There are always times in life when travel doesn’t work out. Sometimes it’s because of money, sometimes it’s because of work and school schedules, and sometimes it’s because of other unforeseen circumstances.
What’s a travel-loving family to do when they’re stuck at home but still want to feel inspired? I’ve pulled together tons of fun travel activities for kids that will keep them engaged (and you sane) while helping everyone learn a little and enjoy a lot. These activities are also great for homeschoolers and worldschoolers looking to add more fun geography activities to their repertoires!
Got more ideas? Drop a comment below! I’d love to grow this list.
Make a travel vision board collage
Kids of all ages can get in on the fun with a travel vision board, and the project can be educational too. This is an especially fun idea if you’ll have a few extra kids over during a school break, since they’ll all be naturally drawn to different locations.
Start by flipping through travel magazines and catalogs that you probably already have laying around your house. We get them all the time! Our AAA magazine, the Costco magazine, catalogs from tour providers… If you aren’t on the list already, sign up for brochures from National Geographic Expeditions, Thomson Family Adventures and any other travel brand. The mailings are filled with beautiful pictures your kids will love to include!
Once you and your kids pick some photos to cut out an include, go online or even to Youtube to learn more about the destinations they’ve chosen. Maybe even check out our Destinations menu up to so they can see real kids who have visited! It’s a good opportunity to practice reading and research skills.
Let your kids use their creative abilities to put together clippings they’ve collected, their own drawings and stickers on their travel vision board. They can include not only landmarks, but pictures and drawings of animals, famous foods, unique clothing and even notable holidays.
Then have them add some writing – obviously how much they write and how they spell will depend on age. Preschoolers and kindergarteners might only write the names of countries they’ve included, but for older kids you can talk about (and teach them to write) the continents, important facts or places in those countries that they’d like to visit. And don’t forget the flags!
Supplies (most available with one-day shipping or already in your home):
–poster board or sturdy paper (I recommend something fairly large so there’s space for writing and coloring)
–crafter’s tape (trust me, it’s better than having glue all over your house)
–crayons, colored pencils (our faves) or markers – even paint if you’re nice
–travel stickers and animal stickers
-travel magazines or catalogs that you don’t mind sacrificing
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Sign up for a monthly kids travel box
There are so many awesome subscription boxes for kids these days. They cover everything from art to inventions to… travel! Obviously these require a little more lead time, so if you anticipate having lots of time at home with your kids over school breaks it might be worth ordering now and tucking them away for a “rainy day”. Here are two great ones to consider:
Little Passports offers lots of different options to suit various ages and interests. They’ve done a great job curating the topics and materials to keep kids engaged! For older kids you can even choose between US and World depending on your family’s travel interests. Some can be upgraded to a “premium edition”, which includes a related book every month in addition to the activities. Check out all of the options available:
- Little Passports Early Explorers (ages 3-5)
- Little Passports World Edition (ages 6-10)
- Little Passports USA Edition (ages 7-12)
WompleMail is designed for elementary school kids and uses stories, maps, crafts and collectibles to highlight a different country every month. You might also want to start off with their Explorer Box, which includes goodies like a wipe-clean atlas, travel journal and Womple stuffed travel buddy. Boxes are $25 per month, and you’re welcome to order month-by-month. Subscriptions of 3, 6, and 12 months come with bonuses. Check out the full range of packages here. Your order will ship in the first four days of the month.
Bonus: WompleMail also has some great free activities to try out!
Play a travel game
There are so many awesome travel-themed games out there! Here are just a few that a worth considering for your family:
Little Passports Where to?
Little Passports Where to? board game is designed for 2-4 players, rated for ages 7+ though well-traveled kids a little younger can probably get in on the action or join a team too.
Continent Race was created by a kid, for kids and its won tons of awards. It takes the familiar card game concept of making a set and adds another dimension: kids have to not only collect country cards by continent, but they have to actually locate the countries on a map! There are even mystery cards to stump older kids once they’re ready for advanced play. Rated for ages 7+ (though younger kids can certainly give it a try once they’re reading), and you can play with 2+ participants.
Passport to Culture is a trivia-style card game for 2-5 players. Though it’s rated for ages 8+, I think that’s a little young and I could see my own 8 year old being pretty frustrated with this. I would recommend it for middle and high schoolers, especially those studying world civilizations.
Build your own destinations
Pick your preferred building toy and go to town! Whether you’re into LEGO, DUPLO, Lincoln Logs, K’nex or anything else, work together with your child to pick a destination and then build it together.
