- Describe factors to consider when traveling away from your child care home.
- Summarize best practices when taking trips away from your program.
- Create a plan to keep children safe when on trips away from the program.
Trips are an excellent way to extend the curriculum. The right trips can capture children’s interests and allow hands-on experience that children cannot otherwise get in your family child care program. Trips also take advantage of the resources within your community: nature preserves, police and fire stations, businesses, museums, and farms are all interesting venues for trips. Trips do not need to be elaborate. Children can learn so much from a walk around the block, a visit to the recreation center next door, or many other regular experiences.
In general, there are two types of trips you might take with children: routine trips and field trips. Routine trips are activities you do regularly that take you away from your program. Examples include going for a walk around the block or walking to the local playground or community center next door. Field trips are one-time events. You might take a field trip to the zoo, museum, farm, grocery store, or a variety of other community locations. To ensure children’s safety, both types of trips must be carefully planned and carried out.
Be sure to use your knowledge of child development when planning any trip. It is best to keep field trips short so children do not get overtired. Focus your trip on the content children are interested in or learning about. For example, if children have been studying food, you might visit the produce section of your local grocery store or commissary. This might be more appropriate and less tiring for the children than spending an entire day at a farm. Be wary of trips that involve huge crowds or noisy locations. These make it difficult to supervise children. They also make it harder for children to have hands-on opportunities. Remember, children can do more in small groups than they can in large groups.
You must be prepared to keep children safe on trips away from the home. There are a variety of dangers children might experience. A child might be injured or experience a medical emergency, such as an asthma attack. In the worst scenarios, a child may disappear or face life-threatening injuries. Careful planning can increase your chances of preventing or minimizing harm.
Good practices for trips away from the family child care program can take a variety of different forms. Watch how this program ensures accountability for children.
Your first priority is to keep children safe on trips away from your program. Here is what you can do to make sure this happens:
Before the Trip
Do Your Research
All trips should be planned as part of your overall curriculum. Trips provide hands-on learning opportunities that children cannot get in your family child care program. Think about how your planned trip extends learning. Make sure a field trip is necessary: is it possible or more appropriate to bring the experiences to your home? Once you decide on a trip, visit the location first. Make sure the location is safe and age-appropriate. Decide on your route and mode of transportation (walking, buses, etc.). Identify emergency resources at the destination: shelter locations, emergency phones, restrooms, etc.
For places you might visit routinely (for example, neighborhood playgrounds or parks) do not forget to use the outdoor safety checklists discussed in Lesson Four and to survey the area again each day you visit to make sure the area is safe before children begin playing.
Let parents know about the trip you are planning. Send home a written permission slip for field trips. Include information families will need, such as the location, date, time, cost, and transportation plans. Make sure you have a permission slip on file for routine trips. For routine trips, make sure families are aware of when in your daily or weekly schedule you travel away from your home and where you go. Families should always know where their children are and where they can pick them up.
Collect Fees (if applicable)
If there is a fee for the trip you should collect these fees prior to the trip. If you are using public transportation (city buses, trains, or subways), make sure you know how much the fare is. Collect exact change in advance.
Know Your Ratios and Recruit Volunteers
Maintain the appropriate provider-to-child ratios at all times (see Lesson Two for details). When on a field trip, it is best practice to have additional adults along for safety and security. Identify parents or others who could help on the field trip. Field trips are an excellent opportunity to invite children’s parents or other familiar adults to volunteer. You could also have a substitute assist on field trip days.
Make a plan for safe travel—see Lesson Nine for details. Make sure child safety restraints are available in all applicable vehicles.
Make sure you have the health and safety documents and materials you will need. Bring the following materials:
- First-aid kit (see Apply section); one per vehicle or group
- Care plans for children with special health needs
- Medications or equipment for children with special health needs
- Cell phone
- List of emergency contacts (poison control, hospitals, etc.)
- Accurate roster
- Emergency contact information for families
- Copy of children’s registration information
- Hand sanitizer or wipes
- Drinking water
- Medical release permissions for emergency medical treatment
- Cash for a pay phone in case a cell phone malfunctions or for emergency incidentals
- Optionally, knotted rope or some system that allows children to hold onto each other while walking.
