Tired of the same old playgroups at Johnny’s house or the local park? Consider setting up a field trip for your playgroup – you’ll enjoy the change of scenery, and your kids will learn about new people and places. Here are some suggestions for fieldtrips for kids aged 1-4:
Children can learn about fire safety while playing on fire trucks. Most fire stations will let children “drive” a fire truck as well as sit in the back. A firefighter may put on all his gear to show kids not to be afraid if there’s a fire and they see a firefighter with a mask on. Some fire stations will even extend the ladder and have a firefighter climb up, or slide down the pole.
A trip to the police station can be a good compliment to talks on stranger danger. Children also love police cars and may be allowed to climb inside one. Many police stations love giving children tours.
At the post office, children can see how mail is sorted and look inside a mail truck. This is a great trip for children who love to watch for the mailman.
City Maintenance Garage
All sorts of interesting vehicles might be found at a municipal maintenance garage. Children may get to see garbage trucks, recycling trucks, street sweepers, plow trucks, and more.
A ride on a train or bus doesn’t even have to be with a specific destination in mind. However, if you can plan your ride so that there’s a bakery or ice cream shop on the way, so much the better.
Many kids are fascinated by planes. You can park on top of a parking garage to watch the planes take off, or some airports have a “kid zone” inside the terminal where kids can watch the planes. Even smaller airports often have a parking lot where you can see planes parked and taking off. You may even see blimps at your smaller airport. Depending on the airport, you may even be able to set up a tour.
Some small family-owned bakeries are willing to give tours to playgroups. Children can see how their favorite treats are made, and end the trip with a cookie or cupcake. Even if your local bakery doesn’t offer tours, you can still meet up for coffee and bagels.
Ice Cream Shop
What kid doesn’t love ice cream? Most ice cream shops don’t have much to offer in the way of tours, but some of the bigger shops that make their own ice cream (and possibly even have an on-site dairy) might be a great spot for a field trip.
Depending on the pet store, kids can see creatures ranging from fish to lizards, hamsters to cats, and possibly even dogs. You may be able to get a store employee to talk a bit about the animals and take some out of their cages, but if not, it’s still fun to walk around and take in the sights.
Your local high school’s marching band practice might make for an interesting field trip. If the school is willing, parents and kids can march alongside the band, and even bring their own instruments.
If you live in a temperate climate, chances are there’s the possibility of going on a hayride. Hayrides can just be a simple trip through the woods or orchards, or include fruit picking as well. Close to Halloween, many farms offer costumed hayrides, though you should check ahead of time to see if it would be too scary for little ones.
Visiting farms can be a great way to spend a morning. Many farms offer fruit picking, hayrides, animals to visit, and even a store where you can buy all sorts of goods. If you decide to pick your own fruit, your best bets may be apples, blueberries, and raspberries. Strawberries are very low to the ground and you’ll most likely end up with a sore back.
A great way to give back to the community is to visit a senior center. Children can visit at Halloween to show off their costumes or sing some carols during the holidays. Most seniors would appreciate a visit from a gaggle of children at any time of the year, though.
Painting your own pottery can be just as fun for young children as it is for older children and adults. Usually the paint is a type that washes off clothes easily, but you may want to bring a smock or play clothes just in case. Frequently, paint-your-own-pottery shops have special sessions for moms and their children, but kids are usually welcome anytime.
Children’s Plays and Concerts
During the warmer months, musical groups often put on concerts for children in parks or other public spaces. These are sometimes free, or at least low-cost. Likewise, some theaters put on a few plays a year geared towards young children. Again, tickets to these plays are often much less than tickets to regular shows.
Museums come in many varieties, but most offer something to entertain young children. An obvious choice are children’s museums, but kids often have fun at natural history, science, air/space, and local museums. Even the smallest museum may have something set up for children, so it’s a good idea to call and check.
Zoos and aquariums are always a big hit with children. For larger groups, you can often get a guided tour of the exhibits. If you’re looking for a less crowded time, however, weekday evenings are usually the quietest time – school trips fill the zoos/aquariums during weekday mornings, and families flock there on the weekends.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. One of the best ways to come up with a unique field trip is to ask yourself what your child loves to do, and how can you make it into a field trip? If your child loves blowing bubbles, set up a bubblefest at your house or a park. If your child loves going to the grocery store because you always let him get a cookie at the bakery, ask the manager if you can have a tour. With most field trip locales, you should always call ahead to find out when they’re available and what’s the maximum number of children you can bring. Twenty toddlers can easily crowd even the biggest ice cream parlor or bagel shop. And don’t forget to give the proprietors, firefighters, police officers (or whoever you’re visiting) a huge thank you for taking the time out of their day to be hospitable. Your politeness ensures that they’ll allow future field trips. It can’t hurt to offer them cookies, either!