for mom and dad.
At the end of the day, it can be easy to settle back into your hotel room, break off into your separate quarters and not really interact until it’s time for bed. But truly, your hotel room can be for so much more than washing up and going to sleep. Allow your kids to play “the floor is lava”, pack a compact family-favorite board game, have a dance party to get out the evening “wiggles” and honestly, a little supervised jumping on the bed never hurt anybody. If you need some relaxation and would prefer a quieter kind of play, why not have a hotel room “spa night” with face masks and toe polish or check-in with your concierge- some hotels may be able to arrange an in-room tea party.
Play doesn’t always need to be some big, planned activity. When traveling, there are a lot of times when you will be waiting or “in-between” the planned activities such as flights, car/train/bus rides, waiting for meals to arrive at tables, or standing in line for your morning coffee. This represents an excellent opportunity to play and connect with your little one. These little moments can form some of their greatest memories and encourage curiosity about the place you’re in. Classic car ride games such as “I spy” or “Yellow Car” can be repurposed to suit your surroundings. Perhaps you can create a quick game to help them learn a few words of the local language. If these types of conversational games aren’t your favorite, perhaps you could stash a simple card game or coloring book in your bag to pull out during the quieter moments. None of these games require much effort or planning, but can incite giggles and keep them engaged during the “down-time”.
When planning a fun itinerary activity for your children, amusement parks are often the go-to. After all, they are built to give kids an exciting experience, right? While this may be true, to an extent, there are plenty of things about amusement parks that aren’t exactly kind friendly- namely, long lineups. We’ve all been there. What was supposed to be a fun day full of rides and characters turned into a day of sweat, tears, “hanger”, impatience, overstimulation, and the occasional sunburn. Unless your trip is specifically planned around going to Disney or the likes, you can probably get away with skipping the attractions that will involve a lot of waiting and prioritizing activities where there’s always something to do. Instant gratification is probably going to be a more productive way to stimulate play and create positive memories to look back on as a family.
Book by: Jan 31st 2022
Book by: Jan 31st 2022
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