- Describe factors to consider when planning a trip away from the program.
- Summarize best practices when taking trips away from the 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 experiences children cannot get in the classroom. Trips also take advantage of the resources within your own community: nature preserves, police and fire stations, businesses, museums, and farms are all interesting venues for trips. Trips do not need to be elaborate, though. 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 center. Examples of routine trips include going for a walk around the block or walking to the 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. Keep trips short so children do not get over-tired. 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. 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 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 building. 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 help you prevent harm.
Good practices for trips away from the building can take a variety of different forms. Watch how this program ensures accountability for children. Listen as this teacher describes how their programs maintain accountability for all children at all times.
Your first priority is to keep children safe on trips away from the center. 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 the classroom. 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 the center? 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.
Get consent. 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. Make a plan for caring for the children who are not allowed to go on the trip.
Collect fees (if applicable). If there is a fee for the trip, a paid staff member 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. Maintain the appropriate staff-to-child ratios at all times. When on a field trip, it is best practice to have additional adults along for safety and security. Be sure to make group assignments, so all adults know who they are responsible for and children have a consistent adult for guidance.
Recruit volunteers. Identify parents or others who will help on the field trip. Make sure that at least one paid staff member on the trip has current first aid and CPR certification.
Travel safely. Make a plan for safe travel. Learn about travel policies for your program and make arrangements for vehicles. Make sure child safety restraints are available in all applicable vehicles.
Pack well. 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
- Written transportation policy and emergency plans
- Medical release permissions for emergency medical treatment
- Currency for a pay phone in case a cell phone malfunctions or for emergency incidentals
- Optionally, knotted rope or some system that allows students to hold onto each other while walking
Plan meals. 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, as 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. Even if your program does not regularly allow hand sanitizer, check to see if it is OK to bring on field trips.
Stand out. 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. Provide children and staff 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 building. 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 classroom door. It should say where you are going and when you will return.
On the Trip:
Use your roster. Have an accurate roster with you at all times. Use it to count children before you leave the center, 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 the center.
Take count. Count children frequently by matching name to face. Use your roster. Double count children at strategic times and throughout the trip. Assign a specific group of children to each adult and make sure they know how and when to count. Make sure all children are accounted for at all times.
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 say it is safe.
- 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 using proper child-safety restraints.
- Perform your required safety inspection on the vehicle before traveling.
- Secure each child in his or her own safety restraint.
- Only allow children to enter the vehicle from the sidewalk.
- 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.
Have fun! 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 building. Review the Trip Problem Solving activity. Read and answer the questions. Talk about your responses with your trainer, coach, or administrator. Then compare your answers to the suggested responses.
There are tools that can help you be prepared for emergencies on trips away from your program. Use these forms to:
- Assess the risks before your trip.
- Make sure you have prepared for the trip.
- Collect permission from parents and guardians.
California Childcare Health Program. (2016). Field Trip Safety Notes. https://cchp.ucsf.edu/sites/cchp.ucsf.edu/files/fieldtripsen070604_adr.pdf
Whisner, J. (2018). Teaching tip: Field trip best practices. Association of Pennsylvania State College & University Faculties. https://www.apscuf.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/bu_teaching_tips/TT_APSCUF_FieldTripTips.pdf