Whether or not your family’s summer vacation plans involve travel—by car, plane, boat or train—these 5 easy tips will help you make the most of your vacation time with your kids, while creating fun experiences that encourage reading and learning.Late Night Parents & Hooked On Phonics (www.HookedOnPhonics.com) put these tips together for parents and kids to make their summer trips educational this summer:
- Have your child pack his own backpack of favorite items: Even better? Make it kid-sized with your child’s favorite characters on it (like the one from Elmo’s Learning Adventure), so that your child can carry it himself. Include a favorite stuffed animal and small blanket, a couple of small books, crayons and paper, a small container of snacks, a couple of toy cars or figurines for pretend play. Don’t pack anything difficult (or expensive) to replace, so it won’t be the end of the world if your child leaves it in the waiting room at the airport. (Been there. Done that.)
- Download fun learning apps before you go: Hooked On Phonics Learn to Read (iOS, Google Play, or Kindle) has music, activities, games and even a library of eBooks that are perfect for kids who know their alphabet. Download one or two Units before you leave, so you’re not dependent on an Internet connection. The rest of the library will be safely stored in the Cloud for whenever your child is ready for them. Don’t forget the headphones, but be careful that that the device’s volume stays at an appropriate level for little ears.
- Play “You’ve Got Mail!” This question has plagued many a parent: How do you keep a child quiet in a restaurant, car, plane, without resorting to electronics? Answer? Write secret messages and pass them around! If your child’s not a reader yet, draw a picture instead, leaving room for replies. Fold your note so that the message is hidden and write your child’s name on the outside. Then say, “Mail . . . mail for [Katie]!” After “reading” her message, have your child write a one back to you or to another person at the table. This is a fun way to practice writing skills—and it gives everyone around you 15 minutes of peace and quiet.
- Try a new twist on a classic road-trip boredom buster: Play “I Spy with My Little Eye,” but rather than finding items that are various colors, try to find items that rhyme with simple words. For example, you might spy something that rhymes with meat—street, seat, feet, treat; or fire—tire, wire, spire; or flea – tree, me; etc. If that’s too challenging, play the game spying words that start with different letters of the alphabet. Bonus points for anyone who can spot something that begins with X!
- Rather than yet another T-shirt, get your kids a special book as a souvenir: While you’re on vacation, purchase a book that ties into whatever you’re doing or wherever you’re visiting. Download the book, or—better yet!—visit a locally owned used bookstore for age-appropriate recommendations. Use it for relaxing bedtime reading with your child while you’re there. That way the book about the . . . [beach, museum, city, etc] will always remind you and your child of that special family vacation.