7 engaging activities with Kids in Spain

We just finished a month in Toledo, Spain.  Traveling with kids is wonderful and challenging. We didn’t try to cover the entire country but what we did cover, we think is worth sharing,

Here is our scoop….

We took 2 quick trips; one to Grenada and one to Barcelona, and a day trip to Valencia to get a taste for some of Spain’s offerings.

Here’s a roundup of what we did:

  1.  Grenada – we visited the AlhambraIMG_5586and then… spent some time at the beachimg_0822

    Spain is great for Churros, don’t forget about the Porrasimg_0733image

  2. Cathedral in Toledo

    Toledo Christmas lights in the street

    Toledo Cathedral at Night

    National pride was strong while Catalan stressed the national unity.


  3. Greco Museum in Toledo
  4. The Prado in Madrid see how we attempted to teach our kids something about art on our visit HERE.img_0966img_0969
  5. Valencia Spain has an incredible aquarium that our boys loved!  We were there in November and it wasn’t crowded at all.img_0866img_5728
  6. In Barcelona we learned about Dali and Gaudi.  La Segrada Familia was incredible and we would go back in a heartbeat.  The Dali Museum did not disappoint, but please know that this is not directly in Barcelona.  It is about an hour and a half or so away.  All in, we loved Barcelona and wished we could have spent more time there.

    Dali is sooo cool



    The coolest church I have ever been in. Period. Period.

  7. Zoo in Madrid was a hit and in November there wasn’t much of a crowd at all.

    The Madrid Zoo was really a nice zoo


    All in, we loved Spain and will miss it, but alas….all roads lead to Rome.  So next up on our journey is the Eternal City!

10 steps to take when pulled over by Spanish police. ?Is paying a highway patrol €100 on the side of the road highway robbery or efficient governance?

So I get pulled over between Granada and Toledo for not using my signal to change lanes! Ok, I get it, revenue generation at its finest. I have a rental car and I am wearing my Iowa Cubs hat, prime target. Well… when they tell me I have to pay €100 on the spot, my radar goes up.

1. ask if they take a credit cards..well, there machine doesn’t work…feels fishy..

2. I start to negotiate. They insist on payment and offer to drive me to an ATM.

3. I start to make a game of it, ask them to put their sirens on and lights as they escort me to the ATM, they have guns by the way, so €100 is not worth a fight.

4. I make a production out of it and start taking pictures

5. I have my kids sit on the motorcycle

6. I get the town people involved.

7.I take pictures of the atm receipt

8. Pictures of license plates etc

9. Badge numbers, etc

10. We ask the police in the next town if this is normal practice or the law, it is when you don’t live in Spain.. much a do about a blinker…

Boys, bathrooms, and buttwashers…I mean bidets

Yep, I’m going there.  Bidets.  Almost every place we’ve stayed at has some type of bidet contraption.  Either a sprayer, stand alone, or built into the toilet.

Traveling with boys has been great actually.  Need to change a shirt you’ve used as a napkin for the last 4 meals?  No problem.  The dirty one comes off, the clean one goes on.  Emergency potty break on on the road?  Slam the brakes on and we’ll find a tree.  It’s probably cleaner than a public bathroom anyway.  All in, boys are easy-peasy especially in the bathroom department.  Until…


These things are the devil.  And very, VERY common in Europe.  They really ought to have child safety locks like the kind you can put on toilets to keep kids and pets out.  And the more I think about it, who thought these were a good idea in the first place?!  It turns out that according to wikipedia we can sorta blame the  17th century French for inventing this.  As Americans, we don’t see the logic in paying for, or installing a separate fixture in the bathroom, or using up valuable space and water. Either way, it’s a germ filled petri dish of a time bomb when you have 3 curious boys with you.

“Cool!  A tiny sink!”


“I can wash my hands in it, it’s just my size.”


“It’s like a foot washer or something!”


“We could use it for brushing our teeth!  It has a little faucet!”

“YUCK! NO! It’s for your butt.  It washes your butt after you go to the bathroom.”

“……..(no comment)…….(thinking)……(the wheels are turning)….. a buttwasher?!”

And there we have it.  A buttwasher.


How to get kids (and parents) through the Prado…and learn something.

I would not consider our family as a truly “artsy” family, as in I have zero drawing talent.  I still use stick people.  But, art is important, and can be interesting to look at.  Sometimes.  But we have three boys that would rather start fires and collect rocks than look at art.  So, knowing that, I decided to try something different for The Prado Museum,  (El Museo National del Prado), I channeled my inner teacher.  I sought out some supplies.  Then, I made my kids listen to me.  Sort of….

