Traveling with your family can be challenging, perhaps even more so if that includes children: not all activities are universally enjoyable and travel styles can clash. One person may be bored out of their mind as you travel from one place to another, while others may find the smallest minutiae to be fully absorbing – potentially slowing down those who want to move on. Traveling with others is a delicate balancing act, family or not.
Fear not, our Education Team leads thousands of kids around China each year, and they’re here to help. Here are their top tips for keeping it together as a family unit and making your trip as interactive, immersive, and empowering as possible for your children.
Make Activities Relatable
No matter what it is you get up to, it’s probably best to keep each activity in the wheelhouse of your kids. Even before you choose what your activities are, you could sit your kids down and make a game of it, browsing online through the various things you can do and asking them what they think looks the most fun. Even if it’s a guided tour with a set itinerary, giving them the possibility to “choose” their activity will make them feel more autonomous and adult. Then you can use it as a signpost in relation to the other ones: “Just think, only one more day until X!”
Sometimes you’ll be traveling with picky eaters. Try playing a game with them comparing what Chinese food is like back home to how it is here. If they are a big fan of a particular vegetable or dislike others, you can have them consider how the texture or flavor is different in the dishes here. Or, if none of that works, a competition of who can try the most new foods is always a hit.
A trip is a golden opportunity to teach children lessons about responsibility and autonomy. China is a very safe country, allowing you to have some freedom in letting them wander.
Negotiating prices is common practice in many Chinese markets, making them the perfect places to organize activities with your kids. Give them a little pocket money, and challenge them to see what (or how much) they can buy at that amount. If you have more than one kid, you have the perfect ingredients for a friendly competition.
Even the simple act of ordering at a restaurant can be turned into a fun challenge. Try to pick up new words throughout the course of the trip and, with a little help from your guide, get your kids to practice what they’ve learnt.
Menghai Market | Photo by WildChina Traveler, Kathy Dragon
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Most people learn more from doing than from idly absorbing. That’s why we recommend bringing the kids to events like kung fu and tai chi lessons, taking cooking classes, or even making mini terracotta warriors in Xi’an.
Or for something even more active, a lot of Chinese cities have great biking lanes and easy-access share bikes. Ask your guide for some help unlocking them, and you’ll be off exploring the area like a local in no time.
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Set Achievable Goals
When planning trips, it can be easy to bite off more than you can chew. It is tempting to pack every day full of activities, but sometimes it’s good to take a day to rest, rejuvenate, and then get back to adventuring.
For kids, set goals related to their interests such as collecting a certain number of objects, pictures, or experiences. Whatever you decide on, make sure that they have a chance every day to get closer to their goal.
Keep a journal for every day
Learn 5 Chinese words each day and practice with locals. Remember those tones!
Eat 10 things you’ve never seen before
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Leave Time to be Silly
As alluded to in the last point, it can be good to leave some room for downtime and exploration, simply wandering and playing around with some of the things you come across. You don’t need to see everything, and it would probably be pointless to even try. Instead, focus on having a good time, using it as a bonding experience rather than purely an educational one. After all, the best memories are often unplanned.
This is just a short list of the tips we could offer, but you likely have some good ones of your own. Feel free to comment and let us know which you liked most, or what you’ve tried in the past!