To enhance and expand on what we have been learning about dinosaurs this week, we decided to take a field trip to our local Natural History Museum. I thought that this would help my daughter’s interest and understanding of excavation since we are going to do a dinosaur excavation sensory project later in the week with the dinosaur fossils we made.
Taking field trips are not only fun, they provide children with hands-on and unique educational experiences. I am going to share with you some tips to get the most out of these types of field trips with toddlers and preschoolers.
1. Talk about the trip beforehand and what they can expect
You may want to read a book or do an activity that relates to the field trip before you leave. We have been talking about dinosaurs all week with my daughter and made salt dough dinosaur fossils in preparation.
2.Help them understand what they are seeing and encourage curiosity
Talk to them about what they are seeing and relate it to what they already know. Encourage them to ask questions and be hands-on with the displays (if allowed). When we walked through the dinosaur portion of the museum we talked about how the displays were just like the dinosaurs in her books, thereby expanding on what she already knew about dinosaurs. We then talked (briefly) about how dinosaurs lived so long ago that now all we have left of them are their bones and fossils. I then talked with her about how they are similar to the fossils we made yesterday. Keep it brief and take their lead on whether they are interested in further information or not.
3.Let them be hands-on.
Many museums and other field trip destinations allow hands-on interaction. For younger children, it is best to go to locations that provide these opportunities not only because it eliminates the stress of having to constantly prevent your child from touching displays but also because, at a young age, children learn the best through hands-on experimentation and play. At our local Natural History Museum they have several areas for hands-on learning; they had an archaeological excavation sight, a dinosaur bone dig, and more.
4. Don’t force learning.
What they get out of the trip and what they learn may be something different than what you had imagined or anticipated but that is not a bad thing. Follow your child’s lead on what they are interested in and in what way they want to learn and experiment. Children learn in a completely different way than adults and so while you could gently encourage the direction, children learn best when it is something they are naturally interested in. I was surprised at the things my daughter seemed most interested in a the museum. She was especially interested in using the magnifying glass to observe the preserved butterflies.
5.Talk about what they saw and learned afterward.
Do a recap of what they saw while on the field trip and what they learned. You may also plan an activity or craft around what you learned. For instance, later in the week we will be doing our own dinosaur fossil sensory excavation!
What are your field trip or outing tips?