Many of us all over the world are cooped up in our homes trying to stop the spread of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Trips and events have been canceled. Schools, beaches, museums, parks, libraries, restaurants, nearly everything seems to be closed. While traveling or going anywhere is put on pause, here are 10 free ways to inspire your kids to love travel right from the comfort of your family room or kitchen.
Play Pretend Travel
Kids love imaginary play. There are countless ways to play pretend with travel as your theme.
Pretend You’re Going on a Plane
Rearrange your dining room chairs into “airplane seats” as if you’re going on a plane ride. Use post-its or just paper and tape to write the seat number on each seat. Make passports, airline tickets, and luggage tags. We used construction paper, scissors, and markers. My son drew a picture of each of us on our respective passports. For younger kids, this is also a great exercise for kids to practice memorizing and writing out their addresses, names, and reading and spelling the date, and a destination. Draw a quick airplane diagram to allow your child to select your seats. My son always selects a window seat by the wing.
Wait in your family room as if you are waiting at the airport for boarding to start. Once boarding starts, show your tickets and passports to a “pretend flight attendant” and take your seats. “Fasten” your seatbelts. Make sure the “flight attendant” hands out some snacks and glasses of water during the flight. Talk about how far away your destination is and whether you’re changing time zones. During our “flights,” we listen to traditional music from our destination, practice common phrases of the official language of wherever we are going, read books, peruse through a photo book about the country, and talk about what we may see when we land and what we are seeing while “flying”. When you get off the plane, make sure to get your passports “stamped”. If you don’t have stamps, use stickers or my son’s favorites, dabbers.
Once you get off the plane, don’t stop there. We spend the rest of the day pretending we are at the destination and imagining our house is the hotel or resort and exploring the area.
Each day, let your kids pick a country to dive into. If they can’t come up with an idea, let them spin a globe to see where their finger lands. If you don’t have a globe or map at home, let them point to a place on an internet map.
You can do something similar, but pretend you’re going on a train. Map out train routes and let your kids pick a city to go to and learn about. Don’t forget to get your “train tickets” hole punched.
Pack a Small Suitcase
Have your child pack a small suitcase with things they will need wherever it is you’re pretending to go. Are you going somewhere warm? Cold? Do you need a bathing suit, hats, sunglasses, or other accessories? Have your child help pick out items based on the climate and the activities you could do there. Have your child bring their suitcase, small backpack, or purse onto the pretend flight or train ride.
Fly Around the House
Kids love to run around in circles. Fly airplanes around the house or in the backyard to destinations you’ve been to and want to visit. If you don’t have toy airplanes, make paper or cardboard airplanes. You can also stretch your arms out and pretend to be airplanes.
Make a Fort
Make a fort in your family room and pretend you’re somewhere, anywhere exciting. Maybe you’re in a treehouse in the woods. A bungalow over the ocean. In a cave. In a submarine. There are countless possibilities.
Pretend you’re Animals
Pretend to be animals and discuss with your child where the animal lives and look up fun facts about each animal. Pretend to breach like a whale. Swim like a dolphin. Waddle like a penguin. Fly like a bird. Slither like a snake. Make animal noises of monkeys, bears, lions, farm animals, and anything else.
Virtual Tours and Free On-line Learning
You can take virtual museum tours right from your home, and many are free! You can search Google Arts and Culture collection of museums. The Louvre, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, The State Hermitage Museum/Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, and many others are offering virtual tours. You can even take virtual tours of some national parks, such as Yosemite National Park, or enjoy live cams at places such as the San Diego Zoo, Georgia Aquarium and Niagara Falls. Google any other museum, zoo, or national park you’re interested in with the terms “virtual tour” and see if one is offered.
Look up fun facts online about regions, countries, cities, and villages to explore and learn about with your child.
Arts and Crafts
There are a ton of really cute creative arts and crafts you can buy online or in craft stores with a travel theme, but there is plenty you can come up with the crayons, markers, scissors, paints, and tape you probably already have. Draw, paint, color, and make things you may see in a specific country or region. Color in countries and states from printed out maps. Draw road trip paths or flight routes. Draw or make airplanes or hot air balloons.
