Hold on to those precious gains!
After another school year informed by plague living, families are faced with protecting and building on some particularly hard-won educational gains over the long summer months. The Summer Slide is always a concern, but after one or two years of dealing with virtual classes, early dismissals, and kids being sent home at the first sign of sniffles, it’s going to be more important than ever to build on what our kids have learned.
One of our favorite ways to do this is to take lots of trips throughout the summer months to educational institutions, such as museums, galleries, gardens, zoos, and aquariums. How do you make the most of a museum trip? We have LOTS of experience in this department, and we are here to share our best tips to make the most of your educational summer excursions.
Tip 1: Do some research
In the best of times, it was always a good idea to do some research before heading out on a zoo or museum trip. Now, it’s often essential. Many institutions have reduced their capacity to prevent the spread of illness. To achieve this end, timed ticketing systems have become much more common. Gone are the days of showing up at the aquarium whenever and just getting in. More likely, you’ll need to book your tickets a week ahead. While you’re researching ticketing policies, here are a few other things to consider.
Tip 2: Set expectations!
Set expectations with your crew! As soon as you walk through the gates, you’ll be met with opportunities to spend money. Decide before you go what you will or will not spend money on. Things to consider: souvenirs from the gift shop, add-ons for special exhibits/visiting animals/camel rides, snacks and drinks, and photo op pictures. If the answer to all of those is no, tell the family now! Also, set some age-appropriate ground rules around behavior and safety. Stay with the group, don’t try to join the animals, etc. If you do plan to eat there, it can be helpful to show the menu to your family before heading out, so that they can decide what they want in advance (and expedite your ordering time).
Tip 3: Don't feel like you have to do it all in one day
Don’t feel like you need to do it all in one day! When we spend money to get into a place, we tend to feel like we need to milk every minute we can from the day. The thing is, you want this to be a positive experience for your family. Skipping nap time in the name of seizing the day is...almost never a good idea. If you know your kid will be Done For the Day at a certain time, go ahead and plan to leave before you inevitably have to scoop them, kicking and screaming, off the floor. Even older kids might benefit from some decompression time between returning home and sitting down to dinner, so build in some time for that. If you didn't see everything this time, or the kids are begging to stay, try to plan for another visit later in the summer or the year.
Find a docent or volunteer on your way out and ask about what the institution has planned for the rest of the year. If the zoo was fun in July, maybe it's even better around Halloween, when the kids can wear their costumes and the animals are more active with cooler temps. Or perhaps the garden or museum can teach you about holiday traditions around the world in December. But if you can put a return visit on the calendar as soon as you get home, your kids will feel heard, and you'll be able to plan ahead for another fun day.
I hope these tips help you and your family get the most out of your summer excursions. They're more logistical considerations than educational prompts, but logistics are important! Children who are exposed to educational and stimulating experiences will have thoughts and questions of their own during and after the trip. And any institution worth its salt will have questions and prompts built into their displays, as well. Those ongoing questions and discussions about the experience are where the real magic happens, and are arguably more important than forcing each child to read five hours a day or crank out worksheets. Have fun! And come back next week when I share our best tips for saving money on these summer outings.
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Ariel and Brianna are friends who met while working in a library. Now they collaborate to develop life-enhancing book club experiences.
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