Skip to Content

The ABC’s of Family Field Trips: Universities, Volunteering & Online Resources

This is the final post in our 5-part series of The ABC’s of Family Field Trips. 

If you missed the first posts in our series, you can review the tips, resources and ideas that were shared for family outings:

{Part 1}  Getting Ready, Using Books & Exploring

{Part 2}  Fun, Inspiriation & Hands-on Ideas

{Part 3}  Learning, New Places & Outdoor Fun

{Part 4}  Pretend Play, Reading, Science & Tours

Since we’re covering topics from A to Z, our final post will highlight tips for U – Z.




U is for Unwind & Unite

Use family outings as a chance to unwind and relax – a mini-vacation from your everyday routine!  Yes, I know there’s some prep time as you plan for a field trip but try to have a mind-set that you’ll be taking a little time off from everything in order to enjoy the trip. 

Taking time out of your daily or weekly scheduled responsibilities to do something fun and out of the ordinary is good for our brains, our stress level and our happiness.  Some families schedule weekly field trips for this reason — to unwind. 

Traveling anywhere (even someplace close to home) also gives your family a chance to escape the distractions and individual activities that keep everyone busy.  During a family outing, you’re able to unite as a family unit – to explore and experience something together.   While visiting the attraction, avoid splitting up.  Tour the location together as much as possible so you have more opportunities to talk, share and spend time with each other. 



Touring a College Campus

‘U’nique Places to Visit

University Campus

Spend a day touring a college campus (no matter how old your kids are)!  Universities offer a huge variety of activities and experiences for families.  Most are open to the public (my advice: visit on weekends or during school breaks to avoid crowds).  There’s quite a bit to see during a campus visit – many schools have art or science museums, unique buildings, fun places to eat, sports stadiums and artwork.

Try taking the kids to your own alma mater so they can see where you went to college.    We’ve enjoyed visiting some of the special museums on campuses — the Natural History Museum at KU, the art museum at our local community college (JCCC), and a toy museum at UMKC.  On vacations, we’ve also stopped by college campuses to see science programs and visit unique buildings.  For example, Reiman Gardens at the University of Iowa has an amazing butterfly exhibit, along with some cool Lego sculptures to see.  We also toured the basillica at Notre Dame.

Universities will also host community events (musical performances and cultural activities) and family learning days (days when the whole family experience some fun classes). 

The best way to learn about what’s offered is to contact a local college near you or look on their website under the ‘Community’ or ‘Events’ tabs.



V is for Volunteering & Videos

Some families really enjoy volunteering together.  You can offer your time and talents to a local organization, neighbor or animals/nature.  There are a lot of benefits to volunteering as a family:  time together, giving back to the community, teaching some of your ideas and values to the kids, helping children to learn more about the needs of others, empowering kids to know they can make a difference – lots of great reasons! 

The important thing is to find a project that everyone in your family can do together.  Kids often love to help others to many will jump right in when you suggest something.  Try looking for family volunteer opportunities at:

  • Meals on Wheels – deliver meals together to home-bound individuals.
  • Local food pantry – take the wagon out and collect food donations; you can also ask the pantry if you and the kids can help shelve the donations.
  • Animal Shelter – call to ask for their wish list and do a donation drive to collect used towels, food, toys and other items.
  • Library volunteer – ask your local library if you can help sort or shelve books for them.
  • Nature – help to clean a local park or contact the local, state or national parks to learn more about volunteer opportunities for your family.


Another great way to introduce your child to a new location (either before or after your visit) is the use of videos!  The travel section of the library and nonfiction video series will both have some great resources for kids. 

One of our favorite video series is Reading Rainbow — the movies pair kids books with videos of places they visit after reading the book. 


You can also find some wonderful videos online to help kids to travel the world!  Watch one that relates to a family outing and they will help expand on ideas and discussions you have during your visit.



Visit the dinosaurs at an online field trip!


‘V’ery Fun Outings

Virtual Field Trips

Kids interested in something that’s not close to home?  Take a Virtual Field Trip!  The internet hosts a number of great places that you can visit online – here’s just a few:


Tour a volcano (now that would be a great field trip!).  There are many inactive volcanoes around the world, and also some active ones that offer tours.  Visit the Global Volcanism Program to find out where they are located.



