Travel Time: Tips for Flying with Babies and Toddlers

As an international couple, my husband and I are avid travelers, partly because we have to be but mostly because we love it. And we’ve passed that affinity on to our son. We have explored numerous places, domestic and international.

Like most things involving babies and children, traveling can be stressful. But for anyone who’s ready to take a much-needed break from reality, I’ve got some tips for you.

Preparing for Departure

Does my baby need a ticket?

Infants and toddlers, two and younger, qualify as lap children and don’t need a separate seat. They do need to be assigned to an adult ticket, registered with the airline and have their age verified at check-in. If you are used to checking in via an app, you’ll need to visit the counter whenever you travel with a lap child.

  • Carry a copy of the birth certificate for ease.
  • You have the option to buy a ticket for your child under two and use their car seat on the plane. This provides more space and baggage allowance at an additional cost.

Certain flights, especially international, have a few bassinets available for use for younger babies (generally less than 20 pounds and under age two) that can be requested at the time of booking. They are not guaranteed. Rules: 

  • Child must be strapped in.
  • Child must be picked up and held for takeoff, landing and any turbulence.

In my experience, these are not as helpful as one might think. A turbulent flight makes for many disturbances, to parents and babies. Constant in and out from the bassinet is disruptive for a sleeping child (and a weary parent).

Mask up

Two and older need masks. If your kid isn’t used to this, prepare them in advance. Have them wear it in a store, car ride, etc. to get acclimated and explain why.

I also remind my kiddo it’s the pilot’s rule. The plane can’t fly if we’re not ready. 

There are exceptions for developmentally and differently-abled individuals. Such policies vary with each airline. 

Breast/bottle feeding + Snacks 

  • Milk/Formula doesn’t need to be less than 3 oz at the time of this printing.  Check current regulations at
    www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures/traveling-children
  • Freeze milk for an extended flight. It will thaw in flight, or you can ask for hot water when needed.
  • Have formula premeasured in bottles and ready to add water when required.
  • Pack snacks in one Ziplock bag or lunchbox for ease going through security. These are often flagged by the TSA.
  • During takeoff and landing, allow your child to suck on a lollipop to help with the air pressure and popping of ears.
  • For babies, a bottle, pacifier or nursing will help soothe their discomfort.

Water bottle 

Keep half full and dump or chug before going through TSA. Once on the plane, the water pressure could cause the contents to explode like rainfall. So, leave open and watch or drink contents while taking off. And beware. 

Strollers & Car Seats: What to check?

Umbrella strollers are the most accepted stroller to gate check. Generally, however, strollers that weigh up to 20lbs. are allowed through TSA if the size is permitted by the airline. 

  • One stroller and one car seat are checkable, free of charge, even with a lap child.
  • Diaper bags are allotted to the child, not the parent. You can have a carry-on + personal item + diaper bag. 
  • Lap babies (unpaid) do not receive a checked bag allotment (only diaper bag).
  • Pack and plays count as a bag of checked baggage.

Entertainment

Many airlines have apps that stream content directly to your device, while others utilize mounted TVs. Within an airline’s fleet, they may utilize aircraft with both capabilities. You can look up the type of plane prior to departure to know what will be available and so that you can prepare activities. A bag of activities is also useful in hotels or rainy days. Never underestimate the power of a racecar or a coloring book, nor discount how entertaining a tray table and window shade can be.

Plane Favorites

  • Hardwired, kid-friendly headphones that can be plugged into the airplane’s mounted port. 
  • Melissa and Doug water pen coloring books. 
  • Crayola Magic Marker pages. 

These options are awesome because writing on plane walls is impossible. 

  • I have a special airplane bag that is used only for trips. I rotate toys/books as needed. It always contains:
  • Two books that haven’t been read recently
  • Colored pencils + stamps + notebooks for writing and art
  • Racecars
  • Doll 
  • Random figurines like bugs or animals

International notes

Passports 

Your baby needs a passport to travel to foreign countries.

  • Passports for 16 and under are good for five years.
  • Passports for 16 and under (when issued to child under 16 years of age) must be renewed in person.
    -Passports issued to 16+ can be renewed by mail and every 10 years.
    -Renew your passport 6-9 months before it expires. This will ensure you are compliant. 

Visas & Miscellaneous

Citizens of the United States have great flexibility when traveling. Yet, some countries may require a visa or a reciprocity fee to enter (nonimmigrant payment to enter the country). Check the State Department website to verify what you need.

Every country has different standards and protocols surrounding COVID-19, which are changing daily. Research before you buy and be sure to double-check requirements two to three days before departure to ensure you and your family are compliant.

