August 29, 2011 12:00 PM

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are the first to admit they and their six kids live like nomads. “Home is wherever we are,” Jolie, 36, told the Financial Times on July 29, as her family settled in to a London compound after a series of stints in Malta, New Orleans, Budapest, Venice, L.A. and the south of France. “There’s so much to explore in the world. If you can travel, I think it’s the best way to raise kids.” If anyone seems to have mastered the complex art of raising six rambunctious children on the move, it’s Jolie and Pitt. Working with what Pitt, 47, called “military” precision as they move across continents, “Angelina is constantly trying to find fun activities for the children to do,” says a source. And so they’ve visited aquariums in London and Malta, tasted crickets in Cambodia and jumped into the spa pools in Budapest and the waves in Cancun. Privileged? Perhaps. But despite their fame, the Jolie-Pitt bunch is just a “normal” family, says a source. “The children are always playing, jumping on each other and sharing fun moments. They share a special bond.” As the kids grow up, here’s how the world’s most famous family makes it all work.

Vivienne

“Now that the twins are older, they’re being included in more activities with their older siblings,” says a source. Viv, 3, has always been “sensitive,” says a source, but she’s got big sister Shiloh to show her the ropes of the bigger-kid world. Says the source: “Viv likes being around Shiloh.”

Maddox

The latest birthday boy, who turned 10 Aug. 5, is crazy about cars and martial arts and loves racing his dad in go-karts. Always mature for his age, “he’s almost like a teenager now, the way he understands things,” says a source. “He’s grown up very quickly.”

Zahara

Six-year-old Z has always been closest to her mother-“they have a real camaraderie,” says a source-but lately (look out!) she and Shiloh have become partners in crime. “They are always whispering secrets to each other,” says a source. Adds a second source: “They’re closest in age, and they seem to get along really well.”

Shiloh

“Every day is dress-up day for Shiloh,” says a source of the boisterous 5-year-old, who loves pirate outfits and temporary tattoos. During a recent outing to Ozzie Dots in L.A., “she picked out a clown costume,” says a source. “She wanted to wear it out of the store, but Angelina said no.”

Knox

“Knox is a lot like Brad, emotionally and physically,” Jolie said recently. The spitting image of his dad, the 3-year-old often sticks close to his mom during outings, like a recent visit to a water park. He’s also especially close to his big sister Zahara, says a source.

Pax

The 7-year-old is the family’s water baby, always the last one out of the pool. As he grows up, he has become “more independent in the last year,” says a source. Though he’s been known as the “goofball” of the family, a second source says, “He’s calming down a bit, and he enjoys quiet time alone with books and games.”

Do birthdays in a big way

Whether it’s hiring a sightseeing boat in Paris or putting up a bouncy castle in their L.A. backyard, Brad and Angelina make each kid’s birthday a special occasion. On Aug. 6, the day after Maddox’s 10th birthday, the four older kids and their parents (above) caught the musical Wicked in London. “The children looked excited,” says an observer.

Everyone must be portable

Knox and Viv, 3, “have grown up so much they can go everywhere now,” says an insider. They already help with family moves: Like the older kids, Knox and Viv help pack one bag each with their travel musts. They’re also old enough to tag along on more adventures. On Aug. 13, Brad and Angelina took Knox (right), Viv, Zahara and Shiloh to the Puppet Theatre Barge, a marionette show on London’s Thames River. “The children were really well behaved,” says staffer Juliet Rodgers. Brad and Angelina “talked with the children about what they were seeing. At the end, Angelina commended the acting of the puppets-which we had a good laugh about.”

Tire them out

“As any mother knows, you have to plan everything for the kids first, then you organize your day,” Jolie said last year. To give naptime a chance, she and Pitt make sure the kids burn off energy, whether they’re bowling (a family favorite), tubing down California’s Mammoth Mountain (inset, Pax and Brad in 2008) or whizzing along at a Budapest zipline park, where Shiloh (above) and the gang went last November.

Keep the toy chest stocked

Trips to the local toy store are joyful-and regular-outings no matter where the Jolie-Pitts are stationed. Mom and Dad usually avoid big-ticket splurges, sticking to basics like stuffed animals, Nerf guns, costumes and board games-though they sprang for new bikes for the kids on Aug. 13. During their London stay, while Brad films World War Z in the U.K., Angie and the girls (above, on Aug. 15) have enjoyed trips to the Toy Station in their Richmond neighborhood, picking up necessities like water-squirting cameras, cap guns and fake money. The kids are also paint-your-own-pottery fiends: They’ve gotten crafty at Richmond’s Pottery Cafe multiple times-most recently for a Pirates and Princesses-themed party on Aug. 9. Knox (inset) had no problem meeting the dress code.

Make a splash!

Waterparks, beaches and pools are a sure hit among the Jolie-Pitts. “Pax is the one who leads the charge at water activities,” says a source. He took body-boarding classes with his brother Maddox (left, in Malibu last year) in Cancun in July. At Malta’s Splash & Fun Water Park, Pax and Zahara couldn’t get enough of the Black Hole, an extra-long waterslide. “They really enjoyed it,” says a source.

Spread the love

“Brad and Angelina are very careful to give the same amount of attention to each kid,” says a source. “Even if they’re holding hands with one, they make sure never to forget about the others.” At home, Jolie (above, with Zahara in 2005, Knox in 2010 and Maddox and Viv in 2011) makes sure everyone has their own space. “They don’t treat any one of the children in a more special way.”

Keep up as they grow up (if you can)

“Now that all the children are older, things have calmed down a bit in the household,” says a source. “There’s a great family dynamic right now.” With the gang (left, in Japan in 2010, and, above, in New Orleans in March) growing up before their eyes, Pitt and Jolie-who, with Pitt filming, has been mostly a stay-at-home mom since wrapping her directorial debut In The Land of Blood and Honey last year-say they may make fewer films. “I don’t love [acting] as much [as I did].,” Jolie told the Financial Times. “I love being a mom.”

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