The next time you take your family to enjoy the attractions, characters, and shows at a theme park, consider that this fun experience is also an incredible learning opportunity. You can help your kids absorb important concepts and skills without them even realizing it!
If you haven’t announced the vacation to your children yet, here is a previous post we made on Fun Ways to Announce You’re Going on a Trip.
Educational Math Games for Kids on Vacation
The younger your child, the harder it will be for him or her to wait for the day of departure to finally arrive. He’ll remember that good things are worth the wait if you come up with clever ways to pass the time. Counting is one idea. Even preschoolers can count off and mark on a calendar the number of days left until the big trip. You might challenge an older child to calculate the number of hours (or minutes!) left as you get closer to your vacation.
Another preschooler-perfect idea is piecemeal packing. You have to pack anyway, so why not cross it off your to-do list and teach your tyke a little math? First, sit down and make a list of everything he or she needs to take. Make sure to include numbers—five pairs of shorts, two sundresses, one swimsuit, seven pairs of underwear, etc. Count up how many items need to be packed in total, and start that many days out from the day of departure. Your child then packs one item of her choice each day.
Financial Literacy Games for Children on Vacation
Before your vacation, sit down with your child and make a list of everything you might want to buy once you’re in the park. Meals, drinks, ice cream, and purchases from the gift shop will top the list, but be sure to take into account any extra experiences or services the theme park might offer for an additional fee. Once you have your list of priorities, show your child what you can afford to spend on each “line item” based on your family’s budget. If your child is old enough, put him or her in charge of keeping a tally as you go, even if only with a calculator app on your phone. It will be a good lesson on how easily “little things” can add up.
For the younger ones, give them a spending log—a small booklet or page with squares. Each time they spend money, they can check off a box to see how much they’ve spent and how much they have left.
Another preschooler-appropriate approach to teaching lessons about money is a simple one: Use cash. Even if you use a debit or credit card for just about everything, consider putting some cash in your wallet specifically for your child to give to cashiers. Not only will it make him feel super-important handling such a “big” transaction, but also it will make money a tangible concept.
Weather Games for Preschoolers
Preschoolers can understand simple concepts surrounding weather, which certainly is a part of any visit to a theme park. As you tour the park, challenge your child to think about such questions as, “Why is it hotter in the sun than in the shade?”; “Why do you think that mist cools us off on this hot day?”; and “Why do you think so many people want to go on the water rides on this sunny day?”
For the littlest travelers, start each morning of your vacation with a quick round of charades. Ask them to describe the weather. Then ask them to act out what they might do at the park that day if it’s hot and sunny. Or if there's a passing shower. What if it’s just windy?
Mapping and Critical-Thinking Games for Kids While on Vacation
Hand over the navigating of the park to your older child and talk about the best way to get from one place you want to go to the next. Is your child a little too young for that? Then, back at the hotel, help him draw a simple map of the next day’s destination and encourage him to draw pictures of the places you’ve already been. By the end of your vacation, he’ll have a memory book all ready to take home.
Language Games for Children
While at the theme park, play games to reinforce language skills. Your kiddo will likely be more than happy to tell you about his favorite characters and attractions. Prompt him to add descriptive details. Try having a scavenger hunt as you enjoy the park and invite your child to find specific letters, colors, and objects. Take turns being the one who names the items to look for while you walk. At the end of the day, have your child recap the day’s events in order using words such as first, next, then, etc. Your child could draw pictures of each attraction, character, and show she saw and place them in order to add an artistic spin. As you get ready for bed, have your child predict the fun you have in store for the next day and end your adventurous day on a happy note.