Want to treat your children to a theme park but make sure they’re learning at the same time? Believe it or not, that’s simpler than you may think. In fact, if you want to make an amusement park educational, just try any or all of the tips below!
How to Make Amusement Parks Educational
without Taking the Fun out of It!
Before I get to the steps, I think I should say that it is vital to keep your trip light-hearted. You want to add learning in, not take the fun out. That means that none of your tactics for making the outing education should imitate a classroom. That’s too heavy! Think of the goal as playing to learn. 🙂
Use Vocabulary Words.
Point at the arch of a rollercoaster and call it a parabola. Gush about how strong the G-forces are on a specific ride. Estimate and measure how far you made the water splash when you land in the pool after coming down a huge slide.
Amusement parks are packed full with physics, math, and science. Mentioning related words without even going into detail can add those words to your child’s vocabulary, and because it’s so casual, it doesn’t feel like a lesson. It’s simply something interesting that came up in conversation.
If your family speaks more than one language, it could even become a challenge to see who can name the different locations or aspects of the park in the most languages.
Rename the Rides.
If they deserve it. Start by discussing the name and whether it fits. Many of the names use interesting words that can build vocabulary, and trying to relate the name to the ride can build associative and support skills – A.K.A. logic.
When the name doesn’t fit, discuss what sort of name would fit. That can lead to all manner of silliness and work on verbal skills at the same time.
Read the Signs.
Yes, there are educational signs sprinkled throughout most of the park. Many of them are conveniently located right next to where you stand in line to wait for the ride. And if you’re standing there anyway, why not read them and learn something?
Granted, younger kids will generally be more entertained by this than older kids (reading is still new and exciting to the young ones). That said, some of the topics are still cool enough to interest the older kids. And if you start them young, reading the signs becomes a habit.
Go to a Show.
Like most of the signs, many of the shows have some education worked in. At the same time, however, they’ll also have fun music, jokes, and even animals or special effects. Plenty to keep kids entertained.
Since many of them are inside or in shade and near restrooms, they’re a good way to make sure everyone gets to sit and cool off, too. So why not plan one or two spaced throughout the day?
Do a Scavenger Hunt.
With a little research and printing, you can have several scavenger hunt sheets ready before you get near the park. You might even be able to find one ready-made online. Then, you can give them to each kid or each group of kids (if you go with friends), and as they go to certain areas or see specific things, they get to mark them off the list. Traditionally speaking, the one with the most marked off wins.
With older kids, you might make it more of a challenge by using some of that vocabulary – the parabola in the serpent or the Ginko tree next to the fountain. You can even make them read some of the signs by saying things like, “write the third word written on the sign next to ride A.” Or saying the ride that goes a specific speed (they have to read the sign to find out which ride that is).
This option is particularly good when you’re going with a larger group that can split up and get one scavenger sheet per group. If you’re all traveling together and seeing the same things, you might change the sheets to scavenger hunt bingo – with different destinations or goals on each sheet. That way, the kids won’t always get the same points for going somewhere, which makes the competition more interesting.
Make it a Game with Rewards.
Speaking of competition, if you really want your child to complete actual homework-style problems, turn it into a game by giving points and telling them that reaching a certain levels of points offers specific rewards.
For example, you could use a point system to decide how much you’ll spend on them at the gift shop or how many games they’re allowed to play in the arcade or the carnival section (with limits, of course). Is it bribery? Pretty much. Could it work? Absolutely.
Pick Topics Near Your Child’s Level.
When you’re trying any of these tactics, you don’t want to go very far above your child’s level. You want to keep it light, remember? That means that nothing should be overly frustrating or complicated. That includes long calculations or writing assignments (unless your child is honestly interested in that sort of thing).
Choose Subjects That Interest Your Child.
That’s another key goal to keep in mind: the less your child likes the subject, the subtler it needs to be for the day to stay fun.
So if your child is into English, focus on words and phrases that relate to what you see. Maybe, try to find an alliterative name for each ride (for example, the Turbulent Twister) or make up a story with a plot that fits the shape of a ride.
If your child hates English and writing, then, you’d want to pick something else. As a rule, a fun day at the park is not the right time to tackle a child’s least-favorite subjects.
Your kids aren’t always going to be in the mood to go along with your plans (as you know far too well, I’m sure). If they’re not in the mood to learn at all, and trying to make them learn is only going to end in a fight, let it go. Give them a break and let them relax.
Sometimes, students need a break from deliberate education, and that’s ok. Even if all they do is relax and have fun, they’re learning about mental health and self-care. That it’s important to take time to relax. And, odds are, if you give them that time without argument or recrimination, they’ll be more willing to play along if you bring up the entertainment option again later.
What’s your favorite way to make a trip educational?
Author: Elizabeth F., Writer and Teacher at A Grade Ahead