Taking your children to visit cities can be a real headache. You want to look at the sights, see the museums and enjoy the food but you don’t want crotchety kids moaning about how tired and bored they are.
When you’re travelling with children, particularly if you want to see the cultural sights, you need to find something to engage their interest. I always try and hunt out the stories that will make the place, the history or the art come alive and turn it into a fun experience for all of us. We’ve gone hunting for dragons at the Brighton Pavilion, found out about the King who chopped off queens’ heads at the Tower of London and searched for the sea monsters carved into the stone in the cloisters of a Lisbon Monastery.
Travel is the best possible way to teach your children about the world they live in as they get the chance to explore different cultures, learn about history and try new foods. But it’s not always easy. You have to change your pace when you’re travelling with children, take things slower. You can’t walk around for hours. You also need to factor in tiredness, hunger and boredom thresholds.
But when you get it right and you see that excitement in their eyes when they’re experiencing something for the first time, you realise that far from slowing you down, travelling with kids can be even more rewarding than it was before.
The wonderful Leap & Hop travel guides are brilliant at helping to turn a grown-up trip into a fun adventure for children. The books include guides to the cities of New York, Paris, Singapore and Hong Kong. They’ve been created to help kids get involved and excited about their travels with fun, interactive activities.
The Paris guide is wonderful. It’s packed with information about the city, with games and activities on every page to help kids discover more about where they’re visiting. You can go on a scavenger hunt around a department store, take a quiz walk around Montmartre, design clothes for the fashion capital of the world and hunt for the ‘mascarons’ (carved faces) on the Parisian buildings you pass. There are spot-the-differences, colouring pages and word searches and it’s all really colourful and beautifully illustrated.
My kids and I loved the idea that you can turn the book into a very special travel scrapbook of your trip. There are places to stick ticket stubs and souvenirs, draw pictures or take photos of what you loved and hated eating while you were there.
The book is so jam-packed with information and things to do that you couldn’t possibly do it all on one trip so there will always be something to save for your next visit. The books are aimed at 7 to 14-year-olds although younger children would be able to enjoy some of the activities with their parents’ help.
My 10-year-old was delighted with it. “It’s an amazing book!” he told me. “You’d know every corner of Paris when you finished doing it.” He’s really excited about using it when he goes to the city for the first time.
The books have been written by Isabelle Demenge. She wrote her first guide to Cambodia when she couldn’t find anything suitable for her three children, aged 8, 6 and 3, for their family trip to the country.
“I wanted to make sure that the kids could enjoy the temples so I tried to think of activities that they would enjoy for each temple on our list: treasure hunts, i-spy games and doodle prompts. It was a big hit with my three boys and their two cousins and so every year I wrote another book for them for our big family vacation.”
Her boys loved the book so much that she now writes one every time they travel anywhere – even for a long weekend. There are now nine books in the series and Isabelle is planning more. “It’s great to see how all three of them are interested in different sections of the books,” she says.
You can buy the books from the Leap & Hop website for HK $170 (about £15). They are also available on Amazon. I’ll certainly be using them with my kids and I think they’d make wonderful presents for children travelling to those destinations.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored blog post. I was very kindly given a copy of the Leap & Hop guide to Paris for the purposes of review. All opinions are, of course, my own.