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The ABC’s of Family Field Trips: Fun & Games, Inspire Learning & Hands-on Ideas


Welcome back! 

Today is Day 2 in our week-long series:  The ABC’s of Family Field Trips.

During the first day, we shared tips for getting ready, ways to use books, exploring on your visit and 24 ideas of places to take the kids

Today we’ll focus on topics and outings for F – J.




F is for Field Guides & Follow-up Activities

If you’re planning a trip to a nature center or outdoor attraction, kids will enjoy reading a field guide before or during the visit.  These books introduce kids to detailed information on the topic. 

For example,  field guide is a great read before a visit to a rainforest exhibit at the zoo. 

Pocket field guides that identify items like rocks, animals tracks or trees are fun to take with you on your visit – you can match items to the photos in the guide for your own DIY scavenger hunt.

Once back from your outing, do a few follow-up activities at home.  This allows the kids to reflect on what they enjoyed and learned, and also to ask questions that they may not have asked during the visit. 


A few ideas for follow-up activities include:

  • Reading a book related to your visit (either fiction or non-fiction)
  • Put together a photo album with the pictures you snapped
  • Have the kids draw a picture of their favorite part of the visit
  • If your kids are younger, initiate some pretend play based on your visit
  • Older kids might want to research a new interest on the internet



Head out on a fossil dig

Family Outings beginning with ‘F’:


Call your local firehouse to see if they accommodate family groups for tours.  It’s great to learn more about our local services, plus you will also learn some tips for fire safety at home.  If you go, make sure to bring a treat to say ‘thank you’ like our friends at Glittering Muffins!

Factory Tours

Do you have a company near you that makes something?  Take a factory tour!  These are very informative and there’s always something unique to learn.  You can tour food factories (such as a coffee, cereal or bagel plant) or a manufacturing location (such as a car or motorcycle company).

To find a factory tour near you, visit Factory Tours USA.

Fish Hatchery

One of those places that you may not even know exists – a fish hatchery!  Just as it sounds, this is a place where fish are produced and them placed in lakes, rivers and streams within their catchment areas. You’ll learn quite a bit about fish and fishing!

There are both state and federal fish hatcheries – check your local Department of Wildlife to learn more about state hatcheries.  Visit the National Fish Hatchery System to see if there is a federal location near you.

Fossil Digs

Whether it’s a local science museum or an actual palentology site, kids will enjoy learning about and digging up fossils!

Many science museums or children’s museums have fun places for kids to unearth dino bones.  In Kansas City, we also have T-Rex Cafe where kids can dig up T-rex bones. 

For real fossils, you’ll want to visit the National Park Service’s Fossil Parks list to learn more about fossil digs and activities across the country.


Travel back in history and visit one of the many historic forts in North America.  Some of these forts have living history tours while others are no longer used, but offer tours of the grounds.  To find a fort near you, search the internet for ‘Historic Forts’ in your state.

Another online resource includes Legends of America which offers a pretty comprehensive list to forts in the central and western United States.

Fruit Picking

 A fun seasonal outing is fruit picking!  Families can head out to pick apples, pears, cherries, berries and other types of fruit grown at local orchards.  Then head home and do some cooking in the kitchen together.

To find a u-pick orchard near you, visit Pick Your Own for more details.




G is for Games & Geography

Playing games on the car ride will help to pass the time and increase the fun.  If you’ve ever taken a family road trip, I’m sure you have fond memories of car games. 

Here are a few well-loved games:

The License Plate game

We play this each summer but we can only find the plates while we’re driving around our own city.  You’d be surprised at home many people visit your town!

ABC Search

Have the kids scout out the letters of the alphabet on signs while you’re traveling to your destination.


Zig, I’ve Got a Horse

Have you played this?  Each time you see a horse, you must yell “Zig, I’ve got (how every many horses you see)” before someone else in the car claims them.  You have to look and count quickly.  And when you pass a cemetery, you need to be the first to say “Zig, I save my horses and Zig, I bury yours”.

You can also make your own DIY Magnetic Game Board using this tutorial from Reading Confetti!

And almost any field trip can lead to an introduction to geography. 

For younger kids, they might notice a difference in the environment (the trees are taller, the weather is warmer).  Even  places close to home will look different than their own backyard. 

With older kids, talk to them about navigating directions (North, South, East, West).  Ask them if your destination is East or West of the house. 

You might also consider having a family map in the house.  Whether it’s a city map or map of the world, you can  mark the places you’ve visited for a great visual of your travels!


Climbing the salt formations at Monument Rock


‘G’ Ideas for Field Trips

Geological Formations

 Think volcanos, rock formations, waterfalls and reefs — those are all geological formations and really fun things to see!  Also called Natural Wonders, there are TONS of great places to take the kids.

Hike a local mountain range, explore a cave, visit a waterfall or search your state and local park websites for natural wonders in your area. 


