Making the Most of Special Family Experiences

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.

Travel Trail Mix

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.  

Whale trail - Queensland Coast

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!

whale watching hervey bay

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.

Play Scene

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.

Sea and Sand Play Scene

Look at these direct connections between the experience and play:

Whale Fluke 

Whale Fluke



Whale Watching

Whale watching hervey bay

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.

Shoebox 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!

Helpful Links for Fraser Coast Region


Fraser Coast Activity Sheets

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  • Reply
    October 10, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Oh I love the little activity pack you set up! And so many other simple ways to keep the holiday learning and love alive even after you are home… these ideas could work with loads of other holidays too!

  • Reply
    Penny at Mother Natured
    October 10, 2014 at 9:29 am

    I was certain I’d commented on this already, but perhaps it was a different post? When I read it the first time the pictures of the whales drew me in (they are stunning photos btw). Makes me want to hop on a boat and head out to the ocean to see them again. I could seriously visit the whales every year!

  • Reply
    Christie-Childhood 101
    October 10, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    What an awesome experience. My in laws have recently moved to Hervey Bay so we will just have to make sure our next visit coincides with whale season!

  • Reply
    Kate Lloyd
    October 11, 2014 at 9:49 am

    I can’t tell you how much I just love this post. So much great advice. I think family time is so precious and it’s wonderful to make moments together as memorable as possible.

  • Reply
    October 12, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Wow – those whales are amazing! So something I want to do with my family before they leave home – and also with the grandkids, one day, God willing :). I often leave out the “do something in the wake of the experience bit”. It makes so much sense though – to reflect on the experience and really be thankful for it. xo P

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