If you’ve ever had a wild hair to take your kids away and see some sights, I hope these tips will help. Preschoolers are enthusiastic sponges so don’t shy away from the trip because it seems like a hassle.
Since I didn’t send my 4-year-old to preschool, I thought hard about creating fun times.
My children now take turns lying on the couch, closing their eyes, and crossing their arms over their chest like an X. Then, whoever’s turn it is, says…
“I’m Pharoah and I’m going to sleep… kiss my head goodnight…”
Then when it’s time to “wake up” they run to me, give me a hug, and tell me how much they missed me while they were asleep.
I don’t even…
This is what they got out of our trip to the King Tut exhibit.
Not the crazy gold chariot. The hard “couch” or the multitude of beaded necklaces. No… there was a mummy and that was all she wrote.
If we hadn’t been forced to hold hands throughout the exhibit due to their age, I’m not sure I could have pried them away from the mummy in the glass case. That was worth the 2-hour drive all by itself.
Why go on a trip?
Initially, I planned to take a 48-hour mommy vacay. Then I realized that taking my 3-year-old and 4-year-old away for the weekend would still be a break compared to wrangling all four kids. I heard there was a King Tut exhibit one state over two hours down the interstate so I locked in our trip.
I knew the kids wouldn’t remember every detail nor pick up on strictly factual information, but I believe in starting the kids traveling young. They’ll remember experiences, togetherness, and excitement long past the point of remembering the details.
Unless there’s a mummy involved…
How to take your preschoolers on an “educational” trip
Anticipation is one of the strongest ways you can get your kids to buy into something. You mention a little about your trip here. Plant a seed there. Watch a relevant YouTub video or read a book about your subject matter. Then when you tell the kids you’re going to go see it, they’re already excited.
This will cut back on the mother’s infamous “I know I did not plan this and spend all this money and you don’t even care” expectation.
Work out accommodation logistics if staying overnight
Because I wanted to stay two nights, our destination town had cheaper rates on weekends. Presumably, it’s full with business people during the week, so we chose Friday and Saturday nights for this purpose. I chose a hotel within walking distance from the museums we wanted to visit so I didn’t have to worry about parallel parking. Parallel parking doesn’t exist to me.
Also, know this: just because they stay up late doesn’t mean they’ll sleep late. They’ll probably wake up at the same time so only push bedtime back if you’re having a gay old time. Not in an effort to get a sleep in. We got a room with two queen beds and each child got to spend one night on my bed. We didn’t co-sleep so this was super fun for them. I didn’t sleep a wink, clearly, but it was nice to watch them wiggle in their sleep.
Prepare them for the subject matter
Similar to building anticipation, talk about what you’re going to do. We went to the King Tut exhibit as well as a Chocolate exhibit in the local IMAX Exploreum. I showed them pictures and repeated myself a million times so the kids would be prepared and excited with me.
If you’re going to a science museum, do science experiments. If you’re going to a zoo, read books about animals. Nothing crazy or stressful, but help give the children a framework for their future experience.
Include a lot of breaks
We took a nap both days! We planned a nice breakfast, one museum, lunch and nap, another museum, then dinner. It felt relaxed and we remained rested throughout the trip. Young children can hang tight for a while, but will need more rest than you do if you want them to remain content and well-behaved.
Find playgrounds amidst the educational
After we did the chocolate exhibit (and my daughter does remember chocolate comes from the cocoa tree, thankfully) we found a free play area within the Exploreum. The kind with lifesize games, toys, and educational interactive stations.
They enjoyed this immensely and was probably one of their favorite parts. Letting the kids run wild after having had to walk behind me quietly for a few hours was just what the doctor ordered.
Don’t get too worked up
Most importantly, don’t get too worked up about the whole business. If you get high strung the kids get nervous and it all becomes A Bit Too Much. There will still be the same amount of meltdowns as at home, maybe more.
They might find it hard to sleep, don’t want to eat due to the excitement, or they aren’t as impressed by the history as you are.
Oh well, they’re kids. They’re still learning.
We are no strangers to traveling long distances with kids (across continents many times, in fact) and I’ve written a book, Can the Kids Come Too?, for other moms who are beginners at traveling with their kids. It’s an in-depth guide to Family Travel with Young Children and I hope you enjoy it!