If you aren’t used to traveling or are traveling with kids for the first time, be sure to reach out to the airline with any questions and research what’s needed for international excursions. Policies—baggage, traveling with children, etc.—are all listed on websites. Wherever you go, don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially if you’re on the move solo. It’s been my experience people are eager to assist, and strangers can be your greatest allies when you’re in the thick of travel.

You may also like:

Nancy Gonzalez, Volusia County Schools
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Trisha Howell MSH, RD, LD/N, IFMCP, CEO of Smart Wellness LLC
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Dawn Sapp Associate Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, St. Johns County School District
Barbara C. Holley

Local Attractions within a Drive: Things To Do on a Staycation

Sometimes you don’t want to travel far. Maybe you only have a weekend or a long weekend. Maybe there is a global pandemic. Maybe you want to vacation with people who are coming to visit you. Luckily, we live in a magical place with so many indoor and outdoor activities that you can fill your days with activities without getting on a plane or embarking on an eight-hour drive. Here are some ideas for those days!

Duval County

Giraffes at the Jacksonville zoo

Autobahn Indoor Speedway & Events: Karting, ax throwing and a fun arcade are part of the fun found at Autobahn Indoor Speedway and Events.

Koala at the Jacksonville zoo

iFly: Experience the sensation of flying in iFly’s state-of-the-art vertical wind tunnels. Indoor sky diving at iFLY is a family-friendly activity, safe for all ages, experience levels and abilities.

Bravoz: Bravoz Entertainment Center features over 40,000 square feet of food, fun and fantastic memories. With 10 different attractions, there’s something for everyone. Jump into the foam pit, toss a dodgeball, slam dunk like the pros, and then head over to laser tag for a round in our Saharian Slums arena or test your combat skills with The Siege Tactical Laser Tag. See if you can score high at Mini-Bowling or beat the clock at Laser Maze.

Main Event: Every game and activity at Main Event is designed to bring family and friends together to share a fun, social experience and create lasting memories. Bowling, virtual reality and laser tag provide indoor, all-season fun.

The Escape Game: Recommended for kids 13 and up, these 60-minute escape rooms can accommodate up to 12 people.

Jacksonville Zoo: The Zoo has something for everyone with more than 2,000 rare and exotic animals and 1,000 varieties of plants. It is the only walking safari in Northeast Florida. Discover the earth’s wildlife through interactive and educational experiences – a true family adventure.

 

Flagler County

The Flagler Beach municipal pier

Flagler Beach: Grab the beach toys and your towel and head out to Flagler Beach for a beautiful stretch of sand. Flagler Beach also boasts great shops (like the Flagler Workshop) and restaurants, many with great water views.

Hammock Beach Golf Resort & Spa: This luxury, family-friendly resort offers several kids’ activities, including scavenger hunts, beach games, pool activities and more. Younger guests enjoy an action-packed day of fun with drop-off camps while you have time to attend adult-only activities. To spoil the parents, there is a blissful spa, two Signature golf courses or delectable dining to enjoy while your kids are safely entertained in Kids Crew. If you want to stay together, the resort boasts 10 swimming pools along with a twisting lazy river and a beautiful beach. 

Young girl face to face with a dolphin in tank at Marineland

Marineland: Make an ocean of memories as you meet bottlenose dolphins up close, see sea turtles and sand tiger sharks, experience the wonder of marine life, explore 80 years of Florida history and even swim with dolphins in their unique educational and conservation programs. Florida residents save 20% with promo code FLResident and valid ID.

Florida Agricultural Museum: This museum celebrates the past, present and future of agriculture in Florida. Enjoy a guided horseback trail ride or a self-guided orienteering course. Learn about rare heritage Cracker Cattle, Horses and Sheep in the History Tour. 

Ripple Effect Ecotours: Ripple Effect offers walking nature tours and jet boats and kayaks. Their mission has been to provide a low-impact, entertaining and educational eco-tour experience, to increase public awareness of all that nature has to offer in the region and to provide environmental education which encourages personal safety, respect and sustainability for these natural areas.

Orange County

Ferris wheel at Old Town in Kissimmee, FL

There are so many attractions in Orange County that we could not list them all, so we are listing some free attractions.

Disney Springs: Disney Springs has free admission to an area with over 100 shops, 64 dining options and over 25 attractions, shows and events.  

A huge water dragon made entirely of LEGO blocks entertains visitors at Disney Springs in Orlando, FL

Universal City Walk: Unforgettable family entertainment meets restaurants and shopping in this free area.

