Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Planning Safe Field Trips

If your child care program is open all summer, field trips are a great way to spice up the routine.  Here are some tips to make sure your trips are safe and successful.

Careful planning is always important for a fun and safe field trip.  If at all possible, visit the location before planning to take the children there.  Find out about costs and any special rules.  Be sure the trip is appropriate for the age and interests of the children in your group.  Then make sure the children and the parents are aware of what they can expect the day of the trip.  Discuss expected behavior on the trip with the children for several days before the actual trip.  A few days before the trip, call the site again to confirm the arrangements.

If you have regularly scheduled trips (like a weekly trip to the swimming pool) consider having field trip permission slips as part of the registration packet for your program.  It might read in part, “My child _____ has permission to participate in trips to ________as a part of _____ program June 1 through August 25, 2011.”

For any other trips, it will still be necessary to send home a permission slip and information regarding each individual trip, including where and when the trip will be and things the child should bring.  Make sure permission slips include any special rules or circumstances that are critical for your program.  I worked with a program that included a clause about what would happen if a child was detained for shoplifting while on a trip, because that had happened to them once!

Also, make sure you have emergency contact information for each child, and take those forms, along with the permission slips, on each trip.  If you are taking more than one vehicle, a staff member in each vehicle should have a list of children riding in that vehicle, as well as emergency contact information for those children.  Be sure someone in each vehicle has a cell phone.  An accurate list of who is going on the trip, which vehicle they will take, and emergency contact information for each child should also be kept at the child care program. 

Take along a first aid kit, and be sure at least one staff member on the trip is trained in CPR and First Aid.  Be sure you have any medication that children will need to take during the trip.  Include emergency items for any special needs the children have, such as allergies or asthma.  Plan ahead for how and when children will be able to use restrooms and wash their hands, especially before any meals or snacks.  It’s also a good idea to take along a large jug of ice water and cups.

Supervision is a key concern when taking children on trips.  Staff/child ratios must be maintained at all times, but most programs take even more adults on field trips.  Ask for parents and guardians who would like to go along.  Be sure that any chaperones are fully informed of the rules and expectations for the trip.  Giving each adult a group of children to be responsible for can help make sure everyone is well supervised.  Even very young children are capable of keeping track of a “buddy” on a field trip.  Assign partners, and ask children to make sure their buddy is safe at multiple times throughout the trip.

Another idea is to provide special t-shirts for field trip days.  This will make it easy to identify children from your program while on the trip.  Name tags are not advised, as this would allow strangers to call the child by name.  You might consider using tags which simply have the center name and phone number.  Count heads frequently throughout the day, and use a roll call when you reach each new destination and before you leave each place.  Even with the best supervision plan, someone may get lost.  Be sure each child knows a meeting place on site to go to if they get lost, and can tell someone the name of your facility.

Behavior challenges can happen when young children have to sit and wait, and this happens often on field trips.  Plan ahead for activities to do while children are waiting.  Have some index cards in your bag with ideas for songs, finger plays, word games, or other transition activities you can do anywhere.

Field trips are a wonderful learning experience for the children, and a great way to keep them engaged during the long, hot summer months.  Just make sure to follow safety precautions while you’re out exploring!


Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Bureau of Child Care.  (2005). Child Care Orientation Training Participant Manual.

Smith, C J. (2011). Safety First. In Healthy Child Care. Retrieved April, 25, 2011, from

Written by Janet Robison, Early Childhood Specialist

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