Play performs a critical role in the cognitive, social, and physical development of children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (1). It also contributes to a child’s emotional wellbeing which helps to cement their relationship with you. As a result, parents should actively encourage play through the use of games to boost their children’s education, no matter where in the world they are. There’s no better way to do this than to incorporate educational games into every aspect of your next family vacation.
Every year, drivers spend 42 hours stuck in traffic (2). To avoid being late for your flight, you’re sure to set off earlier than needed. Rather than sit in silence, or let your kids moan about being “‘bored” as you sit in the middle of a traffic jam, strike up a game of ‘I Spy’. Research has shown that children who play games such as I Spy are able to spot items quicker when words are used as a prompt (3) rather than games where images are used as a cue. I Spy also helps to develop a child’s observational skills as they’ll constantly look around for objects beginning with the appropriate letter. Once the traffic clears and you’re back up to a reasonable speed on the road, I Spy can still be played as plenty of new word opportunities will arise as new objects come into view.
If you’re looking to work on your child’s memory and attention then license plate games are the ideal solution when you’re stuck on the road or traveling a long distance. You could start by seeing who can come up with the funniest phrase using the first three letters in each plate. Alternatively, give all the passengers in your car, including your children, pen and paper and see who can spot and note down the most amount of license plates registered in specific states. This game is generally more suited to older children and will enhance both cognitive and geographic skills.
There’s no denying that airports are stressful. However, this stress shouldn’t be used as an excuse to bring out electronic tablets and handheld games consoles to keep your kids occupied, especially when there are so many educational games you can play while waiting for your plane. Make a game using the departure board, by seeing who can reel off the most facts about the cities on the board. By sharing your knowledge, you’ll increase your child’s awareness of the world. You might just be surprised by how much they know about the likes of Paris and Rome.
The departure gate is another area of the airport where educational games can be played. A game of ‘how many passengers’ is a good example. Simply ask your kids to predict how many passengers will be sitting at your departure gate before you board the plane. Then, count how many are there when you arrive. This will boost your child’s counting skills, as well as their memory as they retain both their guess and yours in their head.
The top 3 vacation destinations for Americans are Mexico, Canada, and Britain (4). As a result, you can expect to spend a fair few hours cooped up with your little ones on a plane. While it is a good idea to encourage some chill out time by allowing your child to watch a movie, read a book, and sleep. Playing games is a good idea, too. This is the perfect time to introduce pocket-sized magnetic board games as there’s plenty of time for your child to learn the rules and to get engrossed in the game. Chess boasts many developmental benefits, including improving a child’s problem-solving ability, spatial skills, concentration, and it even can even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s (5) too!
Card games are another great way to keep young minds occupied when they’re confined to an airplane. What’s more, they’ll stretch your child’s mind without them even realizing it. While Snap involves an aspect of luck, it also requires memory skills, hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and quick reaction times, which your children will utilize throughout their entire life.
Most importantly, card games such as Rummy help children to understand both winning and losing. No parent wants their child to grow up to be a sore loser, so it’s wise to introduce winning and losing when a child is young. When your child loses a game they may feel sad and even angry. By praising your child’s efforts, being a good role model, and ignoring bad behavior when a loss is incurred, your child will grasp that losing isn’t a bad thing. In time, their empathetic skills will develop, which they’ll demonstrate in similar scenarios with their peers.
Unpacking your luggage is an inevitable part of going on vacation. Thankfully, with a little bit of creativity, you can turn this mundane task into a fun and memorable educational game. Allocate two minutes and see which family member can put away the most items. Such a game gives children a sense of responsibility. Responsibility is a crucial part of a child’s development as it provides a sense of belonging (6), makes a child feel valued and needed, and makes them feel positive about themselves as an individual. In addition, this game can teach basic counting skills and even promotes healthy competition between loved ones.