Disney’s Boardwalk: Experience the timeless charm of Disney’s Boardwalk, a quarter-mile promenade of exquisite dining, unique shops and exciting nightlife. Stroll along the water’s edge, play afternoon midway games and discover evening street performers. This free area evokes turn-of-the-century boardwalks in such coastal cities as Coney Island and Atlantic City. 

Old Town: A unique 18-acre walking area featuring over 70 unique and affordable shops, restaurants, bars, rides and family-friendly attractions. Mine for gold at Black Market Minerals, stroll through one-of-kind stores, catch a magic show at the Great Magic Hall, test your fears at Mortem Manor, try a classic game of Skee-Ball at Happy Days Family Amusement Center or relax with your favorite cocktail while enjoying free live entertainment on Trophy Row Stage. They host weekly events, including America’s longest-running weekly car show and cruise every Saturday. 

ICON Park Movie Nights – Lake Eola Park: Free outdoor movies on the last Friday of the month from April through August.

 

Seminole

Treasure Island Fun Center: Free admission. Purchase a play pass to enjoy video games, pool tables, pinball games, air hockey and kiddie rides.

Seminole Lanes Bowling Center: Enjoy bowling, laser tag, games and food at the Seminole Lanes Bowling Center.

 

St. Johns County

The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, touted as the likely 1513 Florida landing site of Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon

Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth: 15 exhibits over 15 waterfront acres. This is an educational and fun attraction.

St Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park: The park is the exotic realm of awe-inspiring crocodilians, breath-taking birds and playful primates. There are daily wildlife shows and even a zipline to zoom over the zoo.

Colonial Quarter: The Colonial Quarter has dining, shopping and free concerts and shows. You can also get the Colonial experience by booking a tour where you will learn about blacksmithing, see a musket demo and climb the watchtower. 

The Pirate Treasure Museum in St. Augustine, FL

Old Towne Trolley Tour: With live guides, the Old Towne Trolley Tour includes admission to the St. Augustine History Museum. The hop-on/hop-off tour allows you to take time where you want to explore and then pick up the trolley again when you are ready to move on.

St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum: The museum features over 800 authentic artifacts celebrating the history of piracy, both factual and fictional, from the 1600s through the present day. The museum spans about 5,000 sq. ft. with a 1,300 sq. ft. courtyard.

Potter’s Wax Museum: Potter’s Wax Museum is America’s first and oldest wax museum. It’s a place to have fun while learning about history and culture through the people who made it. You’ll stand next to Harry Potter, his friends Hermione and Ron and his mortal enemy, Voldemort. You’ll see Presidents Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, John Adams and others. Benjamin Franklin, Cleopatra, Ponce de Leon and Elvis are also here – along with Annie Oakley and Davy Crockett. Come with the family, bring your group or come on your own. Be sure to bring your camera – photography is not only allowed but it’s also encouraged!

St. Augustine Ecotours: St. Augustine Eco Tours was founded as an educational resource for the local and extended community. The goal of our programs is on-water interpretive experiences that focus on environmental education, conservation and wildlife and habitat protection. They have boating expeditions, kayak adventures and sailing excursions.  

Volusia

Aerial photo Daytona Lagoon water park

Daytona Lagoon: A full day of fun awaits for the entire family – whether you prefer thrilling water slides, a wave pool swim, a multi-level family splash and play center or simply relaxing and floating along the lazy river, there are many ways for family water park time. If that is not enough, or you prefer staying dry for your visit, try out the family entertainment center where you can compete in laser tag, race against each other at the beach side’s only go-kart track, play and win in thier MEGA Arcade or see who has the best putting skills on their 18 holes of mini-golf. 

Sea Turtles being cared for at the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet, FL

Marine Discovery Center: The center has indoor saltwater Marine Exhibits. Outdoor attractions include wildflower and butterfly gardens, a nature playscape, fitness stations and a salt marsh. To get out on the water, book a kayak or boat tour. Admission to the facility & grounds is free. Programs have fees.  

Reptile Discovery Center: Enjoy a walk on the beautiful outdoor nature trail where you will see all kinds of reptile species — lizards, alligators, tortoises and more — active and sunning in their natural enclosures. The indoor exhibits house rattlesnakes, cobras, mambas and many other snakes from all over the world. New this year to those displays are a rare white rattlesnake and a taipan. The live venom extraction program — given at 11:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday — is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat!

Marine Science Center: Through innovative learning experiences, visitors can view seabird and sea turtle rehabilitation, get hands-on in a teaching lab and explore exhibit galleries and a nature trail that illustrate the story of marine life in Volusia County. 

