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Sightseeing tips to keep kids engaged and enthusiastic

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Posted: Monday, June 28, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 10:23 am, Thu Mar 31, 2011.

Summer is a season synonymous with vacation. The kids aren't in school and Mom and Dad often take a week or two off to enjoy the warm weather and some time away with the family.

For many families, no vacation is complete without a little sightseeing. A chance to experience other cultures or even the uniqueness of your own culture and its vast history, sightseeing is often a joy for adults but can prove tiresome for kids, particularly younger children.

When sightseeing with children this summer, parents should consider the following tips, courtesy of the National Children's Museum.

  • Limit your choices. Almost every cultural institution has something valuable to offer children, including lessons in art, history, science, technology, nature, and more. While it can be tempting to visit a variety of venues in one day, kids do best when they visit just one attraction at a time, whenever possible. Limit your experience to about two hours to allow children time to really absorb the content of that particular environment, so they can learn more and better remember their experience.
  • Let kids do the planning. If your child is old enough, allow her to tell you what she wants to see and do for a change. Kids are likely to be more interested, engaged, and excited if they get to help call the shots and create their own experience.
  • Focus on a specific area of interest. Before heading to your destination, choose a specific subject on which to focus during your visit. For example, if you are headed to the Museum of Natural History, you may choose to focus on learning about dinosaurs. Take some time to read up on the subject with your child in the days leading up to your visit, and discuss it on your way to the museum. Then head straight to Dinosaur Hall. Focusing on one area gets children excited about what they will see and enhances what they already know.
  • Use past experiences to connect your child to the site. Building on past experience is critical to a child's learning. To understand a new concept your child might encounter at a museum or monument, try to connect it to a concept that he is already familiar with. For example, if you know you will look at a sculpture that depicts a person throwing a ball, bring your child's own ball with you and encourage him to use it in a similar way.
  • Create your own special activity. Allow your child to be actively involved in the learning process during your visit. Bring a notebook or sketchbook and crayons, and encourage your child to count objects, record what he liked most about his favorite exhibits, or sketch his own version of what he sees during your visit. Or before you head to the museum, take an online tour and create your own "Treasure Hunt" or other hands-on activity where kids have an opportunity to see, touch, taste, and listen, or act out their impressions of what they experience.
  • Be an engaged and interested parent. Make it clear that your visit is a treat—a special time for you and your child to share together. Your level of enthusiasm, interest, and excitement is contagious. Be a learner along with your child and share the experience that learning is fun!

Scheduled to open in the Washington, DC region in 2013, the National Children's Museum (NCM) will be a world-class cultural and educational center dedicated to engaging children and empowering them to make a difference. The mission of NCM is to inspire children to care about and improve the world. Visit them online at www.ncm.museum.

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