How should you decide what place to build? One option is to use your previous travels as inspiration. My son went on a binge building tiny LEGO Buddhist temples after our visit to Thailand. If your kids were too young to remember a trip, show them photos and then work to recreate the landmarks.
If you’re feeling really industrious, check out one of these incredible LEGO Architecture sets. They’re not for the faint of heart! But with options like Paris, Tokyo, Dubai and more you’ll have plenty of choices to spend hours building a scene that’s beautiful enough to display.
It’s also a great opportunity to learn about a new place. Read a book about Paris (or watch a Youtube video) and then try to built the Eiffel Tower, Louvre pyramid and the Arc de Triomphe. If your family is more interested in outdoor adventures, you can build hoodoos from Bryce Canyon or lighthouses from Acadia.
Once you’ve built your destination, don’t forget to act the part. Add in minifigs (or stuffed animals) and make sure they’ve learned a few words from the local language!
Need the little ones to play quietly while you get some work done? Check out these great quiet activities for kids!
Cook up a storm
Thank goodness for the internet. There are a million amazing food blogs out there, specializing in anything you can imagine. Survey what’s in your pantry (or what you can get with Prime Now delivery) and figure out some foods from around the world that you can make with what you have – you might be surprised!
Easy options from around the world that use ingredients your probably have on hand include crepes from France, fairy bread from Australia, pizza from Italy and peanut stew from Africa. You may not be able to recreate them exactly as they’d be served in their place of origin, but it’ll give you and your kids a little taste of something different!
Explore crafts from around the world
Instead of the usual color/cut/paste, get creative with your crafting to pull in other cultures from around the world!
If you’re spending a lot of time together at home, it’s a great time to learn to knit. Once your child feels confident, he or she can try out knitting some of the simpler flags from around the world! Hint: Start with an easy one like Poland to let them feel a sense of accomplishment!
Read travel books for kids
Every day with kids should include some reading, whether you’re reading to them or they’re reading to you – and ideally both. There are some amazing travel-inspired and travel-inspiring books for kids!
One of our favorite travel-related book series for kids is Race The Wild. You can read them aloud to younger kids, while kids from 2nd-4th grade can read them to you.
Younger kids will love the Theodore’s Adventure series, which takes an adorable bear around the world to learn about geography, culture and language in many countries. You can grab a few for countries you’ve been or places your family is still dreaming of!
Of course there are tons of great travel-specific stories and traditional stories from around the world. Head over to our Destinations articles and you’ll find lots of book recommendations by country!
Watch one of these travel movies for kids
Sometimes even kids need to Netflix and chill. Especially if you’re cooped up at home together for a long time, a movie break is the way to go. But that doesn’t mean you have to turn on mindless junk! There are some great kids movies that will transport their imaginations around the world.
Confession: I loved loved loved Abominable! I’ve never been to China but have always been fascinated by its diverse landscapes. The movie does a great job showing them off and also offers a glimpse into the lives of Chinese kids today. As an American parent, it’s nice to expose my kids to the idea that there are other kids living their lives elsewhere in the world, and that they share plenty of commonalities but there are also differences. Rent or buy it here.
Coco is popular with our whole family! While little kids might find dia de los muertos scary, it’s a great opportunity to learn about this important Mexican holiday. It helps that the music is fantastic and the storyline is riveting for all ages. Rent or buy it here.
Moana isn’t just the province of little girls in Halloween costumes. The movie is chock full of Polynesian cultural references. In fact, nearly the entire voice cast is of Polynesian descent. It’s a great jumping off point to learning about the “blue continent” of the Pacific islands, how the cultures are related but have evolved independently, the importance of astronomy and wayfinding and of course Polynesian mythology. We watched the movie repeatedly and listened the music daily during our month on Oahu and it reaches deep into our hearts!
Rio, the cute story about a parrot in Brazil, is a unique opportunity for parents: for younger kids you can just show the movie and hope they absorb the sense of “different” but for older kids you can discuss nuanced topics like exotic animal trade and the poverty of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. Rent or buy it here.
Mary Poppins is a classic, but still going strong! It transports kids to London in 1910, where they’ll see the famous sites and also the struggles of life in the Edwardian period. The songs are great and your kids will be begging you to watch again, or at least to turn on the recent sequel Mary Poppins Returns.
What are you doing with your kids to keep them inspired by travel even when you’re stuck at home?
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