“Of course you want your children to have fun on your family vacation, but why not give them a flavor of the local culture while they’re doing so?” said Niamh O’Connell, vice president for guest experience at Rosewood Hotel Group. “When kids have some understanding of the destination they’re in, their trip becomes more memorable and enriching,” she said. “It goes beyond the usual fun in the sun escape.”
SEEK OUT LOCAL ARTS AND CRAFTS
While markets are full of trinkets to buy and bring home, crafting these items with your children will help teach them about the local culture and customs of your destination.
If you are in Thailand, for example, try making and flying traditional chula or pakpao kites. Create clay sculptures modeled on the local wildlife to familiarize kids with indigenous animals.
TAKE A COOKING CLASS
Taking a class where children learn how to cook typical local dishes is a fantastic way for them to learn more about the heritage and culture of the region you are visiting.
Many hotels and resorts offer cooking classes for children or will teach private ones upon request. O’Connell suggested looking for classes that involve a trip to a market so your children can get involved in picking the ingredients for the food they make.
TUNE INTO LOCAL MUSIC AND DANCE
Exposure to local music and dance gives children (and adults) a sense of a location’s traditions, culture and history. Try tango lessons in Argentina, for example, taking in a flamenco performance in Spain or watching a haka, or traditional war dance, in New Zealand.
GET OUT TO WHERE PEOPLE REALLY LIVE
While every traveler wants to hit the big attractions, tourist traps are not where locals spend their time, and they are not where you and your family will get a feel for the culture of your destination. Instead, take your children to play where the local kids play, and visit community centers away from tourist centers, where more interesting — and engaging — activities take place.
“Kids can best experience local culture by going where local kids go,” O’Connell said. Visit neighborhood parks instead of the ones near the city center. Join local sporting activities if you can find a pickup game — it is another great way to immerse your kids in the locale. A game of soccer, beach volleyball or boulle can be the beginning of a new international friendship.
LOOK FOR HOTELS WITH CULTURE-RICH KIDS PROGRAMS
Historically, children’s clubs and activities at hotels usually included run-of-the-mill activities like cupcake decorating and painting. Now, many hotel companies and resorts have introduced programs for children that give them the opportunity to explore the culture of a destination.
Look for a property that offers immersive activities which take kids out to see their surroundings — it could be hitting the beach to learn about ocean life or getting out into the city to visit a market, museum or other cultural site.