Turning Every Day Outings into Memories & Educational Adventures

We love going places!  Since we are fortunate to have several options, we take full advantage and buy season IMG_1338passes to all sorts of places – the aquarium, the zoo, the local play center, etc., but even if we didn’t live close to places like this I would like to think we would still get out for outings rather often.  Even with all of these fun places nearby, I find that after a few visits our toddlers starts running for his favorite part as soon as we enter the door.  By doing this, the time the outing takes is drastically shortened (resulting in a disappointed mama) and he missing out on seeing a number of interesting things along the way (enter even greater disappointed mama and an annoyed baby brother).  So to slow him down and get him to appreciate the full scope of what is in front of him, we have started turning our outings into a game of sorts.  Take today’s trip to the aquarium:

Room 1: In this room our toddler typically runs straight for the African drums and then pauses long enough to see one puffer fish and off he dashes to the next area – here and gone in less than 30 seconds; once again missing most of what is in the room.  To help slow him down, teach him to focus, and encourage some developing skills I have started asking questions similar to those below when we enter this room:

  • Can you find a fish that looks like one we have at home?
  • I think one of the turtles had babies, which tank should we look in to find the babies?IMG_1313
  • How many babies do you see?
  • What is your favorite fish in the tank that has fish from the Licking River?  Why?
  • Can you guess which fish is my favorite?
  • There is a giant map.  Pick a spot and I’ll tell you the names of that place.
  • How many tanks have yellow fish in them?
  • I spy a neon tetra.  Can you spy one with your eye?  Where?

After, somewhere between 8 and 10 questions we move on at whatever pace he likes.  Sometimes this means quickly moving on; yet, more often than not he now lingers and asks me a few of the same type of questions which after all does make for a much more entertaining game!  As we continue, so does our game.  A few of the other questions I asked today were:

  • How many toes does Mighty Mike have?IMG_1324
  • I see an alligator with one eye above the water and one eye below the water.  Can you spot it?
  • Why do you think that crocodile is on the dock?  What do you think he does when he is in the water?
  • How long do you think the penguin will swim?  Why?  Should we time him?

This same game has helped lengthen our trips to museums, the zoo, and even the shopping mall.  We play it pretty much any time we aren’t in a hurry (even if that is at the grocery).  Not only does our toddler get to practice skills, but he asks and answers questions, and has fun learning random facts.  With that said, I should clarify a bit; all the learning is great but my real goal is making memories which takes time and effort.  Time together, conversations, and games that’s what I want our kiddos to remember of their childhood!  How do you make memories and help your little ones appreciate what’s around them?