Now that you are done with the diaper bag, and your kids are at that fantastic age when reading, writing, problem-solving and exploring are exciting, one day activities don’t have to mean loads of planning, packing, and hair pulling. The prep can be part of the action and help to build anticipation for them. Here are some handy ideas for simple excursions, and some tips for making them a little more preparation light for you and exciting for them.
Before You Go:
- Let them research their adventure. The local library (also a great day trip), city hall, or a tourist center can furnish you with a list of local attractions and other day trip possibilities. Consider your child’s interests and try to work that in. Of course, the Internet is a great resource too, but not as hands-on.
- The car kit. Keeping a duffle of travel stuff in a corner of your car’s trunk or one of those other nifty side compartments. It can make it easier to get up and go. Essentials include spare shirt in case your little explorer gets dirty, wipes (still handy!), sunscreen, spare water and a few protein bars. This is great for emergencies but it also aids the day trip, and it’s easy enough to snatch out of your vehicle if your adventure doesn’t involve driving. Keep a good, old fashioned map in there too, and on the road, let your kids follow your progress.
- Picnic. Before you leave, make simple road food like wraps or sandwiches that small hands can help prepare. There are some great new concepts in the area of picnic basket design that compress four sets of utensils into a neat portable container. Check out the Tandoor 4 backpack, which has insulated storage for your food:
Note: you don’t have to get fancy, either. Cheese, crackers, grapes, water and go. Save yourself some money and the time of finding a decent restaurant.
So where do you go?
- Ride a train. Commuter trains are pretty cheap to get one or two towns away, and for kids, there is nothing more exciting than the clickety clack of the track. Even if you just go to a neighboring town and wander around, the novelty is the key piece.
- Botanical Gardens. Bring a handbook from Audubon and see if you and your family can identify some of the birds and flowers. If you have a lightweight camera, let them take pictures.
- Flea Market. Make a list for your child of out-of-date objects: rotary phone, ink blotter, suspenders and see if they can find these objects. Flea markets are also a great place to score old costumes and crafting materials.
- River Trip. Parking a blanket on the bank of a river provides plenty of fascinating activity for kids. They can collect rocks, catch tadpoles, make sand castles and, of course, swim.
- State and National Parks. Even if you live in a big city, getting to a state park is usually only an hour or so away. Rock climbing, hiking, bird watching and insect catching encourage kids to get in touch with their wild side. Note: most state parks insist that all the wildlife stays in the park, so check pockets before you leave!
- Most museums have a local discount day or evening and whether it’s history, science or art, museums always offer something new to see.
- Family Farms. Some local farms have kid-friendly events during the holiday seasons where they can ride ponies or pick their own fruit. Not only is it fun, it gives kids a chance to get dirty and to understand where their food comes from.
- Zoos and Aquariums. Everyone loves to get up close to wild animals. If you have a book at home that helps identify animals, bring it along. Every time you read it after that, your child will remember when they saw that animal in real life.
For kids to get the most out of these day trips, we as parents also need to be enthusiastic, so make sure it’s something you want to do too. A little research and preparation can take your family to an unexpected place where you can make memories that last. And while it may not seem like a huge deal at the time, when they are adults, they will remind you what a big impact these adventures made.
Need a little more inspiration?
Here are some websites that have great ideas on traveling and activities for kids.