Ten Tips for Making Memories and Maintaining Your Mental Health
Sightseeing with kids is truly an adventure. There is something really magical about experiencing the world through the eyes of a child, and time spent together in exploration forges lasting memories.
Logistically speaking, however, sightseeing with children also poses a number of challenges. Keeping kids happy, comfortable, and safe when you’re out and about is often an ambitious undertaking all on its own. The more foreign or adventurous the endeavor, the greater the demand on parents or caregivers.
A little preparation and perspective will go a long way toward ensuring your experience sightseeing with kids is a positive one.
According to Google, sightseeing is “the activity of visiting places of interest in a particular location”. By that definition, a trip to the beach, a picturesque hike in a park, or a picnic at a scenic overlook could all constitute sightseeing. Whether you are sightseeing close to home, in another state or in some exotic foreign destination the following tips should make the experience more memorable for you and the kids in your life.
The more involved kids are in planning a sightseeing excursion, the more likely they are to enjoy it. Planning helps children put things in perspective and feel involved. It also gives them context for the experience which will help them make more sense of the activity and get more out of it. In addition, helping to plan helps kids know what to expect. Knowing what to expect helps kids get excited about the experience and adjust their behavior appropriately.
Involving kids in planning a sightseeing activity could take on many forms depending on the age and abilities of the children. At the very least, children should be briefed on the basics: who, what, where, when and how. Ideally, they should have some say in what you will do. For instance, if you are visiting a zoo, let each child choose an animal they want to see.
Whether you are visiting a children’s museum, an alpine lake or the Taj Mahal, there are certain things that are useful to have on hand when sightseeing with kids. I recommend the following:
When my husband and I were regularly sightseeing with kids, cell phones were just becoming popular. Nowadays I highly recommend writing your cell phone number on the inside of your children’s arms in case you accidentally get separated from one another.
Kids move at their own pace. Sometimes it’s a snail’s pace and sometimes it’s more like a jackrabbit. Be prepared to adapt your sightseeing efforts accordingly. If children are dragging, take a break and maybe get a snack. If they’re bursting with energy look for ways to expend some of the excess within the context of your sightseeing experience.
I love this photo of our little guy running across this ancient Roman forum in Sbetla, Tunisia. It was a great opportunity to burn off some excess energy!
In order to get the most out of sightseeing with kids, try to work within their normal schedule as much as possible. If they are accustomed to taking a nap in the middle of the day, do some sightseeing in the morning while they are fresh, and then come back to the hotel to rest for a couple of hours. You can go back out in the afternoon for more adventures.
Kids are often able to understand more than adults give them credit for. If they understand what the expectations are, they can (and often will) rise to meet them. When sightseeing with kids, expect them to behave, and expect them to get something out of the experience.
At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind the limitations of their size, intellect and attention spans. Plan activities you know will hold their interest and look for ways to present things that will appeal to them. Make a game out of searching for a particular object in a museum, see who can spot the most ___ (fill in the blank), or ask everyone to find their favorite (painting, artifact, animal, etc.). Do what you can to adapt the situation to play to their interests.
Depending on where you are traveling, public transportation is often less expensive and less stressful than driving. It is also part of the adventure, especially for children. My children have fond memories of riding the subway in Washington D.C., riding in a taxi in Cairo, riding the tram in Istanbul and riding the train in Amsterdam. Public transportation offers a great opportunity to experience a place from the perspective of its residents.
Depending on the age of your children, they may have a phone with a camera. If so, encourage them to use it while sightseeing. If kids don’t have a phone of their own, consider allowing them to take a few pictures with yours or entrusting them with an inexpensive digital camera. At the end of a day of sightseeing with kids, invite everyone to share their photos and vote on your favorites. It’s always interesting to see the world from your child’s eye, and with the quality of today’s cameras, even young children can take a good picture on occasion.
Here's a fun photo taken by one of the kids at a castle in Syria.
Provide children with a journal of some sort for recording their sightseeing experiences. Young children can draw pictures or dictate their thoughts to an adult or older child. Encourage kids to add in photos, ticket stubs, museum brochures and other memorabilia. Travel journals, if done with enthusiasm and interest, can be wonderful treasures to look back on in later years. They represent, not only a special experience in the life of your family, but also a moment in time when your child was a particular size, with particular interests and abilities. They are like time capsules.
Take time at the end of each day of sightseeing with kids to reflect together on the places you visited and the things you saw and experienced. Ask everyone to share their favorite parts of the day, or something they learned, or something that surprised them. Share photos and take a few minutes to help children capture their thoughts in a travel journal. But don’t stop there.
Part of the fun of travel and exploration is in remembering, so take time on occasion to recollect the special times you spent sightseeing together. It’s a great activity for a rainy Sunday afternoon or anytime you want to reconnect with your kids.
I hope you’ve found these tips for sightseeing with kids helpful. I wish you the best in your next family adventure.
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