Family vacations with small children can be challenging for various reasons. Each member of the family has a different goal and need. As the parent, it is our opportunity to create a magical memory that satisfies everyone. In this article, I am sharing my best Tips as a Pediatric Physical Therapist and mom of two wild boys on how to thrive during a family trip.
My oldest child is a 7 year old boy who is a sensory seeker. He needs constant stimulation, movement, heavy work, non-stop action all day, every day. My youngest is 3, a sweet boy who thrives on being both a thrill seeker and cuddler. His energy is balanced with his love language of hugs, kisses, quiet time and connection. He is equally joyful sitting outside in the sunshine with mommy and observing the beauty all around him as he is jumping into the pool for 2 hours straight.
Here are my 5 Top Tips on how to meet each child's physical and sensory needs through the lens of a Pediatric PT.
Tip #1 -Let the Children Lead.
I offer options each morning and allow my children to pick and organize our day. This gives the children a sense of control which is important when in a brand new environment and structure. Often times we forget that children thrive on structure and predictability, this is what makes vacations tricky. Children may have more meltdowns even though it appears that they have everything they could possibly want, right? The truth is, any change to their usual routine, even a small and fun change can affect their mood, behavior and sleeping patterns. It is important to have honest and open conversations about how they feel and work together to make it better.
Tip #2 - Decide with your partner before the vacation on Boundaries: Sweets, Bedtime, Money Matters.
Make a decision about what you and your spouse feel comfortable with in allowing the children to do during the trip and stick to your decision. Be on the same page and explain to the children what the boundaries are. Granted, vacations mean the rules change a little, but it is still paramount to have rules and a reward system for good behavior in place.
Tip #3 - How I Motivate My Son to Be Active on Family Trips
To motivate my son to take a daily 45 minute walk and practice spelling and math problems along the way, my husband and I reward him with points that he can use at the local arcade!
Tip #4 - Mix it up
In the pool, I take advantage of the aquatic properties of deep pressure and resistance to help regulate my children. Did you know that the deep pressure of the water at shoulder height has a calming effect on children? Then in the afternoons we found a slide where my son had to climb 10 flights of steps to get to the top. This is heavy work with a huge fun reward of sliding down at the top!
Tip #5 - Meditation and Mindfulness
I have fallen in love with meditation and mindfulness. I embrace being fully present with my children and my husband. Family trips are the perfect opportunity to practice. Lead by example, I leave my cell phone every night before we go on our 45 minute walk and dinner.
My son asked me why do I keep leaving my phone? Smiling, I answered him, I love to lead by example. I am aware that I get addicted to my phone. I am choosing to leave it behind and be fully present in the moment with you, your brother and your dad.
To connect to your children and learn about how to optimize purposeful play, sensory and physical needs in your daily life, click this link and call today to set up a Physical Therapy and Wellness Consultation!