Field trips don't have to be carefully planned, they can be simple travels to common places. Click on the links below to see some simple ideas.
"Adventure" - This is one of our favorites. We pack a lunch and/or snack, make sure we have plenty of water, sunscreen, bug spray and a hat and head out to find "something interesting". Drive around or go to your favorite downtown/suburban busy place and see what you can find. We always find something fun on our "adventures": construction sites, a new park, fireman parked in a mall parking lot raising money for a charity, cool statues that are just begging to be climbed on (when appropriate) or that simply need someone to make-up a cool name or story to go along with them, a delivery man unloading his truck who likes to talk (obviously there are some safety concerns here), a bakery with blueberry muffins that are just begging to be eaten, a letter carrier or UPS driver doing their work, utility workers working on a utility pole or with a tent set-up working underground. The variety is endless, there's always something to see.
Airport - Pack a picnic lunch and go watch airplanes at the airport. Many large to medium airports have viewing areas where you can watch the planes take-off and land. Prior to the trip, check-out several books from the library and study the different types of planes: propeller, jet, passenger, high-wing, low-wing.
Alphabet Walk - Take your camera on a walk (digital or Polaroid works best). Take pictures of your child with various objects that start with that letter. When the walk is finished, assist the child in gluing the photos into a book made with construction paper (for ideas see Make a Book).
Construction Site - This one may be hard to plan unless you know of construction going on near you, but it does make a great impromptu stop (a.k.a. "Adventure") when you have the time. If you can plan it ahead of time, pack a lunch, find a place to park and enjoy watching the construction machinery. Before the trip, check-out books from the library on construction equipment so you can cheer on the bulldozers, excavators, earth movers and dump trucks.
McDonald's Parking Lot - This one may also be hard to plan, but it's always a special treat. When you see a McDonald's truck unloading at one of their restaurants, stop and watch. Usually the truck driver or McDonald's worker, or both, are more than happy to talk to the children, explain what they're doing and/or answer questions. Watching the boxes slide down the rollers or the soda syrup flow through the tube into the restaurant is fascinating for children, especially those who always want to know where things come from or how they work. Obviously there is a safety issue here, so use common sense.
Nature Walk - Make a wrist band for you and your child out of masking tape, sticky side out. Take a walk in your backyard, the local playground or park. Stick the "treasures" your child finds to their wrist band. If appropriate, decide on a theme (leaves, green things, etc.) before your walk. Bring the treasures home and make a collage or discuss the items, where you found them and why your child likes them.
Rest Area - Because of safety issues, this is something I usually do with my husband. We go to a rest area and look at the big trucks. Notice all the different types. Many, many truck drivers are more than willing (and happy) to talk to children about their trucks or the cargo they're carrying. Prior to the trip, check-out books from the library about trucks and trucking so you can identify tankers, flat-bed trucks, trucks with refrigeration units, etc.
Train Station - Go to Amtrak's website and find the schedule for your local train station, or observe when freight trains pass through your area (train station or a nearby crossing). Pack a lunch (or breakfast) and watch the trains. Talk to people working at the station about the trains. Sometimes you will even find other train buffs at the station who are full of information about the trains and their schedules. The library is also a good resource here for information on the types of trains and the various functions of the train cars and the people who work with them.
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