Do you avoid family site-seeing adventures that involve cathedrals, museums or other historical sites because you are worried about your kids' behavior? Never fear - these tips will make traveling with kids to these destinations a survivable - and perhaps even enjoyable - experience.
1. Begin by setting clear expectations for behavior, including the consequences for misbehaving. Also lay out the basic ground rules for the day. Some standard rules include using inside voices and no running. Try rewarding good behavior by giving kids a small gift shop budget at the beginning of the day. Each time they misbehave, they have to hand over a quarter. At the end of the day, they get to spend whatever is left.
2. All kids have a limited attention span so set a time limit for the trip - generally around four hours is maximum time. Take this into account as you plan the day to avoid missing the "must see" exhibits.
3. Look down. The floors in historical buildings, cathedrals and museums are often adorned with beautiful, intricate designs that capture and fascinate kids and adults alike. My favorite example is the Sistine Chapel. The walls and ceiling are covered with breathtaking masterpieces that held my kids' interest for exactly 45 seconds. Luckily, they noticed the fantastic geometric designs on the floor and spent the next hour finding shapes and patterns throughout the entire chapel.
4. Plan a scavenger hunt through the museum or cathedral. We use color/object hunts almost everywhere we go. They can be as simple as finding something blue to the complex find a blue flower on a hat. Vary the complexity based on the age of the child and, where possible, make each child find something individually. Add learning to the day by bringing along small notebooks and colored pencils. Have kids record scavenger hunt items, interesting facts and include pictures of favorite sites. The journal becomes a memory book of the trip.
5. Research kid/family friendly activities and events. One good example is found at Westminster Abbey where they feature a wonderful family tour and children's scavenger hunt that offers a chocolate reward for completion.
6. Make sure you include some kid-friendly fun along the way. After a long morning at a museum, spend a few hours in a local park. If the museum has a snack bar, take a break during the tour for a snack. Squeeze in a trip to the local zoo or aquarium in the middle of the trip.
7. Involve kids in the planning process. While not all museums have a hands-on room, there is sure to be something of interest. Let them pick at least one thing to see or do at the museum and try to do it late in the visit so you can push for good behavior throughout the rest of the trip.
Use these tips and you will no longer have to avoid taking the kids to interesting historical sites, cathedrals and museums.
Want to find out more about traveling with kids, then visit Jenny Untermeyer's site filled kids travel gear, family travel tips and more.
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