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The ABC’s of Family Field Trips: Pretend Play, Reading, Science and Tours

Today we’re covering more tips & tricks for planning enjoyable Family Outings on our 5-part series:

The ABC’s of Family Field Trips


Here’s a summary of the first 3 days:

{Part 1} Getting Ready, Exploring & Fun Field Trips

{Part 2} Having Fun, Inspiration & Hands-on Ideas

{Part 3} Learning, New Places & Outdoor Fun

Today’s focus will be on Pretend Play, Reading, Science & Tours.


P is for Pretend Play

Allowing kids to act out situations and enjoy pretending is a great way to get them familiar with a place you’ll visit.  For example, if you’re planning a trip to the zoo, the kids might play ‘zookeeper’ before or after the visit.  Or a recent trip to a kids’ theater show could end up in an at-home drama re-production of the show.

Research on the study of pretend play has shown that it’s very important in building a child’s sense of imagination and creativity.  When you attend an attraction, encourage your kids to use their imagination, and have fun pretending both during and after your visit.

For ideas on pretend play, visit Train Up a Child and the ABC’s of Imaginative Play.


‘Catch & Release’ fishing at Kidscape Exhibit

Fun ‘P’ Outings

Park & Picnic

These just seem to go hand-in-hand.  Pack a lunch and explore one of your local parks – enjoy the playground, explore a new area, take a family bike ride – lots to do!

Pet Stores

Our kids have loved the field trips to the local pet store.   We check out the fish, snakes, birds, cats, ferrets, and other fun creatures (that I won’t let them keep in the house).  We talk about which type of fish they like the best, and sometimes we are treated to feedings for the animals!

Pedal Boats

Tons of fun!  These boats can usually be rented at county and state parks for a small fee.  Older kids will enjoy helping to pedal and younger kids might even be able to help for a short time. 




Q is for Quiet Moments


If at all possible, try to incorporate some quiet activity or quiet moments into your field trip.  The intermission during a theater show allows for a few quiet minutes, or a stop for a snack during a zoo visit helps to relax the day a little. 

Having a few minutes without constant simuli helps kids to process what they see and experience.  They will start to think about what they’ve enjoyed and this is when you’ll hear them reflect and ask some great questions!

In’q’uisitive Trips



Another odd recommendation, I know, but touring a quarry can be lots of fun!  Big machinery, huge holes in the earth, and rocks!  Many kids will think it’s cool to see how they mine stone (I’ll be they didn’t know where their kitchen counters came from!).

Visit Stone Quarries for a list of locations in the U.S., Virtual Quarry for places around the U.K. and Rocks for Kids for quarries in Canada.



R is for Read, Read, Read!

I just can’t stress this enough – family outings are a great opportunity to get kids excited about reading!  Read the signs about the animals at the nature center, or read a book about science before a trip to the science museum. 

Younger kids can do an alphabet hunt to enhance letter recognition on your trip, and older kids can practice by reading maps, brochures and scavenger hunt lists.

Matching a book to your trip is a great way to get kids excited to travel and learn more about the world.


Sibling Storytime – a great quiet moment!


‘R’eally Fun Outings


Roller Rinks

If you grew up in the 80’s, show off those skills and teach the kids to skate!  You can rent skates at the rink and it’s a great escape during rainy days or cold weather.

Reptile parks

What do you do when you marry someone who had snakes for a pet?  Well, you find other places where they can visit those slithery guys (because I’m too chicken to let them live in my house 🙂 

It’s a good thing one of the parents in our house likes reptiles because it’s inspired us to see some really cool places.  Parks dedicated to snakes, alligators and the like offer a very interesting look into the world of these animals.


Rock Walls

Challenge your tweens and teens to a climb on a rock wall!  Check your local gymnastic locations, family fitness centers and parks & rec areas for climbing places near you.  There are also many attractions that offer rock wall climbs.  Last one to the top buys the ice cream!



S is for Snacks, Socks, Science & Scavenger Hunts

Two items you should always have with you when you head out for a field trip are snacks & socks (but we all know this, right!).  Snacks will save your wallet and help nourish your little explorers.  Socks will make you “the best parent ever” when the kids see that play area that says ‘socks required’. 

Don’t forget to add a little science into your outing too.  Think about it, animals relate to zoology, on a hike you can study rocks (geology), and kite flying or pedal boats can lead to a discussion of physics!  Really, there’s a little science in everything we do — just take a few minutes to point out a concept to the kids.

And make sure to ask about scavenger hunts no matter where you visit.  We’ve found them at art museums, nature centers, zoos, kids theater, history museums and many parks!  You can also look at the attraction’s website to see if they have one online to print out before you go.

Here are a few other scavenger hunts for family fun:

Early Spring Scavenger Hunt (for a hike or use at the park)

Playground Scavenger Hunt (visit playgrounds around town)


bike in sky

Learning a little about physics at our local science museum!

Super Field Trips


Science Museums

Science attractions make for great family trips!  You can usually find interactive exhibits, hands-on activities and a variety of things to explore that will be enjoyed by the whole family.  Visit the Association of Science & Technology Centers to find a science attraction near you.


How about a visit to the tallest building in your city?!  Especially if they have an outdoor observation deck – the kids can get a view of where you live from a whole different angle.

Sports Arenas

Did you know that many local and professional sports arenas offer tours of their facilities?  If you have a kid who loves sports, call your local stadium to see if they have a behind-the-scenes look.  Who knows, you might even get to meet a player or two if you visit during practice time.



T is for Time & Tours

Make sure to schedule enough time for your visit so the kids (and you) don’t feel rushed.  If you only have an hour, visiting a pet store instead of the zoo is probably a better idea.  On the other hand, if you have most of the day available, a larger attraction is more likely to keep the kids engaged for a longer period of time.

And check to see if any tours are available – many times, a docent or staff member will be available to help you get to know a little more about the attraction, especially if it’s quite large. 

One of our local art museums offers free docents-led tours in more than 100 topics for groups of 6 or more, and many zoos have keeper talks or behind-the-scenes presentations scheduled during the day.


Touring Chip’s Chocolate Factory in Kansas City


Terrific Places to See

TV Stations

Check with your local tv station or local PBS affiliate to see if they offer tours of the studios and station.  A PBS Station would be especially fun for kids to visit (ours has a life-size replica of Big Bird and Oscar!)  Local colleges and universities may also have broadcast stations that host tours (see more under ‘U’ for universities).

Theater Shows

Kids LOVE drama!  Why not take them to see a play?  There are kid’s theater performances everywhere!  Or, check out one of the professional shows visiting your area (think ‘Beauty & the Beast’ or ‘Mary Poppins’ type performances).

And many children’s theater groups do plays that are based on kids books (bonus!).

Trail Exploration

Head out and explore – check out a hiking trail, biking trail or one of your local historic trails.  Be an explorer like Lewis & Clark.  Let the kids decide which way to go and bring along a compass & of course, trail snacks!



Stay tuned for our final day!

{Part 1} Getting Ready, Using Books & Exploring

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

{Part 3}  Learning, New Places & Outdoor Fun

{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:


Reading & Literacy

Books for Preschoolers from Mommy and Me Book Club

Building a Home Library from Ready Set Read!

Early Language Learning from Playting with Words 365

Early Literacy from Playdough to Plato

Exploring Books from JDaniel4’s Mom

Graphic Novels from Pragmatic Mom

Learning to Read Through Play from Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas

Learning to Write from NurtureStore

Reading Comprehension for Pre K-Grade 1 from The Wise Owl Factory

Storytelling from A Mom with a Lesson Plan