Your grade-schooler is at the perfect age for a fun family trip. Children aged 5 to 8 can stay quiet for longer periods than their younger siblings but haven’t lost their innate curiosity about the world that often comes in the tween and teen years. That’s not to say that travelling with elementary-aged children doesn’t come with unique challenges. It requires planning, patience, and making them feel included. Here are the tips and tricks we recommend for taking your grade schoolers on outings at home or abroad.
1. Learn about your destination
Simple chapter books and even travel guides can give young travellers insight into where they’re going — they’re also a great way to pass the time during long trips. You can throw in some YouTube videos to get your child even more excited. They’ll feel important and part of the planning when they learn about the significance of where they’re going.
2. Make it a game
Especially in situations that aren’t particularly child-friendly, incorporate games and play into the experience. For example, you can play “I Spy” in museum exhibits or have a treasure hunt. If your children are a bit older, this can be turned into a full-on scavenger hunt or a list of specific things to look for, allowing them to take photos or videos or giving them a notebook to record their observations.
3. Keep a routine
Travelling can be stressful for children and adults alike. Keep some things consistent for your kids, so they feel safe. As mentioned in an earlier post, bringing toys, books, or snacks from home can help. Try to find at least one meal a day that’s at a similar time/similar food to what you have at home. Or, let them spend some time watching their favourite TV show.
4. Don’t be afraid of technology
Long plane rides or drives can be a challenge for your elementary-aged kids. Don’t forget to bring tablets or other games they can use to keep busy. Devices can also be brought to some outings. Certain museums have mobile apps or audio guides that can be used to make the visit more interactive and fun.
5. Mix up your activities
The average 5- to 8-year-old isn’t going to enjoy visiting museum after museum — even school has recess. Plan your trip to include both educational outings and fun activities like water parks and the zoo. Always check reviews as well to make sure that the guides and activities have been especially engaging for children.
6. Involve your child in the planning
Even though your child is young, they’ll appreciate being included in the planning. If they’ve done some reading about the destination, they might have suggestions. You can let your child pick between a few activities, so they feel like they have some agency. Also, look out for activities that suit their special interests. If your child is really into bugs right now, for example, visiting a bug gallery or insectarium could be exciting for them.
The most important thing is to have fun! Travelling with your child lets you view the world from a different perspective while you make memories to last a lifetime.