On Field Trips, Nature Days, and Other Exciting Times With Little Ones in Tow


Nature Day, September 2008

Have you been blessed to meet older, wiser women who blog and write online? 
Barbara McCoy is one such mentor for me, and last month her daughter Amanda (creator of the fabulous craft and nature kits) presented a nature day for the families in our church.  Barb, Amanda, and I all got to meet one another and I just loved soaking up all Barb's answers to the questions I asked her about home education.

A few weeks later, Barb posted a series of photos from a trip to Oregon's coast. I kept thinking about how I'd love to do such a trip with my own kids, but can't imagine the trickiness of doing so with the babies accompanying us.  So I did what I typically do: I emailed Barb and asked her how one accomplishes such a wonderful adventure with little ones.  I knew her helpful reply had to be shared, because I know I'm not the only one!

Thoughts on my travel and how you could do it with your family:

1. Planning. I spent hours on the internet looking for places that would fit our family's interests. We are studying marine biology right now and I wanted to find something for us to do that would enhance our academic book type learning. I found places that provided access to tidepools and to interpretive centers and that narrowed it down. Our trips are nearly almost tied to our school studies so it makes it more real and relevant....we went to Hawaii to study volcanoes, we went to the Channel Islands earlier this year to see marine mammals, and this trip was to study invertebrates and sea birds.

2. Try to keep driving time at a reasonable distance each day. Even with our roadtrips, I know that I can only have one really long travel day and then we need to plant ourselves in one place for at least two nights before taking another stretch on the road.

This trip:

Day one: long driving day from our house to Humboldt
Day two: short drive to Patrick's Point
Day three: short drive to Coos Bay and then spend two nights
Day five: short drive to Newport and then spend two nights
Day seven: long drive to Grant's Pass
Day eight: long drive home (we had planned on staying two nights in Grant's Pass but it was COLD and we were ready to be home)

3. Prepare the kids ahead of time for what you are going to do on the trip. I nearly always make a "field trip binder" for the boys so they have an idea of what is expected of them on the trip. This time they were fairly free to just explore as we went along and I made sure to have some down time each day where they could play on the beach or take hikes around the campground. The big packet that they completed was something we printed off from the Oregon Coast Aquarium website and it had them looking at the exhibits in the aquarium (at Newport) for specific things. It was a huge success. When we took school to Hawaii a few years ago, the binder had things to do every day even it was just a reading assignment or a coloring page. It kept the boys focused on our purpose in being there.

4. For your family if you are not big on camping, Oregon State campgrounds have yurts you can rent and they would probably be ideal for your situation. It is still like camping but you have a place to get out of the weather and you don't have to haul a lot of equipment around. We are thinking about taking a yurt vacation next year.

5. I noticed that there were families traveling with lots of kids and those that seemed to be actually enjoying themselves had the littlest ones occupied in a way that was appropriate. Lots of backpacks and front packs on the trail...we used to use a backpack with the boys until they were well over two and then we just trained them to walk with us and it never was a big deal but we do a lot of hiking as a family so it seemed natural for them to transition. I know when we used to camp when the boys were little, I had a few strategies that helped keep my sanity. Bring a few small toys for them to play in the dirt with...it was always a hit. Bring lots of thrift store type clothes so when they got really dirty, I just threw them away instead of trying to bring home a 25 cent pair of pants to wash. Feed them well was always a good strategy too. Lots of good snacks that they could put in their own pockets and they usually carried their own water too either in a backpack or a bottle on a strap.

6. This is not the kind of trip we have always taken....we never would have attempted this with the kids when they were all young. It would have looked differently. We used to go to Yosemite camping with the understanding that if I got overwhelmed we would just pack up and go home. We went home early once in all the years we went but it was always nice to know it was an option. I did take all four children on a roadtrip by myself to Yellowstone when they were 3, 5, 10, and 13. I put down strict ground rules before we left and it is still one of our favorite roadtrip memories. (Looking back now, I was crazy.)

Traveling is always an adventure and I try to keep that in mind each time we head out. You can not plan for everything but that is part of the fun. I was telling someone yesterday that if you hold all the cards and squeeze the life out of everything, no real learning takes place.


If you, too, appreciate Barb's wisdom, head on over to her nature blog or her fine arts blog and drop her a note.  And check out the sidebars-- they're filled with helpful ideas that will keep you very, very busy!  Thanks Barb!