Far-fetched for some maybe, but for day-trip enthusiast Candace Weisner, it is only one of 250 activities for before, during, and after a dozen kid-friendly field trips outlined in her new book Let's Get Going!, a step-by-step guide to successful outings with children.
A field trip to the museum can go bad quickly if the exhibits are heavy with text and do-not-touch signs, cautions Weisner. She suggests making the experience more memorable and interactive by reading historical stories, trolling the Internet for information on dinosaurs, whipping up some old-time recipes, or constructing your own museum dioramas from a shoe box and construction paper.
Weisner, who now lives in Cochrane, Alta., after a childhood in The Pas, sees an education opportunity in any activity, whether as simple as looking for shapes, designs and colours while grocery shopping, or asking questions of the highway crew when delayed by road repairs.
"We were stopped with construction so we rolled down the window and were talking to the construction (sign) lady, because you can learn from everybody," philosophizes the former recreation leader about her recent family vacation.
Construction sites or grocery stores might not be featured in the illustrated 169-page book (General Distribution Services), but Weisner covers visits to historical villages, the beach, farmer's markets, farms and the zoo, offering cost-cutting measures, practical advice, craft ideas and recipes for every location.
"I think quite often we're squeezed for time, and we're looking to maximize through quality time. While you are at the zoo, you are maybe enriching the experience and getting a lot more out it," she says, referring to activities like zoo bingo or having children fill out a habitat check list as they visit various animals.
The mother of two teenagers (who admits family day trips are mainly to the mall, now) offers suggestions on what to take, diversions for the car ride, and age-appropriate activities for children aged two to five and six to 10. Lists of outing-related stories, songs and books and resources are included at the end of each chapter, and she even offers an opinion on whether to transport the baby in a stroller or a backpack.
"I'm hoping there's enough variety in it that there's something everyone will try," says Weisner, adding this book is packed with enough ideas for both the teenage babysitter and granny.
Show it to the kids, as well. Armed with a pad of yellow sticky-notes, my nine-year-old marked all the activities he wanted to try, highlighting food crafts like building log cabins with cheese spread and pretzel sticks, creating "sand-witch" roll-ups to take to the beach, and spinning spider-web cookies from melted chocolate and butterscotch chips mixed with coconut and chow-mein noodles.
Might seem obvious
Weisner concedes some ideas might seem obvious to experienced parents (like a trip on public transit or going to the park), but a simple excursion on a city bus can be the springboard for learning life skills like reading signs and maps, and understanding safety rules and etiquette.
Don't let snowsuit weather deter you, either, says Weisner, who encourages parents to get out daily in all seasons, no matter how much effort it might require.
Keep preparations to a minimum by stocking the car trunk with a few toys, packaged snacks and an extra blanket or flat bed sheet in the car for use as ground cover, picnic spread or parachute games. And maybe pack her book of kid-tested ideas, as well -- and get going.
"I would love to see this (book) in the glove compartment," she says. "It's definitely a take-along."
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Want your own copy of Let's Get Going! for your glove compartment? Send Child's Play an easy recipe your children love to prepare (with or without parental help). Include your full name, mailing address and day time telephone number. E-mail your entry (one per family, please) by Sept. 1 to: firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to: Child's Play, c/o Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB R2X 3B6.