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Make Summer Vacation an Education

Any vacation is an opportunity for a child to learn. And, staycations, which can save money and reduce stress, are an opportunity to educate your child specifically about history and highlights near your home.

To plan your staycation, have each family member share his or her ideas about activities he or she would enjoy or locations they would like to visit. Then choose what you will do by incorporating at least one favorite activity from each person. For example, you may decide to pack a picnic and head to the beach for an overnight camping adventure, which incorporates several experiences in one.

Here are some summer ideas your family may enjoy, and ways you can teach a fun lesson outside the classroom:

  • Go camping. Consider nearby state parks, camping grounds, or even your own backyard! Learn about nature, wildlife, or see the stars away from city lights.
  • Plan a family picnic to a local park, a beach, a nearby lake, a lighthouse, or an outdoor trail. The possibilities are endless for local history, geography or architecture lessons!
  • Take a trip to a national park or national wildlife refuge. Some parks and refuges may offer free admission on certain days, so be sure to check schedules before you decide. Many also have free ranger-led tours as well as free junior-ranger tours and educational activities for children.
  • Take day trips to tourist attractions in your area, such as the ones you've never found the time to visit before. Learning something new is fun at any age.
  • Take a family cycling trip on local bike trails. Learn about health, fitness and exercise while you tour your hometown.
  • Visit local art, science, and children's museums, space centers, planetariums, or botanical gardens overflowing with opportunities to learn about science and nature. Many do not charge admission on certain days of the month, so check their schedules before heading out.
  • Plan a family movie or pizza-making night. Or plan a crafts night. Learn about creating something special - and for older children, about operating on a budget.
  • Attend a play or a concert. In the summer, many plays and concerts are performed outdoors, which can make for more fun. Learn about the creative arts.
  • Plan a day trip to a local family-themed sporting center or pool to play games and swim as a family. Exercise and physiology are the lessons of the day.
  • Visit local festivals or celebrations to learn about various traditions and cultures.
  • Pick fruits or vegetables at local orchards. Afterward, have everyone help prepare some of your family's favorite dishes. Learn about farming and cooking all in one.

Any summer activity is an opportunity for education, and vacations don't have to be complicated or out-of-the-ordinary as long as families are together doing things they all enjoy. Remember to talk about your experiences at home and use books or reputable Internet sites to learn facts about your favorite activities and destinations. Don't forget sunscreen and any protective clothing you may need to take along, and have fun learning as a family this summer!

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