I’ve been asked a couple times how I manage to take my children, especially the little ones on tours. With careful planning, and a little creativity, we make do. When the kids are happy, I get to enjoy the tours more, so I don’t mind the little bit of extra effort!
Plan on Child Friendly Tours
The first tip is really the most obvious. Before we leave on a trip, I look into the different tours in the area. I look for things my kids will enjoy, things like castles, buildings with interesting architecture, or if I am lucky, tours catered to children. In Europe many towns and castles have special children’s tours, sometimes with a tour guide in costume who will show you around. If you’re lucky, the location will have an English speaking tour (although, to be honest, sometimes it’s best to have a foreign language tour, because this means they don’t mind when I am whispering in my child’s ear as we travel)
Learn BEFORE you go
See what information you can find before you head out, especially if you know you will be on a foreign language tour. This way, the kids will be excited about the things you are going to see, and you can fill in information along the way. For example, before heading to a castle, we will review how castles are made, and other information about the architecture, or the food of the era, or other little details. This way, even if we don’t understand a word being said, we have an idea of what we are looking at.
Give them something to hold
If there is a guidebook or pamphlet, grab a copy for your child. They love to feel important and have the same goodies as the grownups. My big kid loves pointing out where we are on the map, or reading aloud little tidbits of information. It’s also helpful to let them document the trip themselves. A small camera will allow them to take pictures of the things that interest them!
Using his kid-friendly Intova camera (Review coming soon!)
Keep your child engaged
Remember your kiddo has a much different point of view than you have. The guide typically will not mind if you are holding your child up, or getting down at their level. Often, when the guide stops to talk, I like to kneel down next to my kids so I can explain what we are seeing. It’s also nice to point out things I know they will be interested in- we’ll talk about the weapons with the armor, or what people would eat for breakfast, or make up silly stories about the pictures on the wall.
I typically carry a pen in my bag, so I can draw stars or dots on my child’s hand as we go. I will tell them that if they get 10 stars by the end of the tour, I will get us ice cream or another treat afterwards. Now, I know that we are going to get the treat, and I want the kids to be successful, so I try and time how often I give them that little star (or dot). They get it for GREAT behavior, listening carefully, walking nicely, and just being good in general. I don’t want it to become a bargaining chip, so I don’t do it at regular intervals, or even every tour, but it’s a fantastic extra carrot to dangle when I really really want the kids to behave.