- If you have infants and/or toddlers that are not yet potty trained, materials for diaper changes (e.g., diapers, wipes, changing pad).
Depending on the length of your trip, you may need to provide a snack or meal to the children. Plan the food you will bring and how you will transport it safely. Perishable foods have to be kept cold, and so do some medications. Check to see whether water is available at your destination or plan to bring water.
Plan for Hygiene
Make sure children can wash their hands frequently. Identify locations of restrooms at your destination. Soap and water is always the preferable method for washing hands. If water is available, children should wash hands with soap and water. If water is not available for hand-washing, alcohol based hand sanitizers are appropriate.
Make sure you will be able to identify the children in your group quickly. Use a sticker with the name and contact information of your program. You could also provide children with matching T-shirts or hats to wear on the field trip.
Review Safety Rules
Make sure children know and understand how to be safe on trips outside the home. Review the rules and practice them. Tell children exactly what to do if they get separated from the group.
Spread the Word
Remind parents of the trip the day before. On the day of the trip, post a sign on your door or information board. It should say where you are going and when you will return.
Once again, for routine trips, parents should be aware, from your handbook or your weekly schedule when you will be away from the child care home and where you and the children will be.
On the Trip:
Use Your Roster
Have an accurate roster with you at all times. Use it to count children before you leave the program, in the vehicle (if applicable), as children exit the vehicle, and when you get to the destination. Count regularly while at your destination, and repeat these procedures when you return to your home.
Count children frequently by matching name to face. Use your roster. Double count children at strategic times and throughout the trip.
Teach Children Safe Travel Skills
If you are walking near traffic on your trip, follow safe pedestrian rules:
- Only cross at a corner.
- Only cross when traffic signals indicate it is safe to cross.
- Always look left, right, and then left again before crossing.
- Always use sidewalks and crosswalks.
- Help children notice traffic signs. Talk about what they mean.
If you are traveling in a vehicle, make sure you follow all policies for vehicle safety. This includes use of proper child-safety restraints.
- Perform your required safety inspection on the vehicle before traveling (see Lesson Eight).
- Secure each child in his or her own safety restraint.
- Only allow children to enter the vehicle from the sidewalk or driveway.
- Supervise children while in the vehicle.
- Always check the vehicle for sleeping children before exiting. Never leave a child alone in a vehicle for any reason.
Think About Communication
Have a cell phone with you at all times. You may need to call for emergency assistance.
Think About Prevention
Make sure children never go into public restrooms by themselves. Avoid leaving any adult alone with children. Remind children of safety rules throughout the trip.
It is wise to have all children to use the restroom and for you to check and change diapers before you leave for any trip, routine or special. If a child needs to use the restroom or be changed when out on a trip, make sure you have a plan in place for keeping all the children safe.
Talk to the children, sing songs, and play games. Help them notice the interesting features of the world around them. Provide clipboards so they can take notes or draw pictures.
Think about how you would respond to problems on trips away from the home. Review the Planning for Emergencies Away from Your Program Activity. Read and answer the questions. Talk about your responses with your trainer, coach or family child care administrator. Then compare your answers to the suggested responses.
Use these forms to help you prepare for emergencies on trips away from your program:
- Assess the risks before your trip. Although it may seem more obvious to fill out this form prior to each special, one-time field trip, it is a good idea to complete a risk assessment even for places you routinely visit. Your advance planning helps you handle potential risks encountered during your outings with confidence. Even if there are places you routinely visit now, taking time to do an assessment like the Risk Assessment below, can help you further identify potential risks and solutions to make all your trips safe.
- Make sure you have prepared for the trip. Complete the Field Trip Checklist and review with you family child care administrator.
- Collect permission from parents and guardians. Use the sample form below (or one provided by your state)
California Childcare Health Program (n.d.). Field Trip Safety Notes. Accessible at https://cchp.ucsf.edu/sites/cchp.ucsf.edu/files/fieldtripsen070604_adr.pdf.
National Training Institute for Child Care Health Consultants. http://www.ecels-healthychildcarepa.org/resources/national-childcare-resource-centers/item/393-national-training-institute-for-child-care-health-consultants
S. Navy Child and Youth Programs Commander. (2005, June). Field Trips: A New World Awaits! Navy Installations Millington Detachment.