Skill-Building Opportunities
Self-Directed, Engaged Learning
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Complaining on Family Trips

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Whenever we go on family outings or trips, my daughter constantly complains that she’s bored. It takes the fun out of it for everyone. How can I help her enjoy these experiences?

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Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Family trips can be great opportunities for you to extend your child’s interests. Make these outings more fun by promoting the life skill of Self-Directed,Engaged Learning.


Self-Directed, Engaged Learning

It is through learning that we can realize our potential. As the world changes, so can we, for as long as we live and as long as we learn.

Tips to build this skill:


Build on your child’s interests.

  • Have her select one thing she’d like to do or explore during this trip. Some families use a family meeting for this kind of planning, where each person on the outing—including the adults—selects something of interest that each wants to do.
  • Turn the trip into an interesting experience by playing active games such as I Spy or telling stories.
  • Give her an active role. Ask her to act as the tour guide for part of the outing. Does she love to write? If so, put her in charge of organizing lists of supplies or writing a travel journal.
  • Promote your child’s curiosity. Ask lots of questions and encourage her to ask them, too. Open-ended “wh” questions, like “what,” “who,” “when” and “why,” are great prompts for travel discussions.
  • Help your child to be an active learner. Is she interested in animals? Encourage her to research local animal life at your destination and make a checklist for the trip to keep track of what she sees.
  • Praise your child’s strategies. Say things like: “You learned so much about the history of this town by reading and watching. It taught me a lot and made me enjoy the trip even more!” When your child feels that what she has to say is important to you and others, she’ll more likely go even deeper in her learning.

Engage your child intellectually, emotionally and socially.

Children learn best when they are fully engaged. Build on your child’s strengths and present her with experiences in ways that are meaningful to her. Ask yourself how your child learns best.

  • Does she learn better independently or in a group?
  • Is she a visual learner or does she prefer hearing information to understand it?
  • Does she tend to observe or jump right in?
  • Does she draw, perform or write to express herself?

Ask your child about the kind of learner she is. This will prompt her to reflect on her own thinking, an essential skill for learning and life.


Make a plan with her to stop complaining.

You can involve your child in a problem-solving process by making a plan together for family trips. This will help her make decisions based on her goals and encourage her to be accountable for her actions.

  • Your child is old enough to have a discussion about her behavior on family trips. Say something like: “Every time we go on a trip together, you say you’re bored and want to leave, and then nobody has a good time. Why do you think this keeps happening, and what can we do to stop it from happening?”
  • Talk about goals, for you and your child. In this instance, your goal is likely to be for her to enjoy trips instead of complaining.
  • Work together with your child to create solutions. Ask her what ideas she has to help her manage. Would it help to bring along something to read or write or draw with?
  • Include your child’s ideas in the solution you select to try. If your child feels like you really listen to her, she’s likely to come up with creative ideas.
  • After you have tried the solution, make sure to talk about how it is working. If it’s not, go through the process again and select another solution to try.

Be an example.

According to Jack P. Shonkoff of Harvard University, “There is no development without relationships.”

No matter your child’s age, you are her most important teacher. She looks to you for ways to manage situations, and learns both from what you say and what you don’t say.

  • Pursue your own interests and hobbies. This shows your child that learning happens throughout one’s life. Be sure you talk with her about your experiences and share what you are learning.
  • Use “boredom busters.” You model problem-solving skills for your child when you play games like adding onto each other’s drawings or stories or singing songs while traveling.
  • Try not to let your child’s attitude and behavior spill over on to you. Be intentional about what you want to convey to your child. Do your best to remain calm and encourage her to use the strategies you have talked about.

When you promote the life skill of Self-Directed, Engaged Learning, you are working to keep the fire of learning burning brightly in your child’s eyes, encouraging her to develop a lifelong love of learning.



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