Brought to you by Tourism & Events Queensland (S1 post)
Making the Most of Special Family Experiences
I’ve discovered one of the best ways to engage my kids in learning is to make it about connection. There is something beautiful about natural curiosity and capitalising on experience.
With this in mind, when I prepare for certain experiences (like holidays) with my kids, I put a little thought into the big picture. It’s about providing the opportunity to learn and connect and then allowing it to unfold naturally (not having expectations on what that looks like). I have found this is the most rewarding way to encourage my kids to be learners for life, because it’s fun and satisfying.
Recently, our family went to Hervey Bay to do Whale Watching for a campaign I was involved in with Tourism & Events Queensland (TEQ). I had this idea of creating some sort of activity/craft to incorporate into the experience for my kids and TEQ were totally on board because they are as passionate about Queensland (my home state), and celebrating its wonderful nature and landscape as I am!
Step 1: Pre Family Experience
Before we went, I made up travel packs with a few relevant drawing materials and plastic figurine toys (I researched the wildlife in the Fraser Coast area). You can read about the pack I made up here: Road Trip Activities.
Step 2: The Family Experience
My son carried around a toy whale most of the time we were at Hervey Bay. It was gorgeous. It was such a great experience for the kids and we learned a lot about whales and why they love Hervey Bay so much.
This diagram of the whale journey from Antarctica to Tropical North Queensland is useful, and it shows Hervey Bay as a stopping place for many whales because of the protection of Fraser Island and the temperature of the water compared to down south. Hervey Bay is also an important stopover for the social development of young humpbacks, as hundreds of mothers use the Bay as a safe haven to teach their calves essential survival skills in preparation for the deeper, colder water of Antarctica.
The whales deviate from the migratory path and stop, rest and play in Hervey Bay for up to 10 days at a time making it the best place to view them up close. On our whale watching tour, we saw 5 different pods of whales. Some were resting just under the water, some did massive breaches and flips, and some flapped their pectoral fins, like they were waving hello. My sister was recently up at Hervey Bay too, and one of the whales came right up to the boat. Incredible!
You can read more about Hervey Bay and our whale watching experience here: Whale Watching – Hervey Bay.
Step 3: Post Family Experience
Seeing the whales, in all their graceful enormousness was amazing. I wanted to take the opportunity to reinforce the experience through play. I think the key here is that it should feel natural and be fun. I’ve learned over the years not to force activities but instead to prepare, and then pick the right moments to do them.
Below are some ideas on how to capitalise on amazing family experiences:
- Watch a documentary
- Do a play scene
- Make a craft
- Research images or information on the web
- Read a book (search the library for relevant books)
- Make a memory book with photographs
- Use a favourite photograph and make a wall canvas for the home
- Make a memory jar like this one
I’m sharing two ideas I did with my kids below.
I set up a simple play scene with the toys I bought for the kids before we went on the trip. I did this during the day, and just left it there for the kids to find in the afternoon after school. They loved seeing it when they came home! You can find out how I put it all together here: Sea & Sand Play Scene.
Look at these direct connections between the experience and play:
Sea Animal Printable
Another idea I had was to make a sea animal puppet theatre. This is especially great if kids want to do a talk at school about whales or sea animals. For the free printable and instructions on how to put it all together, click here: Sea Animals Puppet Theatre.
The tag line for Be A Fun Mum is ‘love the moment’ and there’s a skill to that. Sure, it’s about being present and enjoying time with your kids but there is more to it than that. It’s also the ability to capitalise on moments…and making them count! This is something I have been working on over the last couple of years and it’s not hard, but I have found that I have had to change my mindset to be very open to how it all plays out. It works! And it’s fun!
I tailored these activities for my children with Hervey Bay and the Fraser Coast in mind (which I highly recommend as a family holiday destination), however the same principles can be used no matter where you go:
1. Plan to enhance the experience by doing a bit of research and tapping into things your kids enjoy.
2. Enjoy the experience, allowing the planning to be a tool, not a fixed guide.
3. Do something fun in the wake of the experience.
These are the precious memory-making years with my kids and I’m making the most of it!