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(2018 - Winter/Spring Issue)


Children learn something everywhere they go—especially if we keep them engaged.

Any multi-day adventure away from home is going to be thought-provoking and educational, but for little ones, a positive and permanent impression depends not only on what we see together, but also on what we say.

When planning a driving trip, for instance, talk about the upcoming car ride, things to look for outside the windows, how and why the landscape will change and the exciting aspects of your destination.

Do the same if travelling by air. Together you’re about to experience one of humankind’s most advanced technologies so, using a model aircraft perhaps, examine the features needed for lift-off and flight. On a map or globe show the little ones where you’ll be flying, how many kilometres you will travel and how long it would take if you drove, sailed or walked instead.


If you’re visiting the Bahamas, remind children that history records the isle of San Salvador as the first landing for Christopher Columbus in the New World. Near Cancun, Mexico, take them to the Tulum ruins to see for themselves the ingenuity of the Mayan people. On Vancouver Island, walk in the towering Douglas-fir forest where an 800-year-old tree was already growing for 560 years before Captain James Cook arrived. Today, that tree stands 74 metres high—easily 60 times taller than any six-year-old—and would need the arms of several children to give it a good hug.

Kids are attracted to inventions and discoveries as well, so how about a history-class connection in the places you visit? Alexander Graham Bell, for instance, is a fine example. Three countries—Canada, the United States and Scotland—played significant roles in the invention of the telephone. If in Edinburgh, add 16 South Charlotte Street—the house where Bell was born in 1847—to your sightseeing schedule. Upon immigrating to Canada at age 23, his family lived at 94 Tetula Heights Road in Brantford, Ontario, and he spent summers working on his “speaking telegraph” in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, where today the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site invites kids to experiment with the marvel of signals.


Specialists at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, say that children “should be active participants in guiding their own learning.” In that case, expect to be guided first and foremost to dinosaurs, outer space, animals, playtime, pirates and inventions. Here are some sure bets for trip planning that will spark conversations:

Dinosaurs: See the actual bones of extinct creatures dug up and reassembled to demonstrate the enormous scale of a species which dominated Earth for almost 165 million years—825 times longer than the 200,000 years Homo sapiens have been around. From the Badlands of Alberta across to the Carolinas and from Florida up to the Midwest states, North America was fertile ground for dinosaurs. At the Field Museum in Chicago, visit SUE, the largest and most complete T. Rex skeleton ever found. Spend the day at SciWorks in Winston-Salem or at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. In Canada, any time spent at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller, Alberta, is an eye-popping step back in time.

Outer Space: Earth is just a speck in the Milky Way galaxy, but aren’t we one fantastic example of what’s possible? Some of the world’s most exciting planetariums are in urban centres like Vancouver, New York City, Houston, Durham, San Francisco, and overseas in Japan, London and Argentina. In Vancouver, explore our solar system at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, which features a grand exhibition, an observatory and a theatre. In Houston, home to NASA, visit the Burke Baker Planetarium, where the star field equipment is so precise that real astronauts use it for training.  

Animals: It’s only natural that you, a caring role model, would inspire your children to care for all beings. Wild animals are off limits, of course, but all too often a man-made hazard causes serious injury. At the Discovery Wildlife Park in Innisfail, Alberta, learn how skilled practitioners work to heal and free injured animals. On Florida’s Gulf Coast, be inspired by the rescue, care and rehabilitation of birds at the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary, where, for instance, pelicans can be seen with little splints on their wings while healing peacefully in a safe environment.  

Playtime: At home, the right toys and games are powerful learning tools and some museums are dedicated to play. The Children’s Museum of Manitoba in Winnipeg, the Children’s Discovery Museum in Saskatoon, KidSpark at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto and The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, are just a few offering super-sized fun for all ages.

Pirates: Blackbeard, Henry Morgan, Captain Kidd and even Francis Drake were real and ruthless 16th- and 17th-century marauders feared by every treasure-laden ship going to and from the New World. Such history is still lifelike in the Outer Banks of North Carolina; in St. Augustine, Amelia Island and Tampa Bay in Florida; and still remembered in the Bahamas and across the Caribbean. In Barbados, cruise on board the Jolly Roger, a popular, modern-day pirate ship. Head to Grand Cayman in November to participate in the annual Pirate Week Festival or to Amelia Island’s gathering in May for a buccaneering good time. 

Inventions: Canal system engineering—the ingenuity required to raise and lower natural waterways—is among the most impressionable intersections of history and science. From an observation deck at the St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre, watch how 19th-century lock systems make it possible for boats to climb up and down the landscape between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Learn about the importance of the Erie Canal in New York State, the Lachine Canal in Montréal, and St. Peters Canal in Cape Breton. Better yet, rent a vacation vessel from operator Le Boat and take your family on a self-drive, 202-kilometre nature trail along the Rideau Canal between Kingston and Ottawa, where you will surely ace every elevation as you navigate your way through 45 precision locks.

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