Mom-Made Field Trips
Summer's here, and children around the country echo the familiar cry, "I'm bored, Mom!" They may have the best toys on the block and a park down the street, but when it comes to having summer fun, children seem to run out of ideas quickly.
With just a phone call or two, you can arrange field trips to entertain and educate your children. They can visit local attractions, working businesses and emergency service providers. Many will gladly accommodate a tour for children free of charge. To make it more worthwhile for the establishment offering the tour, bring along a friend or two and their children, your playgroup, or your neighbors. Call ahead to find out the particulars: the best time to visit, any age restrictions and the contact person. Many places can be visited during the week, but you may choose to go on weekends if the business can accommodate your group.
Here are some places to consider visiting:
Many children are thrilled to see firefighting equipment up close. Don't worry if your child decides not to sit in the driver's seat. Firefighting equipment, though exciting as it drives down the road, looks a lot bigger up close. We visited the fire station three times before my son (when he was four) felt confident enough to sit in the driver's seat. Most stations also will talk to your children briefly about fire safety, and many will provide items for your children to take home, like 9-1-1 coloring books, stickers and plastic firefighters' hats.
Like fire stations, many police stations welcome children. Most stations will allow children to see the inside of a police car, and police officers will talk to children about personal safety. Children may be delighted to see the flashing lights of a patrol car (sirens are not usually sounded for tours). Police stations often have coloring books or stickers for children on personal safety, saying "No" to drugs and more.
Some working farms offer regular tours. For those that don't, a phone call may be all that is required to garner an invitation to visit. Children delight in seeing farm animals, farm equipment and the working processes of a farm. Some farms will allow children to see the milking barns, the chicken coops and the baby animals. Most children love the baby animals, and giggle with pleasure as a newborn calf nuzzles them or baby chicks peep at them.
Community artists often welcome children. As a child, I remember our trips to Harry Holl's, a potter in Massachusetts. He would make vases and bowls on his pottery wheel, and we would sit and watch him on benches he placed nearby. He always played classical music when he made his pottery, so it was a cultural experience all in all. Sometimes he would give the children clay to play with and would fire the results. Consider visiting potters, glassblowers, painters, photographers and other artists.
Arts and Craft Stores
Some arts and crafts stores offer classes for children, and some stores are specifically designed for you to create something. One store we visited dedicates its back room to children's projects. For a small fee per child, children can create wonders from a variety of materials recycled from businesses (stickers, plastic tubes, film reels, foam, fake flowers and more). Other stores invite children to paint their own ceramics or create other types of mementos.
Although children visit doctors' and dentists' offices often, sometimes it is nice to go when they don't need to, so they feel freer to ask questions and poke around. Dentists will move the chair up and down, and may allow children to squirt water or feel the suction devices on their hands. Dentists will also talk to the children about brushing teeth and may give a toothbrush to each child. Doctors will show children some of the instruments they use in their practice, such as stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs and thermometers. They can talk to children about why they go for check-ups, and what happens when they are sick.
Many local firms will provide tours for your children. Some places that might be interesting: printing or copying companies, grocery stores, newspaper offices, bakeries, television or radio stations or manufacturing facilities. Manufacturing facilities may limit children's visits because of age, but they are especially interesting to children. Most children are used to seeing whole items in their home, and don't think much about how the item is produced. Seeing how things are put together and what raw materials and labor went into each item gives children a whole new understanding.
Introduce your children to the joys of reading through programs at the library. Call or visit your library to find out times of story hours and library-sponsored family or children's events. Many libraries offer summer reading programs, with prizes to encourage children to read. Make sure you visit the library regularly over the summer, and let children pick several books of their own to take home each time.
Don't forget about attractions in your area. Treat your hometown as if you were a tourist. Buy a tour guide and map for your area, and see whatever it is that visitors want to see. Don't overlook zoos or petting zoos, parks, historical sites and museums. Consider all kinds of museums - most children will glean something out of even adult-oriented exhibits, particularly with you as the tour guide.
Whatever you choose to do for a local field trip, remember that the important thing is that you are spending time with your children. With that in mind, pick a location, set a date and enjoy your field trip!