The Sisterhood of the Traveling Preschoolers

The prospect of a long winter stuck inside brought out the grizzly bear in all of us. We missed visiting with each other, and our kids showed serious signs of cabin fever. It was only November. In desperation, I came up with the perfect solution: a field trip club.

Twice a month we go on an outing together. Going as a group is much better than going alone. We can participate in activities that aren’t available for individuals, and most of our activities are discounted or even free. At our local natural food store we watched the butcher make sausage, learned about bread making in the bakery, and helped stock milk in the dairy section. Each department offered us a yummy sample—all free of charge.

Our local doughnut store invited us to bake doughnuts with them. We helped roll out the dough and, after the doughnuts were fried, we dipped our doughnuts in frosting and sprinkles. We made individual pizzas at an Italian restaurant.

We made birdfeeders at a hardware store and planted flowers at the local nursery. We sipped hot chocolate at a bookstore while the owner shared her favorite picture books. We marveled at the huge copper pots used to make caramels and candies at a candy factory and tromped through the fields of a pick-your-own berry patch. We came home from that field trip with full tummies and purple mouths.

Local community services also generally welcome groups. We climbed on the hook and ladder truck at the fire station and checked out the dispatch equipment at the police station. Veterinarians, dentists, and pediatricians are also great choices. Almost any local business or service can become a wonderful educational opportunity.

Come January, when the snow is two feet deep and we haven’t been outside in days, I’ll be ready to take the next flight to Mexico. Unfortunately, my budget doesn’t allow for a week on the beach. Maybe our field trip club can visit a Mexican restaurant instead. Guacamole, anyone?

Tips for successful field trips

1. Take turns scheduling and organizing the trip.
2. Schedule field trips at least two weeks in advance. Some businesses require even further notice, and most have a maximum number of people they allow.
3. E-mail participants the location directions ahead of time.
4. When scheduling the field trip, ask for specifics about rules and guidelines. Talk with the children ahead of time about behavior expectations and safety rules.
5. Take naptimes and meals into account when scheduling. The last thing you want is a bunch of cranky moms and preschoolers. Come prepared with more snacks, wipes, and diapers than you’ll ever need.
6. Fill out forms. We printed half-page size emergency forms that include medical authorizations, allergies, and emergency contact information for each family. We organized these into a small booklet to be kept with the person in charge of the activity, just in case.

Do you have a great idea for a field trip? Leave a comment below.

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