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Family Vacations: Getting the Kids Involved

A family vacation is a great time to offer your kids learning opportunities -- if you're willing to give up a measure of control and cut them some slack. It's a rare opportunity to shed everyday family roles and operate as a team. Here are some quick tips:

  • Consider going somewhere unfamiliar, doing something you've never done before. That puts everyone in the same boat, navigating the unknown. No one person is the expert. You're on a relatively even footing.

  • Once you've decided where to go, lean on your kids for help in the planning process. Break out the travel section of the newspaper, a magazine, guidebook, or brochure. Small children can find relevant illustrations and talk about what looks inviting -- or weird. Older kids can read aloud descriptions that particularly appeal to them.

  • What child doesn't enjoy being a scout or detective? Once you've reached your destination, assign an advance team. While you're unpacking and unwinding, challenge your kids to scope out the scene and return with key information: Where's the soft drink machine? What time is breakfast served? Is there a game room? It's a heady feeling to know the grownups are counting on you for information.

  • Family vacations are the perfect time for kids to practice weighing priorities and making informed decisions. Whenever feasible, let the kids call the shots and deal with the consequences. Even bad choices -- a half-baked theme park or a terrible movie -- are something to chalk up to experience.

  • Are your children pack-rats? Go ahead and encourage this tendency -- it'll sharpen their observational skills and sense of selectivity. Long after the vacation's over, the kids can wow you with scrapbooks containing postcards, menus, matchbooks, ticket stubs, programs, illustrations, and journal entries. What better reminder of the best vacation ever?

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