“A train journey is unbelievably exciting for children”

From the hustle and bustle of a station to new experiences during the journey – there are many things for a child to discover when travelling. Julia Falk, social and outdoor educationalist, explains how to motivate them in this respect.

  1. Travel time is family time: When travelling by train, the nice part of the day begins upon arrival. Since the adults don’t need to pay attention to traffic, children and their parents can enjoy the trip together; for example imagining all the cool things that await them at their destination.
  2. No stopping along the way: “Mummy, I have to go to the loo” or “Daddy, I’m hungry” – when travelling by train, it's no problem. When you’re on a train, children can eat at the tables, go to the lavatory at any time, or even just walk up and down through the train. This means that you don’t need to take breaks during the journey, and families reach their destination sooner and with less stress.
  3. Goodbye to boredom: The potential for keeping busy on a train is enormous. There is a great deal to discover and the seats with the tables are ideal for drawing, doing arts and crafts and playing. So why not have your next round of UNO on a train?

How do we make the outward journey even more exciting? Julia Falk, director of www.erlebnispaedagogik.online magazine, offers tips and ideas on how to fill the time before departure and while on the train. The social and outdoor educationalist has been organising and accompanying school trips and free time for children and youths for many years.

The journey to the destination – even if very short – is often an exciting occasion for families. How does the journey itself become an event?

Many parents underestimate how incredibly exciting a station and a train ride can be for children. Adults often arrive at the platform just before departure and hop on the train. It's nicer if you arrive earlier and show your children all the things that take place at a station. With smaller children for example, this can be turned into a sort of exploration tour. Who works there? What can you see and hear here? This is all fascinating for children.

Is it also interesting for older children?

Give them tasks in the form of a competition. For example, they could be tasked to figure out how to read departure and arrival tables and where the train leaving from. Next, they must find the platform and then look to see where the respective first and second-class carriages are. These activities train their awareness and independence.

What are you doing to ensure that the train journey is as entertaining as possible for the children?

I often come up with a little competition for the train journey. You can even start it before you leave the house. You look at a map or the timetable information to see where your journey begins, where it takes you, and the stations in between. I look up the highlights that you can see on the journey and whether you travel past a lake, a castle or a large church, ahead of time. A competition like this can be done the traditional way, with printed pictures. You then see if the children can figure out the theme that connects all of them. Of course, you can also save the pictures on your smartphone.

What tried-and-true entertainment materials should you take with you?

Definitely favourite books or audiobooks. Even with these you can see if any of the stories revolve round “train travel” or “trips”. I find finger puppets to be good for smaller children because you can role-play with them. And the card game UNO is always a well-loved classic.

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