Museum of Arts and Sciences: The museum has an interactive children’s museum and a planetarium. The Children’s Museum is home to interactive exhibits that demonstrate various principles of science, including a racetrack, doctor and radiologist exhibits, tennis ball launcher, video light microscope, a make-believe pizza parlor and more!  

Each of these counties has a variety of parks, walking trails and other outdoor events that are ideal for the family. Please check with the attractions before embarking on your adventure to find out hours, restrictions and costs. With such amazing attractions in our backyard, a staycation can be varied and exciting every day!

You may also like:

Nancy Gonzalez, Volusia County Schools
Nathalie Orlando, RN
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Trisha Howell MSH, RD, LD/N, IFMCP, CEO of Smart Wellness LLC
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Dawn Sapp Associate Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, St. Johns County School District
Barbara C. Holley

Get Artsy With It: Twelve Benefits of Exposing Your Children to Fine Arts

As our school classrooms become more and more focused on reading and writing excellence, our children may be missing out on some of the most important skills they can learn—appreciation of and active participation in the arts!

Fine arts can include much more than drawing and painting. They include music and drama. They encompass many kinds of artistic expression such as working with clay, creating mosaics, three-dimensional paper creations, puppetry and making mobiles. They include photography, cooking, flower arrangement—any activity in which self-expression bursts forth.

Children naturally love to engage in art projects. The creative process is motivating in itself—an invitation to create something unique. There isn’t just one answer in artistic endeavors; rather, there are infinite possibilities. And that’s good for children.

Child development specialists tell us that the left hemisphere of the brain is used in logical thinking and analytical processes—basically our math, reading and science lessons. The right hemisphere of the brain is used in our emotional, intuitive and creative activities—artistic types of activities. Ideally, our children need to develop both sides of the brain, and the sides must work together for optimal learning success.

It’s not only beneficial to expose our children to the fine arts; it’s fun. And you might be surprised at the learning that takes place while a child paints or molds playdough or plays the part of Peter Rabbit in a simple play.

Here are 12 benefits of engaging in artistic projects:

  1. Children will improve their fine motor skills. Handling paintbrushes, drawing with a pencil, cutting safely with scissors, all these require precision. Correct placement of fingers on piano keys, learning to play a scale and strumming a guitar all build motor skills.
  2. Language skills are enhanced. Children learn a whole new vocabulary when they enter the world of the arts. They learn names of famous painters, color and shape words; they learn to describe the items in their drawing and identify various artistic processes such as shading, adding focal points and concepts such as perspective.
  3. Visual-spatial skills are developed. Children learn how to place items on a piece of paper, how to connect pieces of a three-dimensional work, and how to move their clay into the shape they desire. 
  4. In art appreciation, children will learn about the vast diversity found in artistic expression around the world. They’ll build cultural awareness as they compare African masks with those created by Alaskan natives.
  5. Decision-making will develop. In creating any piece of art, there is a series of decisions made. What color, what shape, how big or small? Should I use watercolor or tempera? Art lends itself to experimentation that can spill over into creativity in other areas of life.
  6. Children who sing, act or create art learn to express their feelings either with or without words. They learn to express themselves in many different ways.
  7. Children who might tend to be shy or fearful develop confidence when taking part in the arts. Singing with a group, reciting a poem with classmates, taking a chance on the bright purple paint all work together to build confidence in the decisions they make.
  8. Because there is not just one way to create, children in the arts learn to embrace multiple points of view. If 10 children draw the same apple, there will be 10 different apples. And that’s okay.
  9. Art helps children learn to observe, describe, analyze and interpret. These critical thinking skills will be necessary in academic subjects such as math, science and writing.
  10. Children in the arts will learn to reflect on a project and see ways to improve or change. They will envision how they might say a line or how they might project their voice in the next performance. They’ll brainstorm ways to sculpt the clay so it looks more like a giraffe the next time.
  11. Children learn collaboration. Working in a singing group, acting a part in a play or working on a class mural are all projects that require communication, shared goals and working side by side to achieve those goals.
  12. Children who participate regularly in the arts have been found to achieve better grades and win more awards than those children who don’t have that luxury. (As reported in a 10-year study by Shirley Heath of Stanford University.)

Providing experiences for your children in the fine arts can be as simple as supplying an art corner in your family room. It can be singing songs together or reading poetry aloud. You can make homemade playdough or use old socks to make puppets. It doesn’t have to cost money or take a lot of time.    

You may also choose to enroll your children in music lessons, art lessons or drama classes. You may take them to local art museums and introduce them to folk art, sculpture or oil paintings. Whatever efforts you make to expose your children to the arts will pay off in their motivation, expertise and joy in creative learning. 

