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Is Family Playtime Educational?

It’s late on a Thursday night. You’ve spent a long day working and now you are home in a messy house and you have to cook dinner. Your children need help with homework (either a fight to get it done or they really don’t know how to do it) and all anyone is doing is sitting in front of a screen. If that has never described your life, it has definitely described mine. Moments like this make me want to curl up in my bed and go to sleep. But we don’t. We make the dinner – probably left overs, cereal or something from Chick-fil-A, help the with homework, read with the children and possibly tidy the house or not. While we may never erase such nights from our lives, what if it we could affect our children’s education in a way that didn’t include homework. Yes, homework still needs to get done, but is it possible that our normal family activities could be helping their education as well?

If dinner is too much one night, what if you took your kids out or brought home a new cuisine. Would that count as educational? You need to get everyone out of the house – we’ve all seen stir crazy kids. Is that trip to the park, up the mountain, into the city, to the zoo or other museum/activity supporting their education?

According to a study by the U.S. Travel Association reported on the NEA National Education Association website, yes, it is. The article, How Field Trips Boost Students’ Lifelong Success, supports field trips in the school setting, but what is a family excursion but a field trip in the family setting. As you go on your different excursions around town or even on vacation, point out some educational things – observe the plants and animals where you go, notice the clouds and weather patterns, point out monuments and statues along the way, read the captions, encourage your kids to ask questions. These little things add up to big results.

As quoted in the article, the study included, “400 adults (balanced for gender, age, race and income)—half of which had taken a learning trip in their youth, the other half had not—to determine the importance of field trips in education settings.”

The study found that regardless of gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, children who take school trips have better grades (59%), higher graduation rates from high school (95%) and college (63%) and greater income (12% higher annually). In fact, 89% said educational trips had a positive, lasting impact on their education and career because enriching field trips made them more engaged, intellectually curious, and interested in and out of school”

​ So, as you are looking at your family after a long day wondering how you can best help them succeed when you are just so tired, go ahead and rest easy. That family excursion (field trip) you’ve got planned – or the one that spontaneously happens - is just what they need.

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