Five Free (Summer) Field Trips

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1.  Spraygrounds- Called spraygrounds or splash parks, these free fountains are always a kid favorite.  Who doesn’t want to play in the water on a hot day?  I was especially grateful for spraygrounds when I had a baby and a toddler.  Take them both to the swimming pool by myself? A nightmare.  But watch my oldest run through the fountains while my baby sits and splashes?  Very doable.

2.  Bowling Alley– Kids can get two free games of bowling every day, all summer long!  Check out kidsbowlfree.com to see if a bowling alley in your area participates.  We did this last year and loved it!

3.  Concerts– Lots of shopping centers, communities, parks, and churches do free summer concerts in the evenings.  What better way to spend a summer night?  Just do a search for “free summer concert (your city name here)” and see what you can find.

4.  Art Fairs- Hands down my favorite activity.  We have already been to two this summer!  Although taking toddlers to a place with large groups of people and very expensive objects is not for a the faint of heart.  Wearable babies or older kids make the best art viewers (in my experience).

5.  Public School Playgrounds-  The schools are out and the playgrounds are open!  Pack a picnic and spend the afternoon “at recess.”  Just make sure to check the signage to make sure it is open to the public.

Bowling Math

learning with bowling

Bowling is a fun indoor activity when it is too cold or hot outside.  We found a local bowling alley with a weekly special for preschoolers ($3 that includes one game, shoes, and a drink).  Though, even the smallest bowling balls are pretty heavy for little ones, so I recommend it for kids over 3.  Big Sis has a great time bowling, and it is educational, too!  Playing a sport is always a learning experience in my book.  But the bowling alley is also a wonderful place to practice math in the real world.  Old school bowling provided lots of math practice when you kept score with a pen and paper.  Yet, even with today’s bowling alley computers keeping score, you can still ask your kiddo some math questions.  Then just look up at the screen to check the answer!

teaching math with bowling

You can ask about…

  • Counting-  Count how many pins are still standing. (kindergarten- Count to tell the number of objects)
  • Make a ten- You started with 10 pins.  Now there are 6 pins standing.  How many did you knock down?  What number plus 6 makes 10?  (kindergarten- For any number from 1 to 9, find the number that makes 10 when added to the given number)
  • Simple addition-  You knocked down 2 pins last turn and 3 pins this time.  How many did you get in all?
  • Two-digit plus one-digit addition–  Your score was 33, then you knocked 5 more down this turn.  What is your score now? (first grade- Add within 100, including adding a two-digit number and a one-digit number…)
  • Subtraction– There were 10 pins and you knocked down 5.  What is 10-5?  (kindergarten- Add and subtract within 10)
  • Relationship between addition and subtraction-  There were ten pins and I see 2 still standing.  How many did you knock down?  You can think about it as “what number plus 2 equals 10?” Or you can think “10-2=?”  (first grade- Understand subtraction as an unknown-addend problem)

(Common Core Standards appear in italics.  They correlate with specific standards in different grade levels.  These standards are used in almost every school in the country.  Click the Common Core tab above to learn more.)

bowling math

And if you can’t go to a real bowling alley, maybe try some bowling on the computer with Starfall.com or bowl at home using this print out from whattheteacherwants.blogspot.com

Five Free (Indoor) Field Trips

I go a little stir-crazy around the house in the winter.  We try to go outside for a little bit to get some fresh air.  But it’s so cold!!  The kids and I have to get out of the house, explore the world, and….see other people.  Oh yeah, I also don’t like to spend money.  Where can you go to entertain the kids that doesn’t cost anything?

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1.  pet store- It’s like going to the zoo…only free!  Oh yeah, it also has a little smaller animals.  No problem.  Small animals are great for small kids!  Hear birds squawking.  Watch fish swimming.   Maybe you’ll even get to touch a few rabbits.   The kids will love it!  Just don’t walk away with another pet.

2. library- Most libraries have a story time, but some go above and beyond with book chats, speakers, Mother Goose time and the list goes on.  We’ve even gone to a “preschool disco” at our library!  Check with your local library for a schedule of events.  Even if there isn’t a special program, a trip to the library is always worth it.  Grab some books, DVDs, and CDs to keep the kids entertained when you are stuck at home.

3.  toy store-  This can be tricky.  Only attempt it if you know there won’t be an ugly melt-down when the kids realize you aren’t buying anything  (i.e.- you don’t have a two-year-old).  However, some toy stores have LOTS of toys on display that the kids can try out.  We have successfully gone to toy stores, played, and walked out empty-handed.  Try giving older kids a pencil and paper to make a wishlist for their birthday.

4.  art museum- This is one of my personal favorite field trips.  Some art museums do charge admission, so try out free galleries or even local art displays in malls or civic centers.  Make up an art scavenger hunt before you go to have even more fun!

5. mall- Let’s go the mall, today!  Or just go to the mall indoor playground!  It’s a win-win.  You get to people watch.  The kids get to play and get infected with all sorts of germs.  Wait.  Make sure you have some hand sanitizer in your purse.  Also, never tell the kids that those ride-on machines take money.  My kids were not aware that they moved (and still happily sat, pushed buttons, and pretended)…until granny ruined my secret!

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If you are interested in more:  Five Free (Fall) Field Trips

Art Museum Scavenger Hunt

What can you on a cold day?  Go to a museum!  Hopefully you have a free museum in your area.  If you don’t, try local galleries, college campuses (especially the art department), or even local art displays in malls.  You don’t need to go to a museum for your kids to see some art.

WARNING:  Taking toddlers to a museum is not for the faint of heart.  I’ve found museum outings work best with babies in carriers, toddlers in strollers, or preschoolers and older kids with good self-control.  If they don’t have good self-control….it’s a great opportunity to PRACTICE!  On our last outing I took my two-year-old, who was too big for the stroller (in her opinion) but a little too young to understand museum etiquette (in my opinion).  But we managed.  You can, too.  Just go over a few basic museum rules before you get there.  No touching or running.  Keep it simple.  And then leave if they can’t follow the rules.  Don’t worry.  You’ll be able to stay longer next time.

While my goal with Little Sis (the two-year-old) was just keeping her from licking sculptures, I aimed a little higher with Big Sis (my four-year-old).  We made a museum scavenger hunt before we set off on our adventure.  Some museums have their own pre-made scavenger hunts for kids and you can also find some online printable worksheets on Pinterest.  I liked our DIY version because we could make it up together and tailor it to her age-level.  I came up with categories (shapes, colors, materials, feelings), and she brainstormed the ideas.  She also colored in the color boxes….

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and made a little mistake.  Notice the yellow and green boxes.  No problem.  It was good opportunity to do some problem solving to fix it.

While we walked around the museum, she marked off boxes on her paper. TIP:  Use a pencil to mark off boxes since pens/markers aren’t allowed in most museums.  The scavenger hunt helped her focus on one piece of art long enough to really look at it.  We talked about how we could check off several boxes with one painting.

We chose a few different categories, but you could also focus on only one.  Here are some ideas to make your own museum scavenger hunt:

  • colors
  • shapes
  • types of lines
  • textures
  • materials
  • letters
  • numbers
  • feelings you get when looking at the artwork
  • particular works of art that are in the museum  (look up names/pictures before you go)
  • subject of the artwork- people, animals, houses, etc.

And a few ideas for older elementary kids:

  • painting styles- impressionism, cubism, surrealism, etc.
  • mediums- paint, pastel, pencil, etc.
  • artists
  • time periods
  • country of origin