Real Life Field Trips to Common Places your Children Need to Take
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As I’ve work with kids in various ages and locations over the years I’m always shocked at some of the responses from them. Middle schoolers who have never gone to a zoo or even a library – I guess I assumed if nothing else they would have at least taken a field trip there at school! I’m not going to lie – to me at least, most of these trips are NOT out of the ordinary but I absolutely understand that not every child has the opportunity to do these things. These are locations that require real life skills and opportunities to visit each place in an educational setting is very beneficial.
In fact chances are a lot of these are places your children have been to a zillion times and complained about being there – but it’s all about perspective. And sometimes – we just get too busy in life and don’t think beyond our to do lists and multiple errands to turn these places into a learning opportunity. I know I sure do! All I want to do is jet in and out of every stop as quickly as I can so I can get the kids back home to play! Below are some simple “field trip” ideas to common places that give your child a more “real life” and “behind the scenes” experience as opposed to just tagging along while running errands.
Grocery Store –
I get it – your kids have probably groaned about going to the grocery store a zillion times just like mine. But I can guarantee you’ll flip that right around when you make a special trip just for THEM to go shopping. From real life skills to math skills and more there are a lot of ways you can spin this and have your child begging to go to the grocery store (and saving up for it too!). The first time that my son started learning about math, money, and taxes we started small – $2. Anything in the entire store was his as long as it was $2 or less. He had to find something in his price range, figure in the taxes, and check out with cash all on his own. He was SO excited you would think we told him we were going to Disney – it’s insane how long it took him to settle on something.
I watched him weigh options over quantity, quality, consumable, etc. Move it up to full scale grocery trips, trips for just 1 meal, shopping with sales ads, buying to donate, themed purchases, gifts, etc. Tie in nutrition, bulk shopping with price comparison, etc. – you could be field tripping it to the grocery store for years. Once we handed our son the money as opposed to him just asking for food he wanted it made a HUGE difference in how he saw things.
Post Office –
This is one place I still haven’t really spent a ton of time with my kids other than the occasional stop in to drop things off simply because I don’t use the post office much and we don’t have one close to us. Most post offices will give you a scheduled tour behind the scenes so kids can get a better glimpse of how the postal system works – just call ahead. Tie in the cost of gas, delivery, size of packaging, WHY you would want to rent a postal box, how they sort SO many different letters and many other things that you can spin off of this! This is a great field trip to tie into handwriting lessons as well.
This is an important location that is often time missed with kids because let’s face it – it takes time and for me it proves to be the most inconvenient trip. Time without screaming toddlers, sometimes lengthy appointments with bankers, kids in good moods, etc. Because learning to deal with money, and deal with it WELL, is so vital this is one place I started my kids at a very early age experiencing.
When each of my kids turn 5 years old I take a special day out with them and we go set up a savings account together. Any monies they receive from gifts or working they can always deposit for safe keeping into the bank – but they are not allowed to withdraw it until they are older. Every month or quarter when a statement comes in we look at it together and watch their money grow. It opens up discussions for saving/spending, interest, loans, credit cards, checks, taxes, and so many other areas that you can help build a strong foundation on from an early age.
We have been to our local public library a lot, but we actually rarely use it because we don’t live close and they have an extremely short check out date for somethings. I remember spending HOURS as a kid checking out the card catalogs (ok I might be weird!) so thankfully we don’t need those anymore! But simple procedures of how to LOOK for a book in the library, interact with the librarians, check books out, overdue fines, returning books, quiet behavior in the library, signing up to use a computer, etc. These are all good skills to have.
The following locations might not require as much real life skills as the ones above but they are great places to visit to give your children a broader perspective of life and culture. Many of these can ease nerves if your child will need to encounter those locations in the future.
Virtual Field Trips – Although not exactly an “every day experience” virtual field trips are easily accomplished from the comfort of your couch and an eye opening experience for both kids and adults to access locations they might not normally be able to go! From Skype Classrooms, live webcams, and much more there are no shortage of options here.
Cemetery – This idea might seem a little odd or morbid and may be for older children but kids should learn how to act when visiting a cemetery. We have visited several graves of previous presidents and historical figures and my children understand that it is a reverent place to respect. You don’t walk across grave sites, play with flowers or other items left in remembrance, or run around screaming and playing. For my children, especially my son with Asperger’s, I have found that allowing him to experience a cemetery and understand the respect behind it was far easier for him to digest before we lost a loved one and needed to go.
Police & Fire Stations – Thankfully I have only ever “needed” to visit a police station one time (CRAZY story of how someone that was high on drugs stole my cat and left a drunk voicemail requesting ransom money) but it’s a great place to ease nerves and answer questions of how community service workers accomplish their jobs and help other people! I’ve always enjoyed touring the dispatch office so if you ever need to call 911 you can see it from the other side.
Hospitals – Unfortunately with kids we’ve visited hospitals more times than I would like to count but touring through the lab, ER, and other key areas of a hospital can be very informative and interesting to kids! It can also make things seem less scary if they ever need hospital services. If your child is expecting a stay in the future make sure to visit the children’s wing as it is usually more colorful and friendly! Maybe even deliver toys to kids staying in the hospital over holidays!
Theaters/Orchestra/Concerts – I LOVE LOVE LOVE the theater! Although certainly more of a luxury experience than a life skill if you have the means to take your children to the theater – even once – it’s a fantastic experience! We set an age for our kids and saved up over several years to offer them 1 Broadway show experience in our area and it was great! But there are tons of cheaper options, kids theater (they can even audition to be in a play!), comedy clubs and more!
Farms – This one can be a little harder to visit depending on where you live but is always a fun field trip for us. Most kids love the animals and veggie plants and seeing the work and process of farm to table provides a full educational experience!
I’m not even going to pretend to put together an exhaustive list of common places to visit because you can turn just about anywhere into a field trip. But I have seen so many kids that are lacking in some of the basic skills of navigating common locations like a library or grocery store. I myself have been guilty of taking my kids on errands repeatedly without taking the time to explain how things work or why we do things! Give your kids the opportunity to interact with store employees, let them learn how to ask for help when they can’t find something and manage money in an age appropriate way. You’ll be amazed at watching the way they think, learn, and draw conclusions!
My husband’s vivid memory of a field trip is to the potato chip factory, my brother still remembers going to a farm and watching the sheep get sheared at a farm. I took my middle school students to the city library for a field tirp- they loved that you could play video games, buy coffee and yes, get books! Its amazing how much you can learn from many of these suggested trips- science /health teacher had students conduct research about what diseases/natural disasters/events that resulted in deaths and record info from the cemetery. Creative teachers can use all of these places to make amazing experiences not just a touring field trip!
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