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How to make a summer vacation educational

Vicki Clinebell majored in journalism at the University of Colorado, and headed an advertising agency before beginning a long career in broadcasting, spanning production and copywriting to sales and management for an ABC affiliate statio...

Educational and fun vacations

Getting there can be half the fun - and educational

Boy on plane

The lazy days of summer are here and you're going on a family vacation. Make the travel fun while you sneak in some opportunities to learn!

Up up and away

Traveling by air? Have the kids learn about flight. From the Wright brother to the space shuttle it can be a fascinating subject for children. The internet or library can provide information, and you can even learn about the type of plane you'll be traveling on.

Get a map that shows your point of origination and destination. How many miles? How long will it take? What do you fly over? Kids absorb the math lesson as they figure out how many miles per hour they'll travel. Facts about the destination let children plan in advance what they'll want to do, and they can make an itinerary of interesting sites from materials collected.

Road trip

Don't waste the hours in the car, or end up with bored and cranky kids! Get a guide book for your destination and have the children read it out loud as the miles roll by. There will be some lively discussions as you decide what to see and do when you arrive.

Use a map to mark off landmarks along your route. Give the kids the map and stickers - find the landmark, mark it off - bingo! The winner gets a small prize and bragging rights.

Sneak in some vocabulary lessons playing a synonym game. Give a word and see how many other words the kids can come up with that mean the same thing. Play a spelling game that teaches kids the difference between two words that sound the same - piece and peace, for example. The winner thinks of the most words.

Look for license plates, and try to spot one from every state. Make the game more interesting by finding the state slogans on the plate. Give them a goal to spot a specific slogan. Which state is "First in Flight" and what does it mean?

Have the kids keep a travel log as you go - miles traveled, sites seen, stops along the way. Writing about the experience keeps them engaged.

Stop occasionally to take pictures, and let the children learn to use the camera. Make a contest out of searching for interesting landscapes, landmarks and scenery. The child who comes up with the best idea gets to write a paragraph to caption the photo for the family album.

Before you go, get lots of information on your destination from the internet or Chamber of Commerce. Play a quiz game on facts about where you're headed. Travel exposes kids to different forms of transportation, language, food, art, architecture, religion and dress. What's it like where you'll be vacationing?

Travel is the best education for kids - their brains are constantly challenged with new sights and sounds, and they'll encounter things they've never seen before. Getting there is part of the fun, and the education.

More vacation tips

How vacations make kids smarter
Travel with kids: Activities on route
Just plane fun: Keep your kids calm & busy on flights

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