Each Sunday night I sit down and plan out what I envision for my family that week. Projects I want to complete, events that we need to prepare for and most importantly what we are going to explore on the weekends. I honestly thought that’s what all parents did. As my kids are getting older and I talk with more mommies, I find that not everyone understands why we spend so many weekends traveling around.
When I say traveling around I don’t mean staying overnight somewhere, I mean driving to surrounding towns and communities to experience what they may have. I tell my kids we are going on an adventure, because we really are. Traveling with anyone under 2 is an adventure in itself. I don’t mind driving and never considered that a hinder to a family day out. In part of my planning I pull up various event emails I’ve signed up for. Honestly, anything within 3 hours is fair game. If it is something that my boys have expressed interest in or it is something that sounds exciting, we go.
I enjoy being in the car with my boys. We get away from all the distractions that can be found at home (iPads, Netflix, computers) and talk. We laugh and tell stories and sing, and not kid music either. I want them to have memories of their parents favorite songs. I’m not thrilled about Simon and Garfunkle that my husband insists on playing, but it’s a compromise.
Our talks are something that I pay special attention to and make sure to direct the conversation with questions that make them think outside of a yes/ no answer. It’s my way of helping to build their “background knowledge.” Working in education I know the importance of prior knowledge and how students fall behind when they don’t have their own experiences to relate back to. The more a child knows about a topic, the easier it is for them to understand it and apply it in different ways.
As we read bedtime stories about a fictional talking sea turtle we can talk about the time we saw a real sea turtle. When we read about ways people travel, it automatically leads to us talking about when we rode on the train for fun, or the time we went on a boat ride. My kids are able to understand in a better way what we are reading and have conversations about them.
I’m also amazed at some of the things they say and I stop and see the world through their eyes. On a recent trip my son looked out the window and said, “That must be where the cloud maker lives.” I couldn’t help but laugh. That’s a memory I wouldn’t have if we weren’t out exploring together.
So when I see that there will be a hot air ballon festival, even if it is a few hours away, I make sure we go. If I see the science museum in another city has an exhibit on bats, we go. I want to make those memories with my sons, but I also want to make sure that I give them a jump start on finding what interests them outside of just reading about it. I don’t want all of their prior knowledge about a topic to come from a screen, I want them to have me in those memories.
Please don’t think this means we spend a crazy amount of money on the weekends. Absolutely not. Most of the time because I plan these things out and search multiple areas, they are free. We pack snacks and lunch and don’t spend much more money than we would if we stayed around the house. The only difference is the gas money. For me the extra money I spend on gas, is well worth it when I see the return.