W is for Water & Write-ups

Spend a day at the water’s edge!  There are so many places to visit related to water — lakes, rivers, estuaries, oceans.  Families can rent pedal boats at the local park, take a canoe class as a family, go fishing or spend the day at the lake and watch high and low tide come in at the seaside.



And when you return from any of your family outings, have the kids draw a picture or write a few sentences in a travel journal!  A blank notebook can serve as a travel log for kids (or find a fun themed version online or at a local bookstore).  Writing down a little about the trip will allow kids to practice their handwriting, recall the highlights of the day and keep a nice record of all the places they’ve traveled!



You never know what you’ll see on the webcams!

‘W’onderful Field Trips


Spend a few minutes watching things in real time by using online webcams.  These video cameras, set up in places around the world, give kids a live shot of all the action!  (Warning:  Remember these are live and many include animals – animal behavior can be unpredictable so watch with your kids)


Another very unique structure to visit are windmills.  A very practical structure in the past centuries is now one that many kids won’t see that often.  You can learn about windmills around the world at Windmill World – there might just be one close to you!


Take an afternoon hike and enjoy a local waterfalls.  It may not be a huge as Niagara Falls, but no matter – kids love to watch the water and explore the area.



X is for X-pectations & X-citement

Before you head out, take a few minutes to set up some expectations for the trip.  Talk to the kids about manners and expected behavior at your destination.  For example, if visiting a museum, you may want to discuss using your library voices.  If you have plans to be near the water, talk about water safety.  It’s so much nicer to have this discussion before you go rather than during the trip.

Get excited – Talk up the trip or outing! 

Get the kids excited about going – read books, tell relatives and friends, have them talk about what they hope to see and do – this is wonderful practice for building great communication and literacy skills.


A discussion about being gentle and quiet before a touch-tank visit at an aquarium allowed us to have fun exploring the exhibit.



Y is for Saying “Yes!”

Field trips are special times for kids so try to say ‘yes’ to something that may normally be off limits. 

When the kids say “Can I feed the animals?” or “Can we please, please, please ride the carousel?”, toss out a ‘yes’ and watch them get excited.  Sometimes, it’s these small things that make the biggest memories.


Family Outing Idea

Yard Sales

Take a day and scout out some yard sales.  Make a list of items you need or would like (sports equipment, new games, books, etc) and head out for some fun.  The kids will learn skills such as bargaining, finding a good deal and budgeting their money. 




Unique photo opp at a historic logging camp

Z is for Zany places and Zzzz’s

Make sure to check out a few of those odd and zany attractions – like the largest ball of twine!  Kids will think a 4-story dinosaur is really cool!  Or that Whether there’s one near your home or you make a day of visiting a few, you can find some weird, wild and unique places.

Roadside America has a huge collection of the unique, outstanding and down-right odd things to see across the country!  We frequently check the list before heading out.

And be sure everyone gets a good night’s sleep before you head out – if everyone’s rested things will go much smoother.  Field trips can take a lot out of us and you’ll be more energized with some rest.  You may also have to skip a naptime if you’re planning a longer outing so a good night sleep for everyone is advised.


And last but not least….


I know, I probably didn’t even need to add this to the list (it’s one of the most popular places that families visit each year).  When you do visit a zoo, make sure to check out areas you may not have seen during prior visits.  Most zoos have research and conservation areas in addition to animal displays and habitats. 

Visit the Association of Zoos & Aquariums to find one near you.


Thanks so much for visiting – I hope you enjoyed the series!  Leave me a comment if you find a great resource so we can share it. 

Wishing you safe & fun travels this year!



We are also linking to more than 70 outstanding bloggers sharing some amazing ideas for hands-on fun, tips & tricks along with ways to have more fun with the kids! 


Browse some of the great topics below:


 Arts & Crafts Fun

Art History for Kids from B-Inspired Mama

Cardboard Box Creations from Here Come The Girls

Children’s Music With Art from Rainbows within Reach

Crafts and Art from Red Ted Art

Crafting on a budget from Housing a Forest

Creativity from Little Artists

Paper Plates from Domestic Goddessque

Toddler Crafts from Rainy Day Mum

Upcycled and Recycled Crafts from Craft to Art

Valentine Crafts and Recipes from Local Fun For Kids