As parents, we all know that iPads, Kindle Fires, and other mobile devices can be lifesavers while traveling with our children. We use them to save our sanity during long flights, unexpected delays, and to end whining, bickering, and fighting coming from the back seat.
But obviously it’s a good idea to put away the screens at times and engage. Not only will you give your kids a better sense of place (by pulling them back into their surroundings) but you can even sneak in a little education.
Here are 5 areas for engaging your children and putting a little education into their summer travels.
GEOGRAPHY If you’re visiting a new location, talk about place. Ask your kids how the climate and topography affect housing styles, food selections, and outdoor entertainment options. How does the weather influence the way people live? How does it differ from where you currently live? Visiting national parks? Ask them about the natural formations they see and to guess how they were formed.
MATH Yes, math can be fun while traveling. On a plane? Have them calculate how long it will take to reach your destination based on speed and distance. On a cross-country road trip? Explain how division can be used to determine how many times you’ll likely stop for gas. Also, make your kids calculate how much change to expect during a purchase.
SCIENCE Here it’s best to observe, classify, and compare. What kind of plants and animals do your kids see? Compare what you see around you with where you live. Visiting a children’s museum or science center? Talk about the exhibits and how science plays a role in our daily lives.
LANGUAGE ARTS Find books about the places you plan to visit and read them to your kids before your trip. If possible, try to seek out some of the sights you read about. Teach your kids a new song to sing together in the car or play a soundtrack from a favorite musical. When age appropriate, ask everyone in your family to keep a journal.
HISTORY Before your trip, look up some of the historical events that took place where you plan to visit. See if you can connect those events with what was happening in the U.S. (or your home country) at that time. Talk about what life was like during that period. Ask your kids how geography and location might have impacted major events in history.
Children will learn while on vacation no matter what you do. But you can help them think about their surroundings, solve problems, and make connections to what they’ve learned in school through active — but fun! — interactions. And while there may be a time and a place for screens, they should never replace real-world engagement.
So whether you’re on home leave, R&R, or summer vacation in the coming months, hide the screens and engage your children. And when you’re on the verge of losing your sanity — give them back.