When you travel with children you need to accurately plan everything that you could need to make the holiday an opportunity for everyone to relax and recuperate. Talking about rest and relaxation with children probably isn't the correct term, but if you follow some simple advice you will be able to manage to share fun and educational experiences respecting the needs of both parents and children.
When planning stops in your itinerary take into consideration places and activities specifically aimed at children, for example interactive science museums, aquariums, protected natural areas etc.;
There are guides and publications created ad hoc for travelling with children. Online you can find a number of forums where you can exchange experiences with other travelling parents;
Create expectations in your children involving them in the journey preparation. Children love to recognise things that they have already seen in books or on documentary programmes;
Give your children a tour guide dedicated to them and inform yourselves so you don't find yourselves unprepared for their questions;
Prepare a small rucksack for your children with their favourite games and toys inside, teddies for bedtime and a throw-away camera;
Go with them to the bookstore to choose something to read whilst you're on holiday;
Ensure that all the necessary documents are up-to-date and completed;
Get informed about the local food and businesses in the places in and around your destination. In the weaning period for children it is necessary to make sure you will be able to fulfil their nutritional requirements;
Pack all the items necessary to deal with illnesses or medical problems;
Don't just use the car as a means of transportation: the ferry, the tram, the train are all new adventures in the eyes of children;
Don't change too often the place of residence or hotel. It is better to stay in one place and then go on excursions, alternating days in the place;
Don't overestimate children's resistance whilst travelling: don't plan too many activities and excursions on the same day;
Do not underestimate them: they have an adaptive spirit more than what you imagine!
If you travel by car:
It's better to try and coincide the hours of travelling with those used for sleeping, as much as possible;
Bring their favourite CDs;
Avoid travelling during the peak hours for hot temperatures without air-conditioning. Do not forget sun blinds;
Keep close by... water, something to eat, refreshing wet-wipes, tissues and a spare change of clothes;
Make short bursts: plan to move like you left for the holiday, with nice stops, to eat, play and see something. Breaks are also useful to use up their energy;
Keep them busy giving them the job of map reader with their own map. Let them read road signs and check distances;
Organize games whilst in the car which involves all of the family, for example “I spy with my little eye something that begins with C… Cars...”
Internet is great source of entertainment for all ages: it can stimulate youngsters' imagination and creativity and be a useful communicative, fun way of researching information for teenagers. However, we all need to remember that parents should never leave their children completely free to surf the web, just as in real life you would never leave your children alone in a crowded and unknown place.
Today there are numerous programs available that filter website access, they are able to monitor visited sites and show what activities your children are involved in online. We are talking about valid instruments that we advise you to put into place, to integrate parents' vigilance.
Spending time with your children online can be a fun experience for everyone, reinforcing complicity. For older children who surf the net alone and ask for their privacy, put in place a series of rules of how to use the net in a safe way. Involve the children when putting together these rules.
Here is a list, to read together, of how to use the Internet:
Add websites that are appropriate for children to your bookmarks to make them more easily available;
Keep the computer in a communal space;
Teach children the basics regarding privacy and get them to always check with you first before giving out personal information. Help them to only put basic information to register on safe sites;
Create an email account that is used by everyone instead of allowing children to create personal accounts;
Define, with your children: what sites are suitable and those that are not, the amount of time they are allowed to spend; when they can use the internet; and what they can actually do;
Only allow them to use controlled chat sites, on sites that are dedicated to children. Teach them that they must never accept to meet face to face friends they make online and instead talk together first;
Encourage your children to speak about their friends and what they are doing online in the same way you would talk to them about what they do in real life;
Encourage them to ask questions about using the Internet and to tell you if anything strange happens or if they feel threatened or uncomfortable while they are navigating;
Teach them that online you should also behave responsibly and ethically;
Teach them not to download software, music or files without your permission. And to never do anything on the Internet that asks for payment and not to trust easy winnings and online games.
Encourage your children to share all of their experiences on the internet with you. Have fun on the internet with your children!
