Written by monthly contributor Jessica Fisher of Life as Mom
All of life is learning. Our children can learn so much, academically as well as socially, by a simple trip to the grocery store as well as by completing a math lesson amidst the distractions of a sibling.
And summertime is no different. Whether it’s exploring on the beach, strolling through a museum, or even waiting in line at Disneyland, our children are always learning about themselves, others, and the surrounding world.
However, some learning experiences, like gutting a fish on a camping trip, are more appropriate for certain ages than others. And in a large family, there’s the rub. We are eager to share the world with our children, particularly on vacation and family field trips, but with a large family or even two children born many years apart, it can be challenging to create experiences appropriate to all the ages and stages of our children.
- What if the baby can’t handle such a long day in the mountains?
- What if the older children are bored at the children’s museum?
- What if it’s just too hard to take everyone to that amusement park?
Take heart — families with a range of children’s ages can foster meaningful vacations without too much extra effort.
Find Natural Groupings
Chances are there are natural groupings or ways to pair up your children. In our family of six children, we have four boys, ages six, eight, nine, and 13. Many of their interests lie in the same realm. And sometimes they split in the middle toward different activities as well.
Conversely, my youngest two, girls ages one and three, love to play together. Their abilities tend to fall into the category of preschoolers.
Thinking of my family in terms of older children and preschoolers helps me to plan activities they will all like. On a trip to the park, the little girls are happy to play at the playground, while the big boys head over to watch the soccer game. Everyone enjoys the beach or a hike in the hills, though they may experience it in different ways.
Divide and Conquer
Consider how you can plan custom-made outings for each age group. Not all the time, but often enough so that each age range is getting focused, age-appropriate fun.
While a simple trip to the park can please children of all ages, other outings may not appeal to all. Certain amusement parks just don’t accommodate young children, due to height and weight restrictions. In such a case, it’s good to plan an all-older child outing with one parent while the younger children do something more their style with the other adult.
That said, Disney parks lend themselves to providing something for everyone. Just don’t make your teenagers go on Dumbo if they don’t want to.
It’s true you can’t please all the people all the time. To plan an activity that attracts the attention of all ages around the clock is a herculean feat. Try to find an attraction or amusement that fits most of the group.
The teenagers may yawn a little at something they’ve outgrown, but they can be encouraged to help the littler ones for whom the activity may be beyond their scope. Helping a younger sibling can be an enriching experience all its own.
Younger ones, likewise, can stretch to understand what they can about an activity. You’d be surprised at what they can absorb. Having a backpack or stroller is essential so that they can nap at will.
Exploring the world together as a family is one of the true joys of homeschooling.
Just Do It
All the perfect arrangements in the world don’t always go according to plan. Don’t be afraid to try something. See how it works for your family.
Some toddlers would surprise you at their amazing abilities to do what the big kids can do. And many teenagers secretly do want to take a spin on the Dumbo ride.
A listening ear and an observant eye will help you plan vacations and field trips your whole family will enjoy.
How do you plan for family trips amidst a range of ages and interests?