When you ask kids where they want to go on vacation what is usually their first answer? A trip to Disney World, right? Why is that? Isn’t it mostly due to marketing?
Should There Be More To Fun?
The question is not about whether children would have fun at Disney or any other major theme park. We know they would have a blast. Maybe the question we should ask ourselves is: What they would actually take away from a trip like that?
- Would they learn anything?
- Would they grow in any way?
- What lasting impressions would they be left with?
We live in a consumer society where kids spend a lot of time inside being entertained by things, machines like television, play stations and computers. Isn’t Disneyland just an extension of that? Roller-coasters, special effects and more roller-coasters. What are our children gaining when they are constantly being entertained by things like that? Do those types of things give them an opportunity to get in touch with their connections to the real world? To things that really matter?
We try to be aware that the marketing our daughter is exposed to is balanced. “The Magic of Disney” does not stand out to her more than any other option. When we talk about family vacations we lay out the pros and cons of many different destinations. We try to take the preferences of everyone into account, so we reach a decision that we’re all happy with.
I’ve never been to Disneyland and neither has my daughter. When I asked her if she would like to go, her response was a monotone “yeah I guess so.” It’s not that we are against Disney type theme parks but I think because we have exposed Drew to places like the Galapagos Islands she doesn’t see Disney as the ultimate destination. Her focus is more on the natural world around her.
Natural Fun With Benefits
Seeing her light up the first time she saw a sea lion close up (and then look at me to share that joy) was priceless. She also learned to snorkel while in the Galapagos. Seeing her get hooked on the amazing underwater world is something I will never forget. There is something so different and thrilling about being around so many amazing animals that aren’t fenced in! People love animals so much for a reason: they move, breath and interact with us of their own accord, unlike a roller coaster.
A trip to the Galapagos is a real learning experience. The Naturalist guides talk a lot about the ecosystem and the delicate balance that exists within it. Drew came to understand how her actions could help or harm the animals and plant life around her. Seeing the reality of that sinking in while she was standing in one of the most unique environments in the world helped me appreciate the need to give children “real life” exposure to the way our actions (or lack of action) impact the planet. Understanding that the Galapagos could someday cease to be the amazing place they are, because of human activity, left a big impression on her.
Weighing The Options
We have taken our daughter to theme parks with fun rides, but she never really talked about them much after. Just a passing comment like “yeah that was fun.” Hiking up a volcano and exploring the inside of a lava tunnel may not have left her breathless like a roller-coaster did, but that and many of the other things we experienced in the Galapagos have been mentioned many times over.
There is nothing wrong with a trip to Disney, but why keep giving kids so much of the same thing? Why not give them something different and really enriching, like a trip to the Galapagos. Something that could make a lasting impression on them and their future, not to mention the thrill that comes form exploring the natural world with them.
Drew is writing about her experiences here: Galapagos for Kids Series