A healthy diet is essential for correct growth and development both for the body and the mind of the child.
Breakfast is one of the most important moments of the day, so give your child the necessary energy to deal with school. Don't skip it! Make sure that in the morning your child has time to have a nutritional breakfast based on milk or yoghurt along with cereal or biscuits, bread and jam or a slice of homemade cake.
Fruit or milkshakes are best for a snack, but it's alright to give your child an ice cream, sweet or some chocolate 2/3 times a week. No diet is considered too bad if eaten moderately and as long as it follows a balanced and varied regime.
Variety is not only a stimulant for appetite but it also complements different food products. Do not lack the correct mix of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals in your child's diet. For lunch and dinner you need to limit the intake of red meats, while it's important to eat the appropriate amount of proteins with a diet that includes a high consumption of fish, legumes and white meats.
Get your child used to eating fruit and vegetables regularly, at least 5 portions a day. Their properties are innumerable: they are a source of vitamins and mineral salts that have an antioxidant action of the free radicals responsible for the ageing of cells, they are rich in fibre that helps intestinal movements and contribute to keeping the correct water balance in the organism.
Always buy seasonal, fresh and good quality products (from the moment they are picked vitamins present in fruit and vegetables start to diminish with the passing of days).
Always experiment new ways to make fruit and vegetables more exciting to your children:
If your children are growing normally don't worry if they are constantly hungry or if they often change tastes. But here are some suggestions:
Make sure they drink at least 1 ½ litres of water a day, but not excessive amounts before meal times
Reduce buying quick-fix hunger snacks, always read labels to understand how many calories there have, what types of fats they have and the ingredients they contain;
Make sure meals are eaten together as a family and with the TV switched off;
Offer your children an alternative between two dishes and encourage them to try new things;
Make meal time a nice time and don't link them to prizes or punishments;
Integrate a healthy diet with outdoor activities and some sport. This stimulates appetite and at the same time helps burn calories.
Practicing a sport regularly helps children reach a healthy psychic-physical wellness: it helps to develop a physical harmony and prevents illnesses, helps control body weight but also helps control stress and anxiety, improves scholastic understanding and creates an important way of learning in every aspect of their future lives.
We shouldn't forget that sport also has an important role in socializing, distraction and fun. It's therefore important when choosing a sport to bare in mind the wishes of the child, how to stimulate these wishes as well as stimulating not only the physical growth but also the emotional growth.
The best age to start is around 5/6 years, when children have reached a level of development and coordination necessary to learn sporting techniques. It's best to start together with the beginning of the school year when the child's life is more sedentary. Up to the age of 11 years, their motor coordination presents the maximum development potential and therefore it is the best period to carry out a sporting activity and then follow on with it through adolescence.
You shouldn't pressure children into choosing a sport nor create too high expectations of their outcome. The risk is to create sense of frustration in the child that could push them to give up physical activity.
Therefore it's best to follow some common sense and observations of the relationship that your children have with the sport:
Choose the activity together that best suits the characteristic behaviour and capacity of each child;
Don't push your children to carry out an agonistic training if they are not yet ready. If they are ready, they should take complete responsibility;
Choose the trainer not only for their technical preparation but also for their ability to motivate and re-enforce the self confidence of young athletes;
Encourage your children when they make mistakes and give importance to how hard they have been working and not only on the result. Even a loss can help improve their abilities;
Remember that parents are a role model for their children. Therefore respect must be given to the trainer and the opposing team and never create situations that will make your children feel uncomfortable and incapable;
Don't underestimate the fun children have whilst practicing a sport. Play is a decisive part in the development of the intelligence and personality of children. It's necessary to learn and know one's own body limits to socialize and acquire values in tolerance and non violence.
You practice a sport against someone to reach the following objectives: stimulate trust in oneself and self discipline, the capacity to analyse a situation and find the solutions, teamwork and communication. All of these are useful for children also outside of playing sports, in all aspects of life.