I'm no purist when it comes to entertaining children with technology. What my young self did in the car on the long drive to summer vacation spots without a DVD player is beyond me. (Well, I do remember fighting with my sisters.)
Still, once my own nuclear family arrives at our summer getaway, we naturally unplug. Board games at night, beach prep in the morning -- who has time for "Cupcake Wars"? The hulking television in the corner serves only as beach towel storage.
So what did my daughter and her two cousins do last summer during those early morning hours when adults dozed on and on? Well, they read. One morning, they nearly finished a 300-piece puzzle.
But it was the rainy day that had me marveling. Instead of moping about the weather, the children got on their bellies to peer through the slats in the wooden floors of the front and back porches, a notebook at their side. Their self-appointed task was to document items that had been left on the ground as the porches were built or that had fallen between the cracks in the years since.
"License plate, broken paint pan, baby evergreen tree, Dr. Pepper can, flyswotter [sic] (green), flyswotter (moldy, red), beer caps, metal fork, lots of plastic forks, torn American flag." The list went on and on, including these two poignant items, side-by-side: "Key to the cottage, fish hook." We could easily see the scene, the hook lost during a futile effort to reclaim the key.
The investigation entertained the kids (and the adults as we lounged on wicker chairs, listening to the reports), so we didn't feel too bad when the lining of a watershoe slid past our grip to rest forevermore beside the key.
Send questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.