Don’t laugh. Seriously. We regularly take our children to visit the archaeological sites around the Yucatán Peninsula. In fact, our kids think it’s a treat. We arrived in México when our kids were two and four and we’ve been checking out the country’s archaeological sites all this time. We have never once said, ‘oh they’re too young, they’ll be bored’.
So what are we doing?
How are our kids not bored when we go? It’s simple really, we just don’t overload them with facts. We never join a tour or hire a guide, either, because we need to be realistic about what children can manage. Tailor the experience to them.
When they were tiny we went to run around, climb trees and, crucially, to plant the seeds of curiosity. What better way to foster a love of exploration, learning, and understanding than to make it all part of normal life? Just as museums around the world now tailor experiences to the age-range, so do we with our activities.
Now that the kids are a little bigger (they will be five and seven this year) we do talk a lot more about Mexican history, the Maya civilization, and what we’re seeing. To make it interesting to them we tell stories, we pretend we’ve gone back in time, and talk about what we might see. We also make it relevant to their lives. We talk about what they would have done, ‘imagine being a kid here 600 years ago…’ can spark many conversations and imagination games.
And, of course, handily, many of the sites have buildings and pyramids we can still climb. This never ceases to excite my kids. They feel intrepid and strong. They love that they can climb confidently and they love the reward of a cookie and water when we reach the top of a particularly arduous climb.
Yucatán has a wide and varied animal kingdom too. Don’t ignore it. Stop and watch the trails of enormous ants going about their business, the caterpillars on the trees, marvel at the huge iguanas sunning themselves on the ancient stone walls, call the kids to listen to the noise a butterfly makes or the slightly louder howler monkeys calling to each other.
So where should you go to excite your children?
Well, our personal favourite (ssshhhh!) is Mayapán. Not far from Mérida is this beautiful site where the kids can run and climb to their hearts’ content. The Ruta Puuc sites are also great for exploring with children because they’re so often completely empty, really letting kids feel like explorers or time travelers. Also close by is the barely visited site of X’cambó. Here you’ll find a small site completely surrounded by jungle.
Even if you’re taking them to bigger sites like Uxmal or Chichén Itzá, it’s possible to turn it into an adventure. And if that doesn’t work, bribery almost always will! Promise them an ice-cream or a cenote swim when you’re done.
Editorial by Cassie Pearse
Freelance writer and blogger, born in the UK. Cassie has a BA from Oxford University and an MA from SOAS, University of London. She lives in Mérida and loves exploring Yucatán with her family.
Photography by Cassie Pearse and Andrea Mier y Terán for use in Yucatán Today
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