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Literacy education, vacationing go together

Published: Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 10:17 a.m. CST

Word play is fun at any age. I remember when my granddaughter was 5, and we drove by a warehouse. She asked, “Grandma, what do you wear at a warehouse?” One should never minimize the power of a word, for a word is the symbol of an idea, and ideas change things. Emerson said, “Cut a vital word, and it will bleed.”  One of my personal beliefs is that people swear and use profanity because they don’t have enough words in their vocabulary. A vital word brings understanding and life to what you say. People listen when you have something to say. They learn to ignore words that don’t uplift.

Words and vacation go together. One way to help parents get ready for a vacation is to help a child plan a literate bag of vacation activities. When we helped our niece Caly plan an activity bag, she had already included crayons for her brother, pens and pencils for herself and of course plenty of paper. She also had chosen two coloring books, books to read and crossword puzzles to work. She asked for our suggestions.

We suggested adding a map and some scissors; her mother suggested she take her pen pals names and addresses and letter writing material. Another aunt suggested some dot-to-dots for her brother. I included some games.

Knowing their destination, we went to the nearest brochure display and spent a pleasurable hour choosing and dreaming. Next, we went to the grocery store, read labels and made decisions for several picnics. We carefully counted our money, studied the brochures and divided our resources among the things we hoped to do. These were big decisions and required much discussion, which is a big key to literacy.

In addition, I also added odds and ends that I save for the children from newspapers, cereal boxes, etc. After the vacation, Caly shared some posters, and we discussed them. One activity led to research. They took the aerial tram up the side of a mountain and fed the chipmunks and birds. The chipmunks were so tame that they ate from their hand.  Caly was not content to just throw the food to the birds, so she stood on a rock and held up a peanut, thus,  becoming “the bird lady.” The birds would swoop and take the peanut from her hand. Naturally, all started holding up peanuts and the birds took each one.

The family was oblivious to all, but feeding the birds in this unique way until Dakota asked, “Why are all those people watching us?” After this experience, they wanted to learn what type of birds they were feeding and how they had learned to adjust to “tourists.”

A 5-year-old sees things we adults sometimes take for granted. One experience was choosing an outside cafe that advertised 99 cent breakfasts. They asked for the 99 cent menu. Immediately, the waitress listed verbally the choices. Dakota got excited and said, “Wow, a talking menu — that’s easier!”

During one quiet time all were helping Caly complete one of her puzzles. Surprisingly, it did take all to complete it, and at times she was confused by the different answers for the same item.

One time they played miniature golf and read both the game rules and courtesy rules. Being the mavericks our family tends to be, they also made additional rules.  Dakota scooted the ball when he got it close to the hole. He just wanted it to go in the hole after six tries.

Through a mixture of activities — both fun, literate and learning experiences combined with some spiritual delving, the vacation had a before, during and after aspect that made it last much longer than the week they were gone.

Travel literate ideas are good whether you have children or not, especially if you travel across a desert. Some things that can keep interest and keep your mind working are compiling a list of every different type of road sign that you see; listing as many colors and variations of colors that come to mind or choosing a color and listing items that you see of that color; creating 10 travel tips for people who travel by plane, ship and car; compiling a list of song titles that has the months of the year in the title or the words travel, journey or trip; compiling a list of famous explorers family members remember and beside each list items for which he/she is famous; or playing “My Grandmother’s Trunk” — the first person says, “I’m packing my grandmother’s trunk, and I’ll put an apron in it.  The next person says, “I’m packing my grandmother’s trunk and I’ll put an apron in it and a bouquet of flowers. The idea is to remember what has been said before and to use the next letter in the alphabet. This game develops memory skills, organizational skills and practices the alphabet, yet is fun.

Until next week…  Christine Pauley

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