boy speedboat

School vacations begin any day now. Here’s an idea that could shift your child’s vacation time from good to great: Wherever you go, whatever you do, find ways to put the spotlight on your family’s talents and strengths. You will hear a lot more gratitude and a lot less whining.

Start by making a list of each child’s talents and strengths….

…including adults who are part of the vacation. Show each child’s list to them and ask the child to circle their top two or three.

Armed with these lists of talents and strengths, search for events and activities that match their talents. This can be a search for local activities, or if the family is also going on a trip, events at your destination.

Sort the possible activities.

Delete any that are unrealistic for your family. Now you have a list of places, people, events, shows, or games that are possible for the trip (or summer days at home without school).

Allow the whole family to choose from the list.

Because of your advance work, there is literally something for every person. Their satisfaction is greater because they are doing something they love or something they are good at. While participating in a sibling’s choice they know their turn is coming.

Take for instance an overnight camping trip.

One child in the family is a natural. She wants to pitch the tent and build the fire. She’s in her element on a camping trip.

The other two children haven’t been looking forward to the camping trip as much.


So you strategically put one child in charge of organizing the tent and the foodstuffs. Where should each person’s sleeping bag be laid out? Where should the flashlight be so everyone can get to it in the dark? How should we separate the evening food from the next day’s breakfast so it doesn’t attract bears? This child is an arranger and he gets a lot of satisfaction out of organizing everything so it makes sense.

clouds-848278-mThe third child is the one staring up into the clouds.

While everyone else was trying to unload the van and pitch the tent, she isn’t paying much attention to the world around her. But that night at the campfire, you ask that child to make up stories to tell around the campfire. The rest of the family can’t believe how funny and scary and entertaining her stories are… but you had a hunch.

Great vacations encompass short-term fun, plus the long-term gain of learning something new or adding onto something we were already good at so the enjoyment is increased.

Vacation isn’t just about mindless fun or distraction or rest.


Yes, these are important. But discovery and creativity and growth are important too. So stay in the moment for 5 more minutes after it’s over, to talk:

  • What did we do that you wish we could do again?
  • I have an idea for a different activity that we could do…..
  • What 3 words describe your feelings about what we did?
  • If we did this again, what could we do to make it better?
  • What did you (see, hear, smell, taste, feel)?
  • What was your contribution to this activity?

With these simple ideas you are likely to get a greater return of refreshment and enjoyment over the long haul.

Next week: Packing children’s suitcases for the trip ahead

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