IDEAS FOR BONDING WITH YOUR KIDS WHILE ON VACATION:

*Do something that sets you apart from the crowd.  Before our trip to Kingfisher Ranch last week my daughters, step-daughter, and I all painted our fingernails and toenails in the same bright colors.  Doing it before we left helped the girls anticipate the trip even more and it created a feeling of “belonging.”  When my extended family went on a cruise in 2006 Hub and I made t-shirts for everyone that showed a sinking ship and the words, “Judy’s worst nightmare” (because a sinking ship really is my mom’s worst nightmare).  We picked one day for the entire family to wear our shirts as we left the ship for an excursion.  The kids, especially, enjoyed the comments and questions we received about our shirts.  Twenty six people wearing the same shirt was quite a sight.

*Once you reach your destination take a walk with your kids to explore the area.  I walked with two of my kids around Kingfisher Ranch which is how we discovered the fire pit, the volleyball court, and the pond.  Even a walk around the area of a hotel can provide information about activities to do or shops to visit.  Walking is a great way to begin a conversation as the kids show their excitement about things they discover.

*As much as possible let your kids try new things.  While at Kingfisher Ranch I let my eight-year-old son use the oars the entire time the two of us were kayaking on the pond.  He became quite skilled at maneuvering us through the water and even helped us win a couple of races against his step-cousin.  If your child has never done it before, any activity can be exciting–putting out a campfire, miniature golfing, making a craft, horseback riding, trying seafood, hunting for giant moths, snorkeling, etc.  Your excitement will feed their excitement. 

*Bring games and activities for some of the “down” times.  Some of our fondest memories are of playing rowdy games at my parents’ cabin.  Between horseback riding and kayaking at the ranch my son enjoyed coloring in his coloring books.  And kids really like it when an adult or teenager joins them in coloring.  My sister-in-law brought a new card game to the ranch and some of us enjoyed playing it in the evening as others began quieting down for the night.  Playing a game, reading a book, or playing with toys can help younger children calm down after a day full of activities.   

*Try to get some one-on-one time with each of your kids during the vacation.  My son and I both enjoyed our time in the kayak together, just the two of us on the water.  My thirteen-year-old daughter liked being the only kid on a horseback trail ride with me and four other adults.  A walk together, reading a storybook, trying a new game, souvenir shopping, talking on the balcony–any “alone” time with mom or dad will be treasured.

*Activities in the car to help fight boredom are a necessity.  Singing, listening to the radio, playing games and these activities all help.

*Make sure everyone in the family gets to help with something on the trip.  While at the ranch our kids were all assigned to help with something.  Shroom helped make pancakes; Mack helped prepare a lunch; Hoob helped prepare a dinner; Yawlin got to wipe off tables and counters; Squid and Juju did the dishes one night.  Everyone helped with the final clean-up.  Mack took it upon herself to play with younger step-cousins so that the parents could have some time to do some activities.  There should be no excuses for not helping.  Older kids can help younger kids pack or play a game or make a craft.  Younger kids can help pick up toys, put dirty clothes in a bag, or wipe toothpaste off the sink. 

*Take plenty of pictures of the trip.  Make sure every person is in several of the pictures.  Include posed pictures and candid pictures.  Let the kids take some of the pictures; if they don’t have a camera of their own let them borrow yours (if they are responsible enough) or buy them a disposable camera.  My thirteen-year-old daughter took my camera for awhile at the ranch and took pictures of the kittens in the barn, a two-year-old cousin trying to open the door to the lodge, some of the horses, and the Bear River.  Her pictures added a flavor to our trip that I would have missed. 

*Allow your kids to choose some of the pictures that will be put in a scrapbook or posted on family websites or displayed at home.  As pictures are chosen, make sure to reminisce about the fun times on the trip.  Remembering the good times about trips is the best part.  Kids don’t mind the same stories being retold and they will enjoy telling their own adventures.  On the anniversary of the trip pull out the old pictures and relive the trip, it will solidify the memories.

The most important thing to remember about vacationing is to relax and enjoy being together because that is the reason you took the trip in the first place!

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