Away we go

Nothing gets kids learning like immersion in a new place.

Learning Stages

By Shelby Moore


Shelby Moore is a kindergarten teacher at an inner-city school in Houston and was recently awarded as one of the East Region's Campus Teachers of the Year.

Summer vacation is here—and for a lot of people, it’s more than time to kick back and relax. Summer travel gives kids a chance to savor new experiences that they wouldn’t otherwise get stuck at home or inside a classroom. As a teacher who has spent a lot of time on class field trips, I'm the first to understand how traveling with kids can sometimes be very difficult. Yet every summer, knowing these difficulties, families all over the world still vacation with their kids. Think of these family vacations as “learning vacations” —like what your child would experience on a class field trip. Most of the time children remember the learning experiences they had on field trips more than others they had in the classroom.

Field trips and learning vacations allow children a hands-on approach that helps kids (and adults too!) learn through immersion. New environments can help children learn faster and remember things much better than they might from a classroom or book.

Stay in the mindset of incorporating learning into your vacations this summer. No matter how you get to your destination or what you have planned, here are some ideas to keep your kids engaged and occupied.

Family road trip games

  • Pack printables and a notebook for journaling about their experiences. What better way to remember your vacation than to keep track of it? Younger kids can draw their experiences each day, with a couple of sentences if they are able.
  • Read books or listen to books on CD. This can be a fun way to quiz kids on their listening skills and attention span. Ask questions like, “Who are the characters in the story? Where is the setting?” and so on.
  • Play the Alphabet Game: Using road signs, try to find a word that begins with each letter of the alphabet.
  • Play guessing games like I Spy or 20 Questions.

Flying with kids

  • Have your child learn how to gather information by asking if they can interview a flight attendant. Have your child first think of questions they would like to ask.
  • Once the flight has landed, have your child take a quick peek into the cockpit. Allow him to make predictions for what all those buttons do.
  • Pack a bag that keeps your kiddo happy and occupied. Choose books or educational apps to help them pass the time.

Amusement parks

Amusement parks are sure to have long lines. So while you wait think of educational ways to pass the time.

  • Count different ways. See if your child can count correctly to 100. Try counting backwards (start small like from 10 or 20; if they can handle that try from 50 or 100!) Count by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s.
  • Play this twist on I Spy: Describe what you see until someone guesses what you have been describing.
  • Play the animal guessing game: Think of an animal and ask your child to guess it by asking questions (Is it a mammal? Does it live on a farm? Is it bigger than a dog? Etc.)
  • Play Spelling Bee: Choose words your child can spell aloud by sounding the word out. (“Spell flat.” “F-l-a-t, flat!”)
  • Watch the rollercoaster rides and have a simple discussion about how the rollercoaster works (your child will be introduced to basic ideas of physics!)

Beach destinations

  • Find a tide pool. There is so much sea life to learn about, but be careful around nature! Observe, touch, and listen to all that the ocean has to teach you.
  • Dig in the sand and build sand castles that exercise your creativity.
  • Find and count seashells.
  • Bird watch from your hotel balcony or lawn chair.

Remember, just going to a new place gives children brand-new experiences—they will be learning much more than you probably even know.

What are some of the best learning vacations your family has gone on? Please share other educational games that you and your family do to pass the time.

Have a great summer!