Field trips with small children can be nerve-wracking!! It takes a lot of planning ahead to ensure a safe and successful outing. Make sure that the trip you choose is age-appropriate and will interest the children. Call ahead to make sure they can accommodate groups and to see if they offer any perks; some pizza places will give you a tour, and let the kids make their own pizza at no cost. Some provincial or state parks have coloring sheets to take home.
Get your permission forms ready early and give the parents lots of notice. It takes awhile for busy parents to get them back in time. This also allows parents time to check their work and see if they can volunteer. The more adults the better! Put a contact number on the form. It is a good idea for the teachers to carry cell phones in case parents need to phone them on the trip.
Organize transportation ahead. Buy bus or subway tickets, and if you work for a large organization of child care centers make sure you book the company van well ahead of time. Parent drivers need the proper insurance for transporting other people’s children. If walking, check the route ahead of time. Is it too far? Are there sidewalks? Crosswalks? High traffic area?
If walking, try to make the trip suitable to the season. I wouldn’t, for example, take small children to the zoo in the middle of a hot summer. In contrast, an indoor swimming trip on a cold winter day is not a great idea; children might have to walk back to the center with wet hair. You do not always need to go on a big, exotic trip. Explore your local town/city. Most communities have libraries, parks, indoor recreation areas, restaurants, pet stores etc.
I always divide the group of children into smaller groups, each assigned to an adult. Each adult is responsible for their group and sets a meeting place and time for lunch and/or departure.
I have compiled a check list for field trips:
- snacks that are travel-easy and peanut-free
- index cards with the children’s emergency contact info, health concerns, allergies etc.
- one cell phone per group
- first-aid kit(s)
- volunteers have criminal record checks if required by organization
- assigned meeting place and time in case groups get separated
- safe transportation with appropriate insurance and car seats(supplied by parents)
- weather appropriate clothing and footwear (sun hats and sunscreen in spring and summer)
- bus money in separate bag ahead of time
- admission money pre-counted and ready to go
- group admissions contact for museums and various attractions
- call and book your group ahead of time and confirm the day before
- all permission forms signed and compiled
- some activities for the bus trip or any waiting i.e. small books,colouring
- at least one set of spare clothing per age-group
- plastic bags for the soiled clothing
- extra cash for water, treats or a taxi emergency
- map and/or written directions for each team leader