Summer has arrived, and with it for many of us comes family vacations. While vacations are wonderful learning opportunities in and of themselves, you can also use these vacations as a way to keep up with academic skills. In particular, your children can get wonderful writing practice by using vacation journals.
These vacation journals can be done in a variety of ways. One way, probably best for older kids who are proficient in writing, is to keep a vacation diary. Allow your child to pick out a journal at the store that they like. Perhaps even have them decorate it before leaving on the trip. When there is downtime during the trip (airplane/train/car rides, waiting for food to arrive at a restaurant, a half hour before bedtime) encourage your child to journal what has happened in the day. Some children may take this literally and write a description of all the activities in chronological order. Others may write down overall impressions they have of the place they’re visiting or funny anecdotes of the work on their writing skills. If your child gets stuck and can’t think of what to write, feel free to help him remember some of the highlights of the day which might get him started. Or suggest some of these prompts: What was the best part of today?, How would you describe the hotel where you’re staying?, What is the weather like in this part of the world?, What do you think of the food?, What are the similarities and differences between this new place and home?
Besides a traditional diary approach, your child might also enjoy more of a vacation scrapbook. In scrapbooking, your child will collect items throughout the day (a leaf from a hike, a postcard from a famous attraction, a photo of a particularly memorable moment) and paste these items into a scrapbook. Importantly, in order for this to boost their writing skills, they will of course also need to be writing in the scrapbook. Make sure they leave space to detail some of the adventures that happen on a daily basis. (Perhaps even find a scrapbook that includes text boxes so as to encourage your child to write on every page.) Children (and adults for that matter) can get caught up in collecting all the items, but without writing down information you don’t get a great sense of what is going on in the trip.
I’ve also known families who keep pretend passports. On each page the children will write about a particular country they’re visiting and include interesting facts about the country, draw the flag of the country, and share some of their favorite food, activities, and sights. These passports go from country to country over the years and some well-traveled families wind up with very full passports!
Younger children can also have fun with travel journals. A modified version for early writers could involve them pasting items into the journal or drawing pictures of what happens. Then they can caption the item/drawing as best they can (feel free to help with the little ones). For those not yet writing, you could have them draw a few important moments in the day and sequence them correctly so they can practice that skill. Little ones always feel so important when they have a chance to participate in what their older siblings are doing.
Imagine how wonderful it will be to look back on these journals when your children are older. Not only will you get a chance to relive the trip, but you’ll also get a true snapshot of your child at that particular age. I saved the journals I did with my children on our vacations and still treasure them to this day.