You can easily make crowns with just paper and scissors connected by tape or staples. My son’s favorite part is decorating the crowns using each marker or crayon we own. Paint treasure and pretend it’s the crown jewels.
Print out maps on-line and cut and paste pictures or have your kids draw pictures to make map collages. I purchased two large maps of the United States and cut out the state lines on one map to use as a stencil to cut pictures to paste onto the second map.
Make footprint, handprint, and fingerprint art of wildlife and places from around the world. If you think about or Google ideas, you can easily turn a footprint or handprint into just about anything. I taught my son the alphabet and letter-sounds by making footprint art of objects and animals from A-Z.
Send the arts and crafts you make to your elderly relatives and friends, who probably need the uplifting artwork the most during this time. My son is also drawing pictures to send to his school friends he misses.
Winetraveler Tip: We’ve also started a Facebook group to get other parents involved with sharing their ideas for arts and crafts and add another layer of digital interactivity. Parents or whoever else with littles in their lives are welcome to contribute.
Camp in Your Family Room
Camp in your family room in the fort you made, or in your backyard if you have a tent. Bring extra blankets, pillows, and stuffed animal friends. Wait until it gets dark, turn off all the lights, and use flashlights. Kids love flashlights. While you are huddled in your little fort or tent, tell stories about cultures and countries around the world. Let them eat their favorite snacks.
Use Legos, blocks, magnets, or other similar building toys to build airports, airplanes, trains, cars, and things you may see while you’re traveling. Build iconic castles, churches, famous towers, bridges, pyramids, anything at all.
Show your kids pictures from your past trips as an educational tool to teach them about history, geography, culture, history, etc. If you haven’t already, you can use the extra time at home to catch up on preparing scrapbooks, photo books, or other ways to organize your pictures. I document all of our pictures into extensive photo books, and then I also make more simplistic books for my children from our travels. If you don’t have great photos or haven’t ventured too far yet, use Google pictures or google street views to bring them to new places.
Read Books About Countries
Read books about countries and wildlife, or use books you already have to discuss places. I realized how easily everyday books could be used to talk about other countries and places while reading a book to my son during our Baltic’s road trip. The book took place in a fairy tale kingdom, and my son stopped me and excitably pointed to the castle and said, “Mommy, we were there today!” I now always look to connect travel experiences with kid stories.
Playing dress-up is my daughter’s favorite. Get creative. Use whatever clothes, hats, and accessories you already have at home. My kids especially love to put on our clothes, hats, and shoes and try to walk around in them. Pretend you’re putting on a spacesuit and going to the moon. Dress up as if you’re going on an African safari and use any stuffed animals you have and scatter them around your house to bring the safari to life. Wear pretty dresses and pretend you’re going to a ball or having tea in a European palace.
Cook Meals from Around the World
Empty grocery shelves may limit you with this one. To the extent you have access to the ingredients you need, get your littles excited about other cultures through cuisine. Look up recipes of popular dishes and desserts from around the world to experiment with. Even if you’re not savvy in the kitchen, kids are great to practice on. My kids love to be involved in the cooking prep and are even more excited if we make them think they picked the meal. Let them dump the ingredients in, mix them around, and get their hands dirty.
Music from Around the World
Teach your littles about other cultures and music by listening to traditional music from around the world. I simply google “traditional music from [insert country]” and voila I have plenty of free options to choose from. Have a dance party in your family room. Look up traditional dances and have fun trying to copy the moves.
These are some ideas I’ve come up with. Comment below examples of playful and fun activities you share with your kids to inspire their love for travel.
So many great ideas here! I will share. Love the “Pretend you’re going on a Flight” and “Virtual Tour “options in particular. One thing that goes over well with some little people I know are word games where they need to use place names of countries, cities, states/provinces while working on their spelling. For example, I saw “Vancouver” and then next person needs to come up with a place name which starts with the letter “R” (last letter of Vancouver) and so on around the circle. This can seem to go on FOREVER but it’s entertaining armchair travel! Cheers!