Family Travel

Published on September 6th, 2012 | by Amanda Lee

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Travelling with Children: Culture 101

Part of the thrill of travelling is uncovering the incredible and longstanding culture that exists in other countries, especially those steeped in history. Whether it’s the Louvre in Paris, the Roman Coliseum, or a Mayan temple, Guest Blogger (and mommy) Amanda Lee shares some simple strategies to share a love of arts and culture with your kids on your next travel adventure:


 
 

Hit the Web Before You Hit the Road

Discuss with your kids where you’ll be going and research on-line, or at the library, cultural places of interest to visit. Get them excited about what they can see before you pack a suitcase.  Research visiting sites with re-enactments such as battle sites, forts or heritage villages so your child can immerse themselves in what they’re seeing. It’s obvious, but check whether there is a children’s museum in the vicinity of your travels.

 

Fairytales and Faraway Lands

Take into account the age and interest of your children when choosing cultural institutions to visit while travelling. Find a way to relate what excites your child to where you’ll be. The Coliseum? Talk about real-life Gladiators. A deserted castle in Scotland? Knights and Princesses. A budding entrepreneur? The coin section of a museum.

 

Art Galleries For Beginners

While you might be itching to absorb the wonder that is Monet’s Water Lilies, a trip to an art gallery may thrill young ones quite so much. Contact a gallery or museum ahead of time and see prepared educational materials or activities for children (many cultural institutions will have this material available for school visits).

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Bring a sketch book and some pencils to occupy children. Most art galleries have benches in the middle of the room. Have children observe the art and draw what they see other people around them –  and give yourself some time to take in the art.

 

Engage

Learn something about where you will be visiting ahead of time so you can share your knowledge and the experience with your children. If there’s a guidebook, read sections to them. If there are plaques, read them out loud to younger children and talk to them about what you’re seeing.

Giraffe, Zoo, South Africa

Ask kids to find their favorite piece of art or sculpture and tell you the story of what they see – or make up the story. Create a scavenger hunt – how many gold frames can you see? How many animals are there in pictures? People? Houses?. Rent an audio tour for older children to provide them with more context and engagement when  visiting cultural sites.

And if you’re able to make it to Monet’s Water Lilies, have your kids stand close and look how the impressionists painted. Up close it’s a mess of dots but stand back and see the picture. Challenge kids to replicate the techniques used in paintings themselves with a few markers or pencils and a sketch pads.

 

Art on the Cheap

Visiting cultural institutions that are free not only keeps travel costs down, but lessens the sting if little culture-vultures would rather be anywhere than there. Visiting museums, galleries or buildings that are free of charge also allows you the freedom dip and out at your leisure (while keeping your bank account in check).

Kids

 

Skip the Lineups

Go online or call and see if you can book tickets ahead of time, especially for internationally renowned cultural sites and avoid long line ups with tired kids in tow. Look to see if you can purchase timed tickets to cut down on waiting around.

 

Get Cooking!

Another way to introduce culture and a unique travel experience to your children is looking for a kid-friendly cooking school.

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Go on-line and see what’s available – there’s a lot to be found from agro tourism farms in Tuscany, which will teach kids how to make a perfect pizza crust, to Thai cooking schools in Bangkok that’ll have your kids whipping up Pad Thai like a pro.

 

Pint-sized Snaps

Put a kid friendly digital camera (or do double-duty with a DS) in their hands, or go old school and issue your kids with a disposable camera. Charge them with documenting the cultural establishment you’ll be touring.

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Photo courtesy: globetrottingmama.com

With older children, introduce a few very simple photography techniques – such as the rule of thirds – and challenge them to capture an interesting or unusual angle; the light streaming through a stain glass window, the curve of a dinosaur bone. Get younger children to document what they can see from their viewpoint.

 

Go at Your Child’s Pace

Unlike National Lampoon’s European Vacation, when travelling with your kids, it’s not necessarily about trying to tick off as many sights as you can from the guidebook.

Family

Build breaks into your culture-filled days; whether it’s taking some time out at a museum for a visit to the café, or following it up with a run around a park.  Consider spending more time in select rooms of a large museum or art gallery and take the time to absorb what’s there, rather than trying to cover the entire building.

 

Planning your next family vacation? Talk to one of our Travel Experts at 1-877-697-5302 or find your closest store for more information. 

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About the Author

writes about travel, parenting, culture and that thing called "life". An Aussie girl at heart, Amanda now lives in Toronto with her two children when she's not globe-trotting the world with them.



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