Eye on Nature

3 Steps to Day Trip Fun

by Jane Kirkland

Making the most of summer for your family requires a little planning. If you include three kinds of special days, days off, vacation days, and day trips, you can fill your season with great family memories.

Days off are unplanned and unstructured, giving kids time to play, hang out, read and do “nothing” (except their chores). Without days off, what is summer? As we know, vacation days are dedicated to fun and exploration — at an exciting destination, or for kids, at camp.

This article is about day trips, those short outings where families go somewhere they don’t go every day and do something new.

Increasing the Odds
Day trips can be headache days if kids get tired, hot and restless or you spend way too much money on “stuff” your kids don’t need.

Sometimes, we plan day trips with other families thinking we’ll appreciate adult company, only to find the adults have become traffic cops, trying to keep the group together and the bickering kids separated.

How can you increase the odds that your day trips will be fun? Treat your outing like a school field trip. Involve your kids in the planning stage. Set goals and objectives together. In other words, don’t just go to the zoo — go to the zoo with purpose, structure, defined roles, and ways to measure success. It’s as easy as 1,2, 3!

1. Pick a topic
To involve your kids in planning, define three summer study topics. For example, this summer your kids might want to learn more about birds, butterflies, shells, or watersheds. Consider topics that you know your child will be studying next school year or look for ideas from your child’s summer reading list.

2. Chose your destinations
Next, choose your potential destinations together. To learn more about birds, you might visit your local Audubon center, park, or nature center. To learn more about butterflies, you might visit a butterfly house or the insect section of a museum.

To learn more about shells, you can visit the beach to collect shells, a nature center at the shore, and even a store that sells shells where you can see all kinds of shells including those you can’t find at our shores.

Include your kids in this planning, too. You might be surprised with their ideas and creativity. Once you have a list of three to five kinds of places, do a little research with your kids. Use the Internet, travel brochures and the MetroKids calendars to help. Choose your destinations together.

3. Set your objectives
Without defined objectives, your kids will have their own ideas and goals for your field trip — and that can create chaos. Together, make a list of questions you’d like to explore on your trip.

For example, if your topic is butterflies, your son might wonder how long butterflies live and your daughter might ask if butterflies can fly when it’s raining. Objectives give your kids purpose and focus for your trip.

With them, you might conclude together that you can’t visit the entire zoo in one day, or all the sections of a museum. Like the trip itself, keep your list of objectives short, sweet and focused.

Decide what will make your field trip successful and what won’t. Ask questions such as, “What else might we learn? What might we see? What could go wrong? How can we use what we learn after the trip?”

Then create a short “mission statement” that includes some of the ideas expressed by your kids. You might even challenge your kids to memorize it. Involving your children in this way gives them ownership, purpose, and goals for the field trip.

Kids love to learn. Field trips can be educational, fun and relevant.

Jane Kirkland is a Downingtown, PA speaker, naturalist, photographer and author of the Take A Walk nature books for kids. Learn more at www.takeawalk.com