Combining Education and Entertainment
Children love to explore and discover, presenting a wonderful opportunity to tap into these traits to inform, educate and delight them. Built upon this idea is an entire field dedicated to using entertainment to educate children, sometimes called edutainment. One of the earliest examples comes from 1922 when a local dentist, Dr. Thomas B. McCrum, asked Walt Disney to create a movie to engage children in brushing their teeth. The result was “Tommy Tucker’s Tooth” which follows the story of two boys - one that brushes his teeth and another that does not. Walt Disney eventually coined the term edutainment to describe films like this. It has come a long way since then, expanding from movies to television, the internet, video games and classrooms. In fact, it is a growing trend in the travel industry.
There is an increasing recognition that people travel for adventure and to learn new things. As a result, there are efforts to provide more enriching experiences, impart knowledge and build skills. Examples abound in a variety of settings. Take the farm stay vacation where guests have an authentic experience and learn about agriculture in a rural setting. One of the fastest growing vacation trends around the world, it particularly appeals to urban families who want to provide a more diverse exposure to their children. Hotels are also joining this trend and Travel Channel rounded up some of the top examples here including the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort which has a state-of-the-art aquaponics greenhouse, an organic garden, a family of resident chickens and an apiary housing a whopping 2 million bees.
There are more subtle ways to incorporate edutainment into children’s programming at hotels. One approach is to have fun classes that take advantage of the talents of the available staff. Take the Royal Cliff Hotel in Thailand, they offer cooking classes, origami classes, balloon making classes, balloon modelling, pottery workshop and storytelling by kid’s club manager. Another approach is to engage kids in the property - an activity guide that helps them discover and learn about the unique features of the place. When the Westin redesigned their kids program, they included a travel journal and local activity guide that are offered to children at all of the brand’s hotels and resorts. Other properties find ways to engage guests through tours near the property. The Jumby Bay Island Resort, ranked one of the top family friendly hotels by US News, sits on a pristine beach and offers guided walks to see Hawskbill turtles on the beach and learn about conservation efforts.
All of these represent fantastic ways to entertain and educate children. Rather than a one-size fits all approach, brands can be thoughtful about finding interesting things to share and showcasing them in ways that are engaging. Edutainment has the potential to take children’s programming to the next level, delighting young guests and expanding their world.