Here’s what I bought at the Prado, before we visited:

  1. The Prado Guide
  2. These bookmarks
  3. Mateo at the Museum
  4. Little Story of the Prado Museum
  5. Goya for Children
  6. The Great Art Treasure Hunt
  7. A map that I picked up from the info desk

This was in the bag of stuff I picked up from the Prado gift shop.  Yep….I went to the Museum WITHOUT kids to get some very Prado Museum specific items.

  • I could not find all the items in Amazon, but hopefully you get the idea.  Also, the bookmarks I purchased are the 2018 version but I could only link to 2016.
  • I went back to look through the online gift shop for the Prado and could not find ANY of these items.
  • If you want to repeat what I did, unfortunately you’ll actually have to go to the gift shop and purchase some of these things in person.
  • On the up side, the Museum is free Monday-Saturday 6-8pm and Sundays and holiday 5-7pm.  So, one night I headed in to pick up my supplies.  Then the fun began.  Sorta.

I read through Mateo at the Museum and Little Story of the Prado over the course of a week or so with the boys.  Little Story of the Prado has quite a bit of information, so I broke it up over several days and just read a page or two at a time.  Then I talked about it with the boys, at dinner as we were in the car…  And talked.  And talked.

  • And about once a day I asked them why was the Prado named the Prado?  (Hint:  Prado means meadow in Spanish)
  • Who was a major driving force in helping the Prado come to fruition?
  • What was stolen from the Prado a long time ago?
  • Why were the paintings moved and where to?

The boys had lots of opportunities to tell and retell this information so they knew at least some stuff before the big day.

  • Every time we came across a reference in any of the books about a piece at the Prado, we looked it up in the Guide so they could see exactly what the piece was going to look like.

Another book that we spent time looking at was The Great Art Treasure Hunt.  Our 4 year old loved it and while not all the pieces in it are at the Prado, it really helped him look at different art with detail while paying attention to other elements and “finding” other items in a painting.   I would highly recommend it for any younger kids.  These books gave our kids quite a bit of exposure to several pieces that we planned to see at the Prado.

After all this, it was time for me to get MY ducks in a row.

The night before:

  • I marked on my museum map where several pieces were that we talked about and wanted to see.  The Prado is just so big and overwhelming and I didn’t want the boys to get burned out looking at art that they didn’t know anything about.  So, knowing that I would have limited attention from the boys, we just planned to see certain pieces.

And the day of?!  How did it go?!  And why did you buy bookmarks?

So glad you asked!  We went to the Prado in the morning because the boys are much better off first thing in the morning.  Once we got there Joe dropped us off because there was a protest of sorts going on (true story).  He went to find parking which was an entirely different story, but the boys and I headed inside.  I handed out 2 or 3 bookmarks to each kid.  These bookmarks had a piece of a painting on them so the boys needed to be really looking around to find their paintings!


Fransico de Goya, Pero semibundid (Half Submerged Dog)

I was sure to give the youngest one the more recognizable one and the hardest ones went to our 14 year old.  Poor guy!  So, the boys played a bit of a treasure hunt type game and then we referred to our map and hit the rest of the paintings that we had in mind (we focused on Spanish painters, and the Dauphin’s Treasure (that were stolen years ago and then partially recovered!).  The most memorable piece for the boys was the Queen standing with one hand on a set of blueprints (for the future Prado) and her other hand pointing out the window at what would be, the finished Prado Museum (she died before it all came to fruition, but this painting is a tribute to her).


Bernardo Lopez Piquer, Maria Isabel de Braganza

At the end of it all….I think the boys learned something.  I don’t know if they loved it, but there are some paintings they should recognize.  We tried our best to keep it fun.

For anyone wanting to try sometime similar in a museum of their choosing, here’s what I recommend:

  1.  Pick where you want to go
  2. Buy/borrow/rent some material specific to the themes at that location
  3. put the time in and teach it to your kids, well in advance
  4. review and talk about it often, just 2 or 3 minutes a day helps
  5. prepare and map our what you’re doing so there’s limited “down time”
  6. incorporate some type of game
  7. keep it short and to the point, don’t try and do EVERYTHING
  8. a good attitude will go far in having some fun!

Falconry in Ireland

We had a wonderful and exciting time with Killarney Falconry, In Killarney Ireland.  http://www.killarneyfalconry.com/

We learned: Owl’s have huge ears, falcons are completely self interested, owl’s have the attention span of a mite and that these birds of prey are increadibly impressive.  Liam was our guide on the “hawk walk”.  Liam was great!  Unsurprisingly Reece wants an owl (he got the cuddly one).