So get artsy with it and watch your children bloom.

Sources

The Importance of the Creative Arts for Children and Teens, Jay Davidson, The Child Development Institute, July, 2001.

Benefits of Arts to Kids, raisesmartkids.com, 2016.

The Importance of Art in Child Development, Music and Arts Education, PBS Parents.

Preparing Students for the Next America: The Benefits of an Arts Education, The Arts Education Partnership, April, 2013.

Youth Development and the Arts in Nonschool Hours, Shirley Brice Heath and Elisabeth Sorp, 1998.

You may also like:

Nancy Gonzalez, Volusia County Schools
Nathalie Orlando, RN
Carla Defuria , Health Coach and Registered Dietician, Flagler Health+
Trisha Howell MSH, RD, LD/N, IFMCP, CEO of Smart Wellness LLC
Bookelicious
Dawn Sapp Associate Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, St. Johns County School District
Barbara C. Holley

Travel Tips for Family Trips

It’s vacation season. Parents everywhere are thinking about the complexities of getting everyone to their fun-filled destination safely and sanely. Whether taking a two-hour plane trip or a 14-hour car ride, traveling with kids can be stressful. While a family vacation is a great way to spend time together, relax and make memories, you must make the journey there first. Here are some tips for making traveling with kids a little more enjoyable.

Fight hunger

Hunger can affect kids’ behavior and attitude. During travel, pack easy snacks for the car like fruit slices, smoothies and crackers. This is a great time to purchase those individually wrapped snacks you usually don’t. They are easy for the adults in the car and seem like a treat for the kids. Stephanie Pratt, mother of two girls, suggests planning lunch stops that allow kids to burn off energy, like a restaurant with a play area. “Much like you need to stretch your legs, kids need to more,” she says. Packing a picnic for a rest area or park along the way lets them have some fresh air and lots of open space to play. 

Timing

Timing is everything when you are traveling with little ones. Try to plan travel around normal naptimes or bedtimes so that kids will rest during the majority of the drive. Also, plan breaks often enough that kids can get out and stretch and burn off energy. Mother of five Rachael Kennedy says, “When we are driving on the interstate, we stop at rest stops, and the boys do races to get energy out.” Recognize that a trip with kids is going to take longer. Leave extra time in your travel schedule for impromptu stops, as well as planned ones. Websites like www.roadtripradar.com can help you find attractions and hidden gems along the way. The key to traveling with kids is to plan ahead but also to be flexible.

Get the kids involved

Cut road trip boredom by getting the kids involved. Use games like license plate bingo or car color bingo. Encourage kids to keep a trip journal. Have them write down or draw favorite memories from each stop and add stickers and ticket stubs. Another great way to get kids involved is to give each a disposable camera for them to document their trip. When the pictures are, printed they can add them to their trip journal. “Make a checklist of cities you will drive through with a fun fact about each or what you will do there. It helps cut down on the ‘Are we there yet?’ questions.” says Kara Thomas, Colorado Springs mom. 

Surprises

It is always nice to have a few surprises up your sleeve to break up the trip. Try packing up the kids’ backpacks and have them waiting in the car. When they get bored, pull out a few surprise items – new magazines or books, crayons and a new coloring book, special snacks, small activities, and maybe some new movies to watch. Websites like Pinterest are full of ideas for traveling with kids. Darcy King, Kansas mom of two, says, “Paint a cookie sheet with chalkboard paint and give the kids magnets to play with.” She also suggests gluing magnets to the back of puzzle pieces to use with the magnetic cookie sheet. Jenny Klindworth, mom to preschool-age twins, recommends Melissa and Doug brand reusable stickers and Water Wows. “They are hands down my favorite activities for planes and cars.” 

Electronics

For most families, the go-to solution for road trip boredom is electronics. DVDs and video games are a great way to kill time in the car. “Loosen electronics time while traveling, but when you get there, restrict time more than usual. Without a gadget in their hands, they will get more out of your vacation time,” says Kara Thomas.

Summer vacations teach kids to explore what is outside their hometown, the importance of family time and to make downtime a priority. Best of all, you will create memories that last a lifetime.

