Learning & Exploring in France – A Teachers Guide

I love holidays so much. As a teacher I am fortunate to have the same holidays as my children. I did work for the travel industry before training to be a teacher and I know the struggles and limits of only having 4 weeks holiday a year. Even with 4 weeks holiday, you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time entertaining your children when you’re on a trip.

As a mum of three children I know the importance of having activities ‘up your sleeve’ for those rainy days or that half an hour after eating before you let your children get back into the pool to re-perfect their wrinkled ‘prune fingers’. So I thought, wouldn’t it be great to have some activities that are specifically tailored to your childs’ age and your destination that are fun and linked to the Early Years Framework that schools and childcare providers follow?

The Early Years Framework identifies two of the characteristics of effective early learning as ‘Playing and Exploring’ and ‘Active Learning’ and the opportunities for these naturally go hand in hand with a family holiday in most instances.

After spending many years holidaying in the Normandy and Brittany areas of France, I can recommend some fabulous learning experiences in that area:

Brittany

The Granite Rose coast

A must see with some incredible rock formations that children of all ages love to explore and point out creatures and objects they can see in the rock shapes – their imaginations can run wild!

Granite Rose Coast rock formations.

Place to visit – Fort La Latte

A great option as so many children are fascinated by castles and this one doesn’t disappoint. During the Summer months there is a programme of events with many family activities available. 

The grounds also have many small lizards that can be found (I would avoid trying to catch them though as when they are threatened the end of their tail falls off to distract predators and continues to wiggle – this results in a lot squealing, and that was just my husband!)   

Fort La Latte is great for castle enthusiasts of all ages

Place to visit – Beaches

Brittany, in my opinion, has some of the best rocky pools and beautiful sand in France, all in once place. My children never seem to tire of the beach and can happily spend hours rock pooling, digging, swimming and paddling.

You’ll also see lots of outdoor art inspired by the likes of Andy Goldsworthy and Sam Bennett which is a lovely way to use all the shells, seaweed and pebbles that you will no doubt collect. It’s also a nice excuse to leave some of the items on the beach rather than your toddler trying to go home with a ton of stones in their pocket.

My children always love rock-pooling no matter the weather

St Malo

A beautiful Medieval walled port city with cobbled streets (great for counting while waiting at an outside restaurant for lunch) and as you step outside the walls onto the sandy beach there is even a saltwater lido with diving platform. As a child I can remember sitting in a restaurant here with my family and my dad ordering a seafood platter which was presented as a work of art with the prawns presented in such a way that it looked as though they were holding hands.

Despite my best efforts, I can’t stand seafood or fish, but will always encourage my children to try new things which isn’t always easy as my 2 boys seem to be amongst the fussiest children on the planet!

The beautiful medieval city of St Malo

Activities

Picking up the language

When in France… make the most of being surrounded by another language. Even if your children learn just a couple of the basics it still promotes to them that everyone is different and helps them understand more about ‘people and communities’. Children really are like sponges and soak up opportunities like this.

They will also normally be very proud to share what they have learnt when they get home with wider family and friends. Although if you are my youngest son, you may get embarrassed and resort to shouting out a rude word taught to you by your older brother which usually involves a body part or toileting function.

An Illustration from 'The Matchbox Diary'

Keeping a diary with matchboxes

Some children love this and some are more reluctant but one thing that I am keen to try on my next family holiday is inspired by a book called ‘Matchbox Diary’ by Paul Fleischman. Even though this book is aimed at older children, the idea is one that children of all ages and abilities can access it.

You may or may not need slightly bigger than a matchbox, but the idea is to collect a variety of mementos or photos that will capture your day and have each day in a separate box. This could involve writing a full diary entry or even just a word to add to your box.

One of the main benefits of this activity is the vocabulary and discussion that will come out of sharing these with each other and when you return from holiday and go to visit Grandma for example. They are all inclusive as anyone can have a go and children will love collecting items to put inside.

These are just a small suggestion of ideas in one small section of the world and the opportunities are only limited by your imagination. As a teacher, I have tons of ideas for extra curricular activities that you can pull out while you’re abroad to truly maximise the best value for your time away with the children.

Stay tuned for more activities from me on the Tots blog!

Tina Gomez-Serjeant
Tina Gomez-Serjeant

Tina Gomez is the creator of ‘The Learning Travelling Family’, mum of three, teacher and travel enthusiast whose life motto is ‘be the best you can be’.

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