Printable Activities Make Travel Fun

Olympic National Park, Washington

Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park. Photo by Tammy Yee.

Primeval rainforests, rugged Pacific coastline, alpine forests and glacier-capped peaks, hot springs and tide pools...Olympic National Park has much to offer as a family destination.

Whether you're spending a day or a week at the park, a stop at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles will help you plan your family vacation.

Falcon Guide produces a series of Best Easy Day Hikes, and we've found these useful while touring national parks, especially when we have a limited amount of time and require trails with bathroom facilities, or accommodations for family members with mobility issues.

Sea star at Salt Creek Tide Pools. Remember when visiting tide pools to always have a tide chart handy, and be sure to check ocean conditions with Park Rangers. Never turn your back to the ocean, and always keep children under close supervision. 

Rocks  may be slippery, so have proper footwear. Avoid trampling on plants and coral. Remember that tide pool creatures need to be submersed...return them to their pools, and if you lift a rock or a pebble while exploring, replace it in its original position.

There are a number of short hikes through old-growth forest that are suitable for young families. Sol Duc Falls is a 1.4 mi (round trip) hike through mossy temperate forests. Kids can look for millipedes and banana slugs along the way.
At Olympic National Park, you can explore several different ecosystems in a single day.

We stayed in a rustic cabin at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, which featured two queen-sized beds, a fully equipped kitchen, refrigerator, stove, microwave and (most importantly) coffee maker.

There are no telephones, radio, television or internet connection in the cabins, so tire the kids out during the day and have quiet activities (coloring books for the little ones, cards and puzzles for older children) and books available on hand.

Barn swallows swoop over the cabins at Sol Duc Hot Springs.

The restaurant overlooks the mineral hot springs where you can unwind after a day of hiking, and the convenience store will come in handy when packing for your day trip.

Other lodging is available within the park, some without modern distractions: Lake Quinault Lodge, Kalaloch Lodge and Lake Crescent Lodge. For families who can't vacation without television and wireless internet, there's the Olympic Lodge.  For television and laundry but no internet, try the Rain Forest Resort Village. And for large families who prefer one and two bedroom suites, the Olympic Suites Inn is located within the city of Forks (tween alert: the popular Twilight series was filmed in forks!) along the Calawah River. Check for seasonal specials and make your reservations online.

 Bald eagle over Rialto Beach

On the last day of our vacation we took a whirlwind tour, driving along the 73-mile scenic coast, stopping at Ruby Beach and Rialto Beach where we watched bald eagles soaring above the wind-sheared cliffs; took a short, family-friendly hike on snow-covered Hurricane Ridge, then explored the rich tide pools at Salt Creek, just outside the park boundaries.

Black tailed deer at Hurricane Ridge. Look for Olympic marmots, which are endemic to the Olympic Peninsula.

The Olympic National Park web site has articles and brochures you can download for children, to prepare them for your family vacation. Also, be sure to review the Park Service's Things To Know Before You Come.

Fun Facts:

Kids are chock full of questions you can't answer. Whenever we explore national parks, we always bring along an inexpensive pocket guide.

Our favorites are the boldly illustrated mammal, bird and plant identification guides and cards that turn hiking into a treasure hunt.

Download a list of animals you might see at Olympic National Park, and make a checklist that you can discuss after your family's day hike.

Remember that however cute and cuddly they may appear, the animals are wild and should not be approached, harassed or fed.
Pacific Northwest Marine Mammal and Seabird Word Search

Sea Otter
How much do you know about those lovable, fur-faced acrobats twisting and diving in kelp beds? Sea otters are one of the few mammals, aside from primates (monkeys and apes), to use tools. Floating on the surface of the water, they sometimes place a rock on their chest, using it as a hard surface to smash open shelled food like clams and abalone. Have you ever wondered how otters carry all that stuff to the surface? In their armpits, in loose skin folds! Try that with an urchin--better yet, don't try it.

©2010 Tammy Yee
All rights reserved. 
Fun Stuff:

Visitors in May and early June may be lucky enough to spot a bald eagle nest with new chicks:
American Bald Eagle Origami
Bald Eagle Paper Airplane
Humpback Whale
Sea Otter

One of the many butterflies you may find at Olympic National Park is the Western Tiger Swallowtail. Print and fold a swallowtail butterfly:

Photos: Yosemite National Park

Yosemite in the spring. Photos by Tammy Yee

Travel Tips: Good Table Manners Makes for Enjoyable Family Meals Out

 Submitted by Sarah Morris on behalf of Primrose Schools- preschools emphasizing a balanced curriculum.

Image: federico stevanin
Well-mannered children make travel- and especially meals out a restaurants- much more possible and enjoyable. Teaching about table manners from a young age is important in allowing you to dine out as a family without disrupting other adult diners around you.

An ideal time to begin teaching manners is at the dinner table, when the whole family sits down to a meal. Consider the tips below when helping your children with their mealtime etiquette:

1. It is never too early to begin teaching manners. In fact, it is often better to start as early as possible instead of asking a school age child to learn numerous "rules" all at once. Manners should be taught slowly and in stages, so that they become second nature to the child. Very young children and even infants take their biggest cues for behavior from their parents, so a show of good manners will teach them how to act. Toddlers can be taught to say "please" and "thank you," and that they should sit still in their seat at mealtimes. Children of that age are also discovering new things every day, and love performing new activities and learning new skills. Take advantage of this to teach them how to correctly use utensils and set the table. You may even teach them the basics of cutting, using plastic knives and foods that are easy to cut.

2. Let your children know how they are doing, and be specific. Rewarding good behavior with praise will reinforce that behavior, but specific feedback, such as, "Thank you for setting the table. Now everyone has a place to sit," will go a lot further toward teaching your children than just general praise.

3. Always keep conversation at the table polite, and encourage your children to do the same. Even toddlers can learn polite conversation and how to wait their turn to talk, if their parents are there to guide them in the right direction. If everyone in the family engages in polite conversation, it will have the added benefit of increasing the bond among family members, as everyone takes the time to really listen and learn about what is going on in each other's lives.

4. Practice what you preach. Children will imitate their parents, so it is not enough to just teach them manners if you are not engaging in that same behavior yourself. Everything from polite conversation to the proper use of utensils to healthy eating habits can be learned by children watching their parents.

5. Children learn better in an orderly and consistent environment, so set up a routine for dinner every night. Remind your children out loud of polite behaviors, such as waiting until everyone is served before eating. Repetition will make it easier for your children to remember their manners. Be patient, as children may often need reminders and prompting, but a slow and steady commitment to teaching manners will help them the remainder of their lives.