More Travel Tips from Real Moms

“The last flight, we used window clings. They were a huge hit.” –Sarah Huebner

“I keep my front seat organized so I can constantly pass things back and forth to them.” –Jennifer Klindworth

“Keep activities rotating! On long trips, we switch every 15-30 minutes with snacks, games, activities and screen time.” –Rachael Kennedy

“With young kids, plan seating so an adult can sit in back and help pass toys and retrieve dropped items.” –Stephanie Pratt

You may also like:

Nancy Gonzalez, Volusia County Schools
Nathalie Orlando, RN
Carla Defuria , Health Coach and Registered Dietician, Flagler Health+
Trisha Howell MSH, RD, LD/N, IFMCP, CEO of Smart Wellness LLC
Bookelicious
Dawn Sapp Associate Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, St. Johns County School District
Barbara C. Holley

How Sparking Your Child’s Passions Can Boost Learning

What does your child love? Is it dinosaurs or volcanoes? Is it a certain movie with its cast of characters or a television show that captures his or her imagination? And why does it matter?

It matters quite a lot, and I’ll tell you why. When you can engage your child’s passionate interests, you open the door to all manner of opportunities for extended learning.

Suppose your child shows an interest in volcanoes—what they are, what they do and how they affect the environment. Think of the learning you can offer as you answer your child’s questions, find resource materials to inform your conversations and maybe spend some time drawing or creating a model volcano. You’ll be teaching science, and you’ll be encouraging an inquisitive mind at the same time.

The wonderful thing about passionate interests is that they change over time. Next week or month, you may be tracking down information on insects, planets or birds. Your job is to facilitate all the learning possible while your child absolutely loves that topic.

Another wonderful thing about passionate interests is the motivation to learn is already established. All you have to do as a parent is provide time, space and materials to support learning. Your child will benefit in so many ways.

Benefits of extending learning about current passions

  • Children learn to focus their attention on a topic.
  • They learn to engage and take risks, improving their body of knowledge or skills.
  • They learn to set goals such as memorizing all the characteristics of a certain animal or understanding the habitat of a certain bird.
  • They learn how to ask good questions and follow up with research.
  • They learn how to think clearly and logically as they pursue their interest.
  • They learn there are experts in any field of study, and they can become an “expert” in a certain area too.
  • They learn the world is full of a vast amount of information, and they can access it as they choose.
  • They see themselves as successful and intelligent learners.

Here are some ways you can encourage your child in his or her chosen passions 

  • Encourage your child to write about, draw or otherwise represent the topic. Create stories about the topic using family members as characters. Create artwork related to the topic. Encourage pretend play related to the subject matter.
  • Find all the supportive materials you can at your local library. That may include both fiction and non-fiction books, photos, coloring books, maps, charts and graphs or videos.
  • Find websites that offer factual information, games and videos related to the topic.
  • Provide space and time in your home to pursue the topic. You may want to clear space on a bookshelf or table for collections of materials or space on a wall or the refrigerator door for artwork related to the topic.
  • Take the time to read with your child about the topic and have conversations to extend learning. Answer questions as you can or be willing to help your child do research to enrich understandings.
  • You may want to commit to spending some money to purchase books or other items. Or you may want to visit local museums, zoos, attend presentations—anything that relates to the current passion.
  • Be a model for your child by following your own interests and passions. Share your enthusiasm for learning about your current interests.

Capitalizing on your child’s current interests is something you can begin to do when your child is very young. Pretend play and drawing pictures is a great place to start. And then, as your child grows and matures, you can introduce ever-expanding ways to extend learning and dig into research.

It’s good to remember that your child’s passions are their own. It’s not productive to choose the interest for them, but once the passion is identified, you can begin to support learning in countless ways.

Success in school and in life depends on being able to master various bodies of knowledge. Give your child a head start in achievement by sparking their current passions and interests.

You may also like:

Nancy Gonzalez, Volusia County Schools
Nathalie Orlando, RN
Carla Defuria , Health Coach and Registered Dietician, Flagler Health+
Trisha Howell MSH, RD, LD/N, IFMCP, CEO of Smart Wellness LLC
Bookelicious
Dawn Sapp Associate Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, St. Johns County School District
Barbara C. Holley

Great Vacation Destinations with Kids

Looking for an out-of-the-box trip? We have a little bit of everything on this list. History, the Wild West, city attractions, natural wonders and our nation’s capital – here are some of the things you might want to experience.

Williamsburg, VA

Located about 40 minutes east of Richmond and one hour west of Virginia Beach, Virginia, Williamsburg has a great variety of experiences. The colonial area is free to walk through, or you can buy a pass to go into the buildings and interact with the interpreters. There is a maze at the governor’s mansion that is very fun. There are a variety of shops and restaurants on Duke of Gloucester Street that will add to your experience. If you happen to catch a performance of the Fifes and Drums, either in Williamsburg or Yorktown, you are in for a treat. Yorktown and Jamestown are all within an easy drive from the Colonial area. Yorktown boasts great restaurants, ice cream and a wonderful visitor’s center with live interpreters. Jamestown also has live interpreters and interactive displays in the visitor’s center.  

