Vacation is for Playing
Meredith is a former elementary school teacher with a master’s in education who turned her expertise to improving people’s lives by spreading the gospel of play. She is a blogger and a regular Family Lifestyle contributor to the Today Show and Fox and Friends, and is a columnist for Chicago Parent magazine. Meredith speaks at social media conferences, parenting groups and companies about the power of PLAY in our everyday lives. Meredith's first book “Well Played” was published by Harper Collins in June 2016. She lives with her husband Jon and her two sons Maxwell and Truman, on Chicago’s North Shore.
- Incorporate time for unstructured play into your vacation. Not only is play developmentally beneficial, but also allows families bonding time with each-other.
- Play travel games on the way to your destination! Introduce children to the fun games you once played, such as the license plate game, or I-spy.
- Encourage kids to talk with other children on vacation to help increase social skills. This also, gives them a friend to play with for the week!
- Don’t over plan activities! Allow for some spontaneity in your vacation plans for you won’t need a vacation from your vacation.
Summer break is quickly coming to an end, but many families are taking advantage of these last few weeks of warm and sunny weather to take one last summer vacation, whether near or far.
Family vacations provide the perfect backdrop for some serious playtime altogether. It’s what vacation is all about, right? All that open-ended, free time is a brilliant invitation to bond with one another through playfully adventurous experiences. It’s a breeding ground for creative communication, cooperation, and connection with the folks we love most. Turns out, getting loads of unabashed play while on vacation is developmentally awesome for your kids!
Here are few ideas for popping developmentally beneficial PLAY into your next family vacation:
- Make the getting-there playful too! Take advantage of all that car or plane riding time to teach your kids those travel games of your youth. You know, the license plate game, the alphabet game using words on road signs, and maybe even some show tunes signing!
- Encourage your kids to introduce themselves to other children while on vacation. It’s great for their social skills and they’ll have some new mates to play with at the beach or pool!
- Leave space for spontaneous playful experiences while on vacation. Planning an endless array of scheduled activities leaves little or no room for the magic that happens when kids are given time to create and explore on their own as well.
"Turns out, getting loads of unabashed play while on vacation is developmentally awesome for your kids!"
It’s a great time to try planning for some spontaneity, where kids and their grown-ups have an opportunity to explore together and playfully reconnect, sans screens. Making our family vacations as unplugged as possible provides time to really get to know each other and to be playfully present as we encounter new people, places, and things. As children meet and greet new people and share their experiences with you as they go, verbal skills sky-rocket and their confidence within their world grows.
One of our favorite things to do on vacation, while exploring somewhere brand new, is to stop by a local playground for a break from all the site-seeing or planned activities. We did this once while touring Barcelona when our kids were younger, and it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of the whole trip. My kids met some local children, practiced a little of their fledging Spanish speaking skills, and got a sense of how similar they all were, even amidst the language barrier and major time zone difference.
It’s also delightful to turn museum or site seeing trips into even more playful experiences by transforming them into “ I-spy”/ scavenger hunt situations. Simply make a list of a batch of cool things that your kids can look for while they are touring a new space, and collectively hunt and gather them along the way. Don’t forget to include things like “something that smells delicious”, “the most interesting person of the day”, or “something that made you laugh out loud”. All of these make for amazing conversation starters later, over dinner!
So make sure to allow for a bit of discovery playtime along with all those planned activities on your agenda. It’s easy to pack our vacations with so many structured experiences that we end up needing a vacation after our vacation.