I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
July 26, 2011
School is now but a distant memory for most of our kids, along with at least some of what they learned while they were there.
At 4 and 7, my kids are learning so much about the world around them — the last thing I want to do is watch them forget it over the summer. I’ve challenged myself over the last few years to turn as many of their every-day experiences into learning experiences as I can. The trick is to do it without them even realizing it’s happening. Our recent beach vacation is a perfect example.
Here are some ideas that might inspire you when it comes to your own kids.
First off, if you’re getting ready to go somewhere, even for just a few days, why not buy or reserve some children’s books from the library in advance about your destination?
That way, when you learn that your seven-year-old’s favorite activity is searching for seashells and ocean creatures…
And she manages to find not only a sea snail…
…you have a perfect opportunity to read facts about marine life. We actually picked up these books while were were at the beach and my children devoured them. Each vacation, though, I always vow to be better organized and do some research with the kids before we actually leave.
When I was growing up, going to the beach for a week meant just that– going to the beach. We didn’t do much else besides have dinner out each night.
Now, though, my family likes to go to the beach for a few hours and spend the rest of the day on learning adventures. At Hilton Head, one of those adventures was a trip to the Coastal Discovery Center and a tour of the salt marsh there.
The kids learned about the area’s ecology, helped trap a few blue crabs, held a fiddler crab for a few brief moments before he got away, reviewed the life cycle of the butterfly at the Center’s Butterfly Enclosure (fascinating because they had just hatched their own)…
…and spent a fun-filled, air conditioned half-hour in the Coastal Discovery Center’s Children’s Room, which was full of hands-on exhibits and children’s books about the beach and the ocean.
Another day, we took them on a kids’ cruise, where they learned to cast a net for shrimp, fished for sharks, and saw dolphins up close. They’re still talking about this boat ride!
Even our more mundane activities were turned into opportunities for learning. At four, Bruiser is really into learning to count as high as he can, and recognizing numbers- So we put him in charge of our elevator rides.
And of counting the number of stairs in each staircase.
Meanwhile, Punky got the more advanced job of entering in our six-digit keycode to get into our beach house.
Doing these kinds of things with the kids is so exciting to me because I’m watching them develop a passion for learning right before my eyes. Both of them love to spout facts about marine life, animals, and the world around them, and both of them love to explore and read and find out new things every day.
I can promise you that making an effort to find fun and educational activities while you’re on vacation pays off. When I asked the kids what their favorite activity was during our trip to Garden City Beach in South Carolina a year ago, they both quickly said it was the afternoon we went to a nearby state park for a beachcombing walk with a naturalist. They loved learning about all the things we picked up in the surf, and it was so exciting to watch them return to the beach this year and spout off facts they’d learned last year about all the things they found on the shore.
Hopefully these ideas help inspire you this summer. Now I hope you’ll do the same for me. How do you keep your kids on a learning track during the summer break?
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Teaching my 3 1/2 year old to work the elevator backfired on me. He ran a bit ahead of us as we were leaving, pressed the down button, got in, pressed the 1st floor button, and was gone. I almost had a heart attack!
I’m paranoid about that! It happened to my husband with my stepdaughters when they were young- They were in a highrise in Chicago, got in before he could, and the doors closed. To hear him tell it, I don’t think he’s ever been so worried!
You kids are so cute. They need to be in a Gap ad or something. Great advice! Thanks!
Thanks for the idea about checking out books from the library. We’re heading to Holden beach in September and I think this is a great idea. I know my almost 3 and almost 5 year olds will love learning about what they find on the beach.
I’m always glad when I take the time to help the kids research something before we visit (we do this with the zoo from time to time as well, even though we’re members). They definitely get more out of it that way.
Oh, I am getting so excited now about our Hilton Head trip in a month! I look forward to taking my 2 1/2 yr old daughter to the Discovery center. It sounds wonderful! Thanks for all the advice. I too like to weave fun learning experiences into everyday life as well as trips for my daughter. I can see she is developing a love of learning as well. It is so much fun at this age! I think I will also take your advice about the beach/sea themed books. She will love it.
Hope you saw this post, Kimberly:
Definitely check out The Sandbox Children’s Interactive Museum if you’re looking for something your daughter will enjoy- I’ve heard it’s PERFECT for children under five. 🙂
I did! Thanks! 🙂
We went to the Sea Pines Forest Preserve at the south end of Hilton Head and it was lots of fun. We enjoyed the walk to the Indian Shell Mound and we watched an alligator swim for a while. There’s an alligator boat tour we didn’t do but plan to next time.
Perfect timing — I am taking next week off (to save myself another $250 in summer camp costs). I am planning a “Camp-at-Home” for my boys.
pray for me.
Ha! You’ll have a blast. 🙂 Do a little Internet research into what’s going on in your area- I always end up finding great stuff.
My two older kids have become real chess freaks this summer. And let me tell you, it is not easy to beat my 7-year-old son… he is getting pretty darn good at that game! I suppose that chess helps him learn the skill of thinking ahead and making plans. Possibly math skills too? The best part is, it wasn’t even my doing to get them to play chess. It was their idea in the first place! Now even my 4-year-old is trying to learn!
What a great idea, particularly because I’ve never learned myself, so I’ll be a good opponent. 🙂 I’ll have to get my husband to teach us. He’s pretty good at chess, or so he says…. 😉 After he told me that, I refused to ever play him!
I’m going to check a library book out about San Diego for you, Lindsay.
[…] Head in June, inspiring posts about motherhood, 35 things to do in Hilton Head with your family, advice on how to turn a family vacation into a fun educational experience, and plenty of photos with my brand new camera […]