If you want to get some exercise, water sports are available close by the Jamestown visitor’s area at the Jamestown City County Marina. Rent a canoe, kayak or bike and explore. Also in Jamestown, the free ferry ride from Jamestown to Surry is a chance to see birds and some beautiful scenery. 

While in Williamsburg, Busch Gardens offers beautiful landscaping, an array of animals, Sesame Street characters and rides for all ages. An array of dining options is available on site, along with shopping and a painting pottery studio. Their sister park, Water Country, provides a full day of fun in the sun. Water slides, a wave pool and a lazy river, as well as multiple splash pads, give an experience for all.

If you are looking for lodging and an adventure together, Great Wolf Lodge has an indoor water park, laser tag, build a bear on-site and an arcade. It is located within an easy drive of Busch Gardens and the Colonial area. While in Williamsburg, don’t overlook local favorites like Go Ape ziplining park and Go-Karts Plus.

New York City

New York City can provide any kind of experience you want. From rolling parks to the bustle and crowds of Times Square, it has it all. We are proud to give you some of the uniquely New York experiences that you can enjoy with your family.

The Empire State Building offers self-guided tours highlighting the construction history and the building’s appearances in media (King Kong, anyone?). It also provides a fantastic view of New York City from above.

The One World Observatory, on the site of the World Trade Center, is the tallest building in the United States, and it has the fastest elevators in the world. It has a 14 ft wide glass disc made of high-definition screens projecting a video of the streets 100 stories below using real-time footage.

A free attraction that has great learning potential is riding the State Island Ferry, which takes you to and from Staten Island via Manhattan. It provides a great view of the Statue of Liberty from the harbor and only takes 25 minutes each way. And did I mention that it is free?

Take time to visit an important national monument, the Statue of Liberty. You can get there via a ferry ride from Battery Park, and there are audio tours available.

If you want to get the bustling New York feel, make your way to Times Square, where you will enjoy giant digital billboards, flagship retail stores and all kinds of street entertainment.

For museum lovers, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, Children’s Museum of Arts, the Museum of Ice Cream (Yes, there are samples!) and the National Museum of Mathematics all have interactive experiences that will thrill kids of all ages.

For animal lovers, the Bronx zoo is a must-see. The Chelsea Pier Sports and Entertainment Complex has swimming, billiards, a bowling alley, a year-round skating rink and more. The Brooklyn Bridge Park houses a vintage carousel, playgrounds and food and beverage options. Central Park boasts a zoo, boat rental, carnivals, skating in the winter and some great street musicians.

Hershey Park

Imagine streets that smell like chocolate. Hershey Park is a magical place with sights, sounds, tastes and smells that won’t disappoint. The Chocolatier Restaurant is a treat, as are the 12 acres of outdoor attractions. Your family can enjoy more than 50 rides, a waterpark, ZooAmerica wildlife park and Hershey characters throughout the park. Be sure to take the free Hershey’s Chocolate Tour and end the tour by indulging in some sweet shopping.

Washington, D.C.

Our nation’s capital city is a great place with wonderful experiences. The monuments and memorials offer a great experience to learn about our past presidents, past wars and more. Most of the monuments are free to visit. Many are within a three-mile walk around the National Mall, with others a short car or metro ride away. The best time to see the monuments is before 10 a.m. or in the evening. Wear your walking shoes, eat before you go and bring water. There is a National Mall App that can aid you, and the Circulator is a great way to get around. This bus is only $1 to ride and goes around the National Mall (www.dccirculator.com). The Smithsonian offers 20 museums and zoos in Washington. Admission is free of charge at all museums and the zoo. Their website, si.com, has the latest information on what is open and when and if you need to reserve advanced passes.

Other fun attractions include Planet Word. This is the world’s first voice-activated museum, housed in the historic Franklin School. The National Building Museum has a Play, Work, Build exhibit with an impressive playscape for future engineers and kids who like to be hands-on. The National Children’s Museum encourages kids to touch, explore and flex their brains.

Kennedy Center has wonderful youth-focused events, and within it, The Reach, which makes performance art interactive and accessible.  

When you are hungry, Georgetown offers a beautiful waterfront and great dining. The Union Market has over 40+ food vendors with food from around the world.

Grand Canyon, AZ

Located in Arizona, Grand Canyon National Park encompasses 277 miles of the Colorado River and adjacent uplands. The immense Grand Canyon is a mile deep and up to 18 miles wide. Layered bands of colorful rock reveal millions of years of geologic history with unmatched vistas from the rim. The South Rim is open year-round and has lodging and activities for the whole family.

