Fun and Frugal Field Trips

Written by monthly contributor, Emily Pastor.

I am not a home body.  As a stay-at-home mama, I love the chance to get out of the house with a fun and frugal destination in mind.  Taking intentional field trips with your young ones is a fun way to include them in the “back to school” season.  Field trips provide an excellent learning experience for children of all ages, but especially for little ones with short attention spans!  They don’t need to be fancy or expensive to be exciting and bursting with learning opportunities.  Here are a few ideas for outings both you and your little ones are sure to enjoy!

Library Story Times
Most libraries offer story times for young children and even babies. These “story-times” rightfully involve more singing and playing than they do “reading” but they introduce young children to the joys of the library in a fun and interactive environment. Story times are a fun weekly routine that offer social outlets for both mother and child and provide a weekly way to bring home new books to explore together.

Free Passes to Museums
Libraries usually offer free passes to area museums and zoos, which you are able to reserve much like you would a book. These passes often have a long list of holds (think hundreds) so don’t expect to see one soon, but if you’re not in a hurry and would like to enjoy some museums for free, this is a great option.

Parks and Playgrounds
Don’t forget the importance of play in learning! Children are wired to play. Playing opens doors to many areas of education such as social skills, physical coordination & development, creativity, and nature awareness. Find a new park or playground to explore with your little one and watch the learning unfold.

Nature walks
Take an age-appropriate nature walk. For a toddler, this might look like a walk down the block collecting pine cones and talking about how they look and feel. For an older child take a hike and collect leaves and identify them at home and make crayon rubbings of each one.

Local Farms
Farms make an excellent field trip for all ages. Young toddlers will love seeing animals up close and imitating them. Older children will enjoy learning how a cow is milked, sheep are sheared, or crops are rotated.  The next time you visit a farmer’s market, strike up a conversation with a friendly vendor and ask if they’d be willing to let your family visit their farm as an educational experience.

As you pursue fun and frugal field trips with your little ones, remember:

1. Be creative.  With a little creativity, a normal drive to the grocery store can become a game of “I spy” or a chance to learn a new song.  Pray that you would see and maximize the meaningful amid the mundane.

2. Not everything needs a lesson behind it!  Be careful not to turn everything into a lesson.  Children need to see their parents having fun just for the…well, fun of it!

3.  Ask the Lord for wisdom.  Pray each day that the Lord would give you wisdom on stewarding your child’s mind for that day.  Don’t get caught up in all the things your toddler needs to master before graduating high school.  Focus on today.

It is today for which we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.
-Elisabeth Elliot

I’d love more field trip ideas to try!  What fun and frugal outings do you take with your little ones?

About EPastor

Emily Pastor is the wife of her high-school sweetheart and mama to their energetic one and a half year old daughter. They recently moved from the Pacific Northwest to the suburbs of Chicago and are expecting their second little one in the late fall. Emily is passionate about incorporating nourishing foods and holistic household management practices into everyday life as a full-time homemaker. You can find Emily’s latest musings at Sustainable Food for Thought.

9 Responses to Fun and Frugal Field Trips

  1. Elissa September 22, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    As a kid, I loved going to a pumpkin patch every Autumn, picking out a pumpkin, and taking a hayride. Also, if your kids are home schooled, try to get involved in a local home school group that offers fun social activities for the kids. Some businesses will offer tours to such groups, educating the children on how their business functions. For example, my home school group toured local grocery markets and candle shops. We also learned how bread and other baked goods are made.
    Musicals and free concerts are also somewhere you could go, either as a family or with friends.

  2. 2nd Mans Wife September 21, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    My husband and I gave blood at a local blood drive and got free tickets to a ballgame and to the zoo! It was worth it for a noble cause. I take a more humorous look at it in my latest blog post,

  3. Ami September 20, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    We really like free & cheap field trips! In KY, we have:

    State parks (living history forts, battlegrounds, forests, waterfalls, historical buildings)
    Public gardens
    church plays produced at a professional level
    nursing home
    hiking at lots of different places
    playing in the fountains in the big city (play is encouraged by the city)
    capitol tour guided by the chaplain to the legislature
    factory tours
    library-sponsored events, concerts, and plays
    state wildlife education center

    We also have annual “farm field days” in every county, sponsored by the Cooperative Extension Office. Do other states have these? It is an entire day touring farms, with lunch provided by the Cattleman’s association (usually). Our county trasnports everyone in school buses (a big deal for homeschooled kids!) and serves a big country breakfast and lunch! This year alone we toured the new vegetable garden at the city’s Detention Center, a winery, and a farm that’s just started doing CSA. It is fascinating and a highlight of our summer! I highly recommend you look into it!

  4. Cindi September 20, 2011 at 6:03 am #

    Visiting a local “u-pick” farm for blueberries, etc, is always fun and gives us more respect for our food while supporting a local farmer. Same with farmer’s markets. While these things aren’t free, the expense is part of our grocery budget and they provide great outings (if you can avoid the facepainting, etc :) We love museums but admission is often pricey. We’ve discovered some companies (e.g., Target, Bank of America) sponsor free days at museums in some cities. We live in a smallish area, but we always look for these when we travel. We also take advantage of the American Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) Passport Program, where membership in one science center is reciprocated by other museums outside the radius of your membership. We support a small local museum with an inexpensive family membership (e.g., $40/yr) and then use the reciprocation while traveling to visit more expensive museums absolutely free. And BTW, even if it isn’t labeled “educational”, EVERYTHING in life is a learning experience!

  5. RE September 20, 2011 at 4:37 am #

    We live overseas and don’t have a car. I enjoy taking the kids on the bus down to city centre, and having a picnic at the park. The bus ride is about half an hour, and the kids ride for free (1-yo and 3-yo). We take a picnic lunch, and the kids get to play on a great playground. A change of scenery is always nice!

  6. Helen September 19, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    Finding some ducks or seagulls to feed is always a fun outing for my kids.
    We live near the sea, so a visit to the beach is a definite highlight. They love to collect stone, sticks and shells.
    A simple picnic, even one in the back yard, is good fun!

  7. Autumn September 19, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    I second the idea for pet stores. Sometimes the local pet store is more interesting to my kids than the zoo!

    Playdates at friends’ houses is always fun.

    And just taking them along with you on your errands. My husband and I recently had to get TB tests, and we took the kids to the hospital with us. Their favorite thing about the whole trip was the elevator ride. The next day they played “elevator” with my pantry for about an hour, opening and closing the door pretending it was an elevator and going up and down floors.

  8. Ashley @ Root and Twig September 19, 2011 at 7:00 am #

    In our city, we’ve also found…
    rafting down the river
    going to a play or concert
    visiting a fish hatchery
    visiting a bird sanctuary
    visiting a wild animal hospital (appointment required)
    a drive to the ‘bad lands’ or the mountains for a picnic and hike
    trying a new (to us) ethnic food
    exploring bike trails
    going to the airport just for fun, to watch the jets land
    visiting a community garden and the farmers market
    picking a small town nearby that we’ve never been to, and going!

    Many of these things are free. You usually don’t know what you’ll learn until you get there!

  9. Becky September 19, 2011 at 3:22 am #

    Some children would love a visit to the pet store or maybe an animal shelter. Mine would love a trip to a tractor store or truck lot :) . Some stores may not like little children looking around touching things so that may be something to consider :/.