One thing we notice about our preschoolers on vacation (even more than during regular life) is what avid little collectors they are. As they relish days at the pool, games with cousins, or even your road trip rest stops, they are also busy gathering souvenirs. If your bags seem a lot heavier on the trip home, it's likely because of the princess floatie your darling couldn't part with, the board game pieces she squirreled away in her pockets, the doll she somehow talked a kind cousin into letting her "borrow" (for life), and all sorts of other "treasures."
We don't pretend to understand the psychological origins of this relentless preschooler acquisitiveness. But we think it must have something do to with their instinctive realization that a great way to make the most of a happy time is to keep something to remember it by later. (We owe this insight to our guest expert Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project.) After all, we parents are busy snapping picture after picture all vacation long, which is pretty much the same idea.
So rather than roll our eyes every time our little ones ask to bring home another something, let's think about ways to help them build their own store of happy vacation memories.
Contributors to our Savvy Activities Encyclopedia suggest, for example, Postcard puzzles and Memory Boxes.
The ingenious book Crafts to Make in the Summer has great ideas, as does The Creative Family (see our review here).
Vacation seems like a perfect time to start (or get back to) keeping a journal with your children. And, actually, a special family journal devoted just to your vacation time together is a wonderful idea as well.
We are all for letting even very young kids take their own photos, and then choose a few pictures for their own vacation albums. If they see something they really want to take home (a very heavy rock, say, or a very large toad), you can ask if they would like to take a picture instead.
When you get home safe and sound, take that vacation map, cut it to size, and laminate it for a place mat. What fun you can have at the dinner table talking about all the places you went!
If some sort of little doo-dad from the gift shop can't be avoided, think about making the selection process a tradition. Some families we know always pick up a holiday ornament from every new place they go; others do a fridge magnet, or just a postcard. If you can get the kiddos excited about that one choice, it may ward off other less welcome requests.
And for all the photos you'll be taking of your gorgeous little ones this summer, we are very excited to tell you about one of the coolest new gadgets we've heard about in ages. The snazzy little Eye-Fi Card wirelessly zaps pictures from a digital camera to any computer, no cord required. Walk in your front door and your computer just got your new pics. No more remembering to find the cord and sitting down to do it. You're that much closer to putting together albums of your vacation days that will bring you and the kiddos much joy. Hurray! And in case you don't trust us, a phenomenal write-up from David Pogue of The New York Times is here.
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