Some ideas that you won’t want to miss include seeing a Native American Dance Performance. Check the sign at the Hopi House for times.  

The trip down to the bottom of the canyon is only for the advanced hiker, but by taking a helicopter tour, you can see the sights without the time and body commitment. Some tours even land on the canyon floor. Havasupai Falls is a great feature to visit, but you have to plan ahead. Only a limited number of people are allowed. It must be accessed by either a helicopter flight or a horse or mule ride.  

Mule tours are available at the South Rim. They last three hours, and the riders must be at least 9 years old.  

For the train enthusiasts, the Grand Canyon Railway Train leaves Williams, Arizona, on a three-hour trip to the canyon. Get a car with dome windows and a glass roof for amazing views. There are even lighthearted re-enacted robberies with actors as bandits on horseback.  

White water rafting on the Colorado River is available for the adventurous ones. Children 8 and over can go on a motor-powered raft, and children 12 and over can go on an oar-powered raft.

Last time I was at the Grand Canyon, we had the pleasure of seeing elk. We hiked the edge of the canyon, taking advantage of the shuttle bus when we got tired. We stayed in a hotel on the park property, which made it very convenient to get up for a truly inspirational sunrise.  

JJJ Wilderness Ranch, Augusta, Montana

These all-inclusive Montana ranch vacation getaways are for anyone, from the beginner to experienced rider, hiker or fisherman and include excellent meals, private log cabin lodging and unlimited outdoor activities. Responsive horses. Friendly staff. Fantastic Kid’s Program. Great for multi-generational families.

Enjoy tall-tale-telling in the great outdoors of Montana’s Big Sky Country, western cookouts and evening campfires with cowboy poetry, singing and marshmallow roasting. Without the distraction of city lights, the mountain skies become a stargazers’ paradise.

Activities include horseback riding through still pristine wilderness, high mountaintops or a day on the open prairie. Fly-fishing with instruction begins on their stocked trout pond, then move to the Sun River or plan an all-day adventure to the Bob Marshall Wilderness via horseback. Fishing is optimal from late June to early August. They have guided or self-guided hiking. Trade your horse in for a shotgun and work on your aim by trap shooting. They will teach you how to use a bow and hit a target. Learn how to rope, climb a mountain, swim in a lake or soak and relax in the hot tub. Play horseshoes, volleyball, basketball, corn hole or kick back and relax with a good book in a lounge chair on the deck.

Niagara Falls, NY and Canada

I would recommend packing your passport for this trip so that you can go from the NY side to the Canadian side and experience the full Falls experience. This trip is close to my heart since my Great Great Great Great Aunt, Annie Edson Taylor, was the first woman to go over the falls in a barrel and survive. It is one of my favorite places to visit.

When in Niagara Falls, the stars of the show are the waterfalls. At night, they light the falls – they are beautiful and awe-inspiring. To get a closer look, there are boat rides – Hornblower Niagara Cruises and the Maid of the Mist, the Journey behind the falls, which is a walking tour and the Falls Incline Railway.

Once you have experienced the falls, check out the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark or the Niagara Speedway Go-Karts. Niagara Speedway has an elevated outdoor go-kart course spread out across four acres. There is also WildPlay, with ziplining and fun obstacle courses, and don’t forget the Niagara Skywheel, a giant Ferris wheel with amazing views. Clifton Hill Amusements also provides a fun day.

If you want to enjoy a bit of nature, the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory is one of the largest glass-enclosed butterfly conservatories in North America. The Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory features over 2,000 vibrantly colored butterflies fluttering freely throughout winding pathways adorned with lush vegetation and trickling waterfalls. Your self-guided walking tour begins with a short, informative video presentation.

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Great resources for all of these destinations can be found on the internet. All travel has the opportunity to be educational, form lasting memories and create a family bond. I have fond memories of walking Williamsburg hand in hand with my then boyfriend, and 17 years later, watching our daughter perform on those same streets with the Fifes and Drums of Yorktown. My other daughter was a peer interpreter at the Jamestown Settlement in her teen years. Hershey Park is where my love of factories and engineering started. I went to Washington D.C. with my 9th-grade class and have great memories of the museums of the Smithsonian, and I returned there on my honeymoon. We have been taking our children to Niagara Falls since they could walk, and their wide eyes as they witnessed the spray coming off the moving water were amazing. We took our girls to New York City when they were in their middle school years, and the long car ride and exciting attractions made for great connections that wouldn’t happen if we had been home. Use your vacations to connect your family to new experiences and with each other.

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