Pan for Gold

 Panning for gold can be a fun activity if you are located close to a claim area.  There are all types of rules regarding panning for gold on land that’s not your own, so I would suggest finding an organization that offers this activity for families.  There are a number of gold mines and gold panning places in the central and western United States that can be found through an internet search.



H is for History & Hands-on

Yes, I said history (for those of you dozing already, stay with me!) 

History does not have to be boring! 

There are so many amazing living history museums around the world.  A living history museum has people who dress up as if they lived during a certain time period and re-enact life at that time in history.  Kids love to see a blacksmith at work, or visit a fort where everyone is dressed from the 1800’s. 

It’s a great way to get kids interested in different times in history. 

And again I’ll mention books – there are so many stories about people and places in history, and what kid doesn’t love to hear a story?! 

And for some great A-Z Ideas for Hands-on History, visit Adventures in Mommydom {more than 100 ways to make history fun!}


One of the other items that every child loves to experience during their visits are hands-on activities!

Many attractions offer different kinds of activities for kids to help them learn and get involved more during their visit. 

Some examples include:

  • drawing on slate tablets at a one-room schoolhouse,
  • dressing up in period clothing at a living history museum,
  • feeding the animals at a petting farm or zoo, or
  • completing a craft activity at an art museum.

If you have the opportunity, always try to schedule some time for the kids to enjoy some of the interactive & hands-on activities available on your visit.



Laundry at home is not nearly as fun as it is with a washboard & ringer!

Fun ‘H’ Trips

Hardware Stores

Spend the morning at a local hardware store!  Ride the mowers, attend a kids clinic, search for a project to do together – the kids love these impromtu outings!

Historic Sites

Historic sites and living history sites can be found across the world. 

Here are a few resources:

National Historic Landmarks list by state

Living History & Open Air Museums

Also check the listings for your county and state historic sites and museums!


Enjoy a day outdoors with a hike!  Kids as young as 3 will enjoy a trek through the woods and older kids are ready for a challenging climb. 

Most city and state parks associations will have trail maps for hiking routes in your area.  National Geographic has a nice article describing 10 great family hikes in the national parks.



I is for Inquire & Inspire

So, you’ve visited the zoo and the local art museum — maybe you’re not sure where you should go next. 

Ask the kids! 

Inquire about what interests them; maybe they love rocks, or are really into whales. Learn more about their interests and you’ll be able to find the perfect place to visit.

Try to choose places to visit that will ‘inspire’ them and encourage their current passion. 

I know that’s not always easy.  If they enjoy space, you might find out if a local science museum has a space exhibit.  If they have a love for music, try a visit to a kid’s concert or local music festival. 



Visiting one of the oldest ice cream counters in the U.S.

Exciting ‘I’ Experiences

Ice Skating

Check your local area for ice rinks and take the kids skating.  You can find both indoor and outdoor skating rinks around the country.


Ice Cream Parlors

Ice cream is a treat but eating it at an old-fashion soda counter is a thrill!  Those swivel stools, the enjoyment of seeing it made and choosing your toppings – fun!  Treat the kids to an afternoon at an ice cream parlor for some family fun.

USA Travel has a nice list of Ice Cream Parlors in all 50 states – but it doesn’t include one of our favorites, Clintons’ Soda Fountain – so add it to the list!






Sea Shell Hunting Together

J is for Join in on the Fun

As parents, we often don’t think about having fun.  We spend our time making sure we’ve got what we need, taking pictures and helping everyone else enjoying the visit. 

Stop being a parent and just be you –  join in on the fun! 

If there’s a dress-up area at the history museum, play along. 

Scout out some of the items on the scavenger hunt. 

Help build the sandcastle or hunt for sea shells.

Don’t just sit back and take the pictures – get involved!

Great Jaunts for ‘J’


Is your city one that has a huge celebration each year?  Make sure to check it out!  Our town celebrates in the fall with a parade, rides and festival each year.   


Junior Ranger

Did you know that many of our National Parks (along with a number of state parks) have Junior Ranger programs for kids?  During your visit, a child can complete some nature or historic activities to earn their junior ranger badge.  For more information, read Why We Love the National Park Junior Ranger Programs.




More to Come ~

{Part 1} Getting Ready, Using Books & Exploring

{Part 3}  Learning, New Places & Outdoor Fun

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

{Part 5}  Universities, Volunteering & Online Field Trips


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:


Learning Through Play

Baking with Kids from Life at the Zoo

Bath Activities for Kids from Bath Activities for Kids

Discovery Bottles from Teach Preschool

Farming for Children from Glittering Muffins

Fitness for Kids from 3 Dinosaurs

Imaginative Play from Train up a Child

Kids Activities from Growing a Jeweled Rose

Learning Through Play from Love Play & Learn

Learning Toys & Manipulatives from This Reading Mama

Movement Activities for Young Kids from

Play Dough from The Imagination Tree

Playing with Light from Graham and Parker

Preschool Play from Its Our Long Story

Sensory Bins from Royal Baloo

Sensory Play from Creative Play House

Toddler Activities from Toddler Approved

Winter Outdoor Play from Pleasantest Thing