Wise Choice GuidanceWise Choice Guidance - Effective Strategies for Successful Children, Families, and Teachers

Insights, Ideas and Strategies
for Educators and for Parents

Making the Most of Special Outings with Young Children

Tips for Educators
Summer 2009

Summertime is a time when many preschool programs/camps take children on field trips. Sometimes it might be to the beach, the zoo, a local petting farm, or a museum. Too often, these trips are planned without adequate thought given to how the curriculum at the program meshes with the outing itself. Taking children on field trips of any sort should be an extension of curriculum that is being explored at the center.

Therefore, if a program is planning a trip to the beach, consider incorporating a beach theme into the curriculum for the week or two before the field trip. One could explore the makeup and feel of sand, seashells, do a study of lakes, water, floating/sinking, all kinds of areas can be examined in relation to what happens at the beach. It is best to discuss with the children ahead of time what they already know about the beach, what they'd like to know more about as you plan your curriculum activities. Bringing in books from the library about beaches and lakes will be helpful before you have the initial discussion, so that the children have a chance to get interested and see different facets of beaches/lakes. A visit ahead of time to the beach you will be going to by one of the staff can be very useful in preparing for the tasks you will want to present for the children to get involved in while at the beach…these could include spotting various landmarks at the beach, identifying birds, etc.

On the day of the field trip itself, be sure there are enough adults to properly supervise the children, and have the adults help with pursuing the tasks that have been planned while at the beach, that are related to what you have been exploring in the classroom. Afterwards, you can discuss, graph, draw and paint the experiences the children have had.

This is how to make field trips more rich and meaningful for all involved! Happy Explorations!!!

Tips for Parents

Summertime is a time when many families take time off to enjoy the outdoors, whether it's a family reunion, or just a trip to one's favorite park or the zoo. Preparing a bit for such outings ahead of time can make these experiences much richer, more fun, and educational for the children. Of course parents will want to outline the types of behaviors they want to see on the outing. Focusing on the positive behaviors, rather than the negatives, is best. For example, "When we're at the zoo, I want you to stay with me while we're looking at the animals," is a much better message than "I don't want you to be running away from me." One never wants to give children suggestions for behaviors they might not have thought of! Other positive messages are "You need to be kind to your brother," "You need to ask nicely if you need a drink of water or to go to the bathroom," etc. Even being clear about how much time you have to spend can be helpful, in a way that children can understand, such as "We will have time to visit three different areas of the zoo while we're there." Deciding ahead of time whether you are willing to purchase gifts or food while there can be helpful as well, so that the children know what to expect. If no purchases are to be made, taking some snacks along will be very important!

In addition to planning ahead for positive behaviors, it is very beneficial to think ahead about what you might be seeing at the zoo and discuss this with the children. "Which animals do you want to see? What kinds of animals do you think there are at the zoo? What do you know about giraffes (or whatever animal they name)? What would you like to know more about giraffes?" Asking other questions ahead of time can also contribute to making the visit more meaningful and helping children to be more attentive…"Do you think there will be any flowers at the zoo?" Questions that encourage children to think about what they're seeing are good.

Parents might feel like sometimes they just want to have some fun and don't want to be "teaching" their children. This is understandable. At the same time, children love to learn in holistic ways, and seeing things in real life is such a great opportunity, that addressing their curiosity about specific animals at the zoo, for example, can make the visit even more fun! I would definitely advise against mini-lectures or official "lessons" of any kind!

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