Trip Planning with Kids: Building Background Knowledge with Books

What’s your favorite way to plan and research for upcoming travel? Do you involve your kids?

With Bergen (2.5 years old) talking and understanding more and more, I’ve been anxious to get him involved in some of our traveling planning.  While I love the two of us (Mom & Dad) can still ultimately do all the deciding, its fun to see what types of things that really peak his interest.

Built into two different books (both reviewed on the blog), one a family travel handbook, one a memoir, is a tip I couldn’t wait to try with Bergen.  Both authors suggested visiting the public library with kids before a trip to explore the available books and resources on the locale. Travel guides, non-fiction books about the landscape, fictional stories set in the location, maps…you name it, they all have a place in getting kids excited about travel and loading them up with information.

Kids are explores by nature, and travel gives them permission to dive deep into their curiosity and open their eyes in surprise. -Tsh Oxenreider

Trip Planning Tip: Building Background Knowledge with Books! |

Building Background Knowledge with Books

1. Gather books and other resources.

A week or so before our trip to the Phoenix area, I collected books about Arizona, the desert, and the region’s animals.  This time I only visited our public library and searched around our own book collection for titles that fit.  With more time, there are tons of other spots to gather materials though: Used bookstores and tourism offices (maps, brochures, magazines) are two more that come to mind.

2. For several days read, picture walk, discuss, and learn together.

After gathering the books, I put them all together and we kept them in a designated spot in the our house.  Whenever we had a chance, we took time to explore the pages together. Ideas to guide book reading:

  • Picture Walk-Choose a book, and only look at the pictures. Talk about what you see and ask questions.
  • Scavenger Hunt-Select something(s) to search for throughout the book, then have kids thumb through to find those items.  For example, when exploring the desert books, I asked Bergen to search for cactus.
  • Just Read and Enjoy-I especially loved having a fictional book thrown into the mix so that Bergen could sit back and take-in the story while noticing all the unique elements of the locale in the background.

3. Travel!

Get out there and explore.  See what connections the kids make based on what they learned in their book “study”! We ended up taking one of the books (from our own collection) with us to Arizona so that we could continue to fun and reference it’s pages if Bergen was interested.

Benefits of Building Background Knowledge

  • Gets kids excited about upcoming travels.
  • Provides kids with information, thus creating an overall better experience because they have a better understanding of what they see at the destination.
  • Gives kids something to link and connect to once they’ve arrived.
  • Keeps kids safe! Learning about the flora, fauna, and other features of the area you are visiting prepares kids, and alerts them of possible dangers they may not experience where you live.

It was extremely rewarding to see the impact of our book study as we traveled and explored the Phoenix area.  One of the biggest lessons that Bergen picked up was the hazards of cacti.  Since we talked all about the plant’s needles and thorns, he knew not to touch, but only look.  While he would run right up to get a closer look, never once did he try to put his hands on any spikes.

Bergen also knew about some of the animals to look out for including coyotes, lizards, scorpions, some of which we actually saw!  This made our adventures around the area much more exciting and intentional.

Trip Planning Tip: Building Background Knowledge with Books! |

Do you involve your kids in trip planning? What do you do to prepare?

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5 thoughts on “Trip Planning with Kids: Building Background Knowledge with Books

  1. It’s great that you’re turning Bergen into a reader in addition to being a traveler. We get books as souvenirs if they really highlight a location. When we were in Washington, the kids picked out “Who Pooped in the Park” while at Olympic NP. Sometimes, books inspire our travel. We were reading aloud “Thea Stilton and the Cherry Blossom Adventure” which is set in Japan. The book made it sound so fantastic, I ended up booking trip there, and the kids were excited to see the setting in person.

    • Thanks, Michele! I love that a book inspired you guys to book a trip! That could be dangerous 😉
      And yes, we love getting books as souvenirs as well–such a great way to remember and hang onto the trip.

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