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.