When it comes to little ones, learning is always occurring—they're taking it all in, all the time! The facts they'll recall from the TV show they watched with you last week (that you hardly remember) or hearing them use some word that they asked you to define for them just yesterday can truly take your breath away. But when the scenery isn't changing fast enough, it can be hard to keep them engaged, interested and for lack of a better description, not bored.
It's not often that we play tourist in our own town, but exploring local attractions could be the very thing that sparks your child's interest in something new!
We compiled a list of the exact kind of places that are easy to overlook but are perfect for family fun, adventure and learning week in and week out.
Better yet, many of these attractions are designed for repeat visitors. Sometimes a change of approach brings about an entirely new perspective, as well as plenty of new things to notice and learn.
Local or Natural History Museums
No matter where you live there's something about your local area that makes it special; the history of what it was before it was founded, the flora, the fauna—you name it. Local and natural history museums highlight these unique features by celebrating native plants and animals that are right in your backyard.
These museums often have great opportunities for kids to get hands-on learning experiences through visual and performing arts or science activities. Pack a lunch and make an afternoon out of exploring the artifacts and displays, and talking with the docents who are a treasure trove of information about the place you call home.
If you haven't done much research, you'd probably be surprised to learn of the interesting history in your area. This might include historic battle sites, missions, original buildings, points marking pivotal moments in history or homes of icons in various fields (musicians, artists, authors, etc.). The great thing is that visiting historical sites and buildings in many towns is very low cost if not entirely free.
These are simple, low commitment family outings, and they're a lot like taking a walk through a park, downtown or neighborhood. Add a little extra reading or inquiry to your adventure by stopping to learn a bit more through the plaques or experts on site. Talk to your child's teacher to see if your afternoon excursion is something that your child could connect to a class project, report or sharing opportunity—giving them a platform to communicate what they learn while they're out and about!
Zoo or Aquarium
Another great way to get your family out of the house and learning something new is to visit your local zoo or aquarium. Your kids will have questions that might have you reading the plaques or talking to the keepers together, and there's plenty to learn just by observing their surroundings. Note similarities and differences between the animals, discuss diet if you catch them at a feeding time and talk about habitat as you notice what animals are located near each other in the layout of the zoo.
If you've been already, go again! The animals are always up to something new, and it's a great way to support animal conservation awareness and education.
Most botanical gardens contain combinations of non-native plant varieties that allow you to take a trip around the globe without really leaving your neighborhood backyard. Like any garden, these change seasonally, making them great places to revisit throughout the year with peak seasons for blossoms in the spring and summer.
Pack a picnic lunch, organize a time to walk the gardens and eat together in a beautifully arranged outdoor environment where you and your kids are sure to see a plant or two that you've never heard of before!
From modern to time-period exhibitions that are changed out regularly, museums naturally offer a wide range of educational experiences. A great way to create purpose for kids to view and enjoy the art on display in these environments is to do a little research ahead of time and plan an artist-inspired craft for before or after your museum trip. For example, if the exhibition is a watercolor artist, try a water color project together! That way your kids can look at everything with an interest of replicating some of the techniques (if they've yet to try it) or through understanding (if they tried the technique already). Your museum may even have opportunities for kids like this already available for you to sign up for ahead of time!
For kids that love arts and crafts a visit to the art museum is a must-do activity! Even if it's just for a short visit or walk through the sometimes-quiet halls of displayed art, you and your kids will have a new experience to remember that sparked questions they would've been hard-pressed to have from the living room couch.
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