Many families I know are planning daycations and staycations this year, staying at home or close to home during their vacation time. If you have toddlers, how can you make the most of your daycations while keeping in mind that most toddlers have abundant interest in the world but limited attention? Keep day trips simple.
Explore close to home and you avoid several sources of anxiety for yourself and your child. The expense of gas, food, and lodging for you and the discomfort with new surroundings for your toddler.
Explore close to home. Start by going to your local visitors’ information bureau. Even if you think you know all about your local area, you might find out about new events or opportunities near you.
Set a schedule. Will you take a week off and go on day trips every day? Would you rather go every Monday for a month? How will you schedule your daycations? Limit the time and prepare to leave daily cares at home.
Keep a running list of ideas for day trips. Most toddlers are completely willing to be amazed by the world around them. If your child is fascinated by animals, go to the zoo, aviary, farm park or wildlife park. If your child loves plants, go to botanical gardens; if history, go to a living history farm.
If you are looking for a fee-free daycation, consider skipping the organized activities and going hiking or exploring. What is available will vary wildly depending on where you live. I live within a day’s drive of more than a dozen U.S. National Parks and monuments. This year, the National Park Service has scheduled fee-free weekends on July 18-19 and August 15-16. What a great opportunity to explore the world around you without feeling that you need to pack in all in at once to get your money’s worth.
Limit trip length. For most toddlers, four hours of activity will be about as much as they can take before they become too tired to enjoy it. Keep the experience positive, and your child will anticipate the next trip. A lot of trips will probably include a contented nap in the car on the way home.
Limit coverage. Rather than trying to see the whole park in one day, focus on one area and really watch the animals or other attractions. Talk to your child about what you are both seeing. Engage your child in learning and thinking. Listen so you can follow your child’s own interests rather than trying to fill him up with facts.
Remember this is vacation. Treat this time as you would any vacation. Take photos and video, don’t sneak a peak at your email, and don’t sit around watching television. Focus on your family more than the schedule. Watch your toddler explore the world as she calls out, “Look, Mama!”