No family vacation is complete without a trip to the beach. And once you’ve dipped your toes in the sea and enjoyed a satisfying ice cream, you can aid your child’s knowledge by indulging them in some exciting games. One of the simplest games you can play is Tic Tac Toe, using stones and shells sourced from the beach. Tic Tac Toe is great for developing coordination skills, as well as teaching children the importance of taking it in turns.
Perhaps the biggest educational game you can play with your kids at the beach involves little more than building sandcastles together. Making a game out of who can build the biggest and best sandcastle display will challenge your child’s creativity. Furthermore, they’ll be tested as they evaluate how much sand to pack into each bucket and whether they’ve patted it down enough. Their strength and coordination will also be challenged as they turn each and every sandcastle out to complete their design.
With the average family vacation costing almost $2,000 (7), you’ll want to ensure that it’s one your children won’t forget. As there are so many landmarks around the world, you can use these to form the basis of your memory-making game. Provide a list of all the monuments, landmarks and special locations that you want your family to identify and photograph during your vacation. You can then set the whole family the goal of taking the funniest/best/strangest photograph of each one. When you get home, get a family friend or relative to review the snaps taken and ultimately decide on the winner. This game will ensure your vacation is talked about long after the event happens, which will boost both your child’s memory and socialization skills. As a result, you can be sure that your family vacation will be embedded in your child’s long-term memory – something which individuals rely every day of their lives.
Kids are notoriously fussy eaters. However, vacationing in another part of the world will open your offspring’s eyes to a whole new world of food. In eateries where different cuisines are available, order a variety of menus from different countries to your table. When the food arrives, get you children to guess where the food originates from just by looking and smelling it. Then, get them to close their eyes and taste the different foods before answering the same question. This style of game will help children to understand how multicultural the world is. Additionally, it will improve your child’s focus as they hone in on what their senses are telling them.
The area you’re staying in can be utilized to create an educational game. Simple games to introduce as you explore nature reserves, parks and woodland areas include ‘spot the wildlife’, a game which requires nothing more than noting down how many different types of birds, bugs, and furry creatures you all come across when walking through such areas. Meanwhile, if there’s an area of flat ground, you could create your own hopscotch board using sticks and stones as this will aid a child’s spatial awareness and will get everyone moving and having fun.
For vacations in tourist hotspots, local shopkeepers love nothing more than sharing their knowledge of home. Task your kids with the job of finding out 3 fun facts about the town or city you’re staying in. Encourage them to talk to friendly locals, such as those serving you in shops and working at your hotel to find the best facts possible. This will build a child’s socialization skills and ability to form relationships as they talk and listen to knowledgeable individuals.
Children often feel sad and disheartened when their family vacation is over and there’s nothing left to do other than to jump inside your hire vehicle and head back to the airport. But, even this presents a learning opportunity. Test the whole family’s memory by seeing who can reel off as many things that you witnessed and did at the beach, in your hotel room, and when visiting a specific landmark. By testing your child in such a way, you’ll encourage their working memory skills, which are responsible for creating long-term memories. Failure to work on this memory set can result in learning and attention issues (9) which will impact your child’s education and even their choice of career. The good news is that you can exercise your child’s working memory by stimulating their visual memory. So, get your child to scroll through the holiday snaps on your phone to aid them with this game, if required.
A family vacation may be time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. However, as a parent, you shouldn’t let the educational benefits it presents pass you by. By turning every aspect of your vacation into an exciting and developmental game, your child will gain a whole host of new skills while enjoying family time in a new environment.
No vacation is complete without taking home a souvenir or two to remember your trip. 32 percent of U.S families confess to splurging in this area (8). Shopping for souvenirs provides the perfect opportunity to teach your children about the value of money and the importance of decision-making. Allocate your child a set spending budget and allow them to choose which souvenirs from the shops they want. It’s likely that your child will choose items which exceed their allowance, so this is the time to make a game out of prioritizing the gifts they want, placing items back on the shelf, and calculating how they can get the most for their cash. Being able to manage cash effectively is something your kids will carry with them for life and will help them when it comes to managing student fees, a mortgage, and general day to day living costs.