I had never been on one of my child's field trips before yesterday. With my youngest in preschool, the opportunity finally arose, and I was one of the "lucky" parents selected for the end-of-year field trip for the first graders.
While I was able to successfully corral my assigned chickadees from point A to B and back without incident, I learned a bunch during my first school outing, and will be much more prepared on my next adventure. In the span of less than three hours, here are the tidbits of wisdom that I gained that will forever change the way I prepare for chaperone duties on a school field trip.
- Have supplies in your bag, but do not reveal said supplies to the kids, or you'll hear the following for the next three hours: "I need a tissue." "I scratched myself. I need a band-aid." "I touched something gross! Can I use your hand sanitizer?" "I saw gum in your purse. Can we have some?" "I need another tissue!"
- Do not wear sandals or flip flops, not necessarily because of all the walking, but because of all the kids with the toe-stomping sneakers. Ouch.
- Stop your intake of fluids two hours prior to your field trip duties. Once you have your assigned chickadees, there's no way you can leave them to use the facilities—and that bus ride is bumpy, I tell ya!
- Do not carry anything that will prevent you from being hands-free. Field trip parents are hugely popular among the younger crowd, meaning your chickadees will jockey for positions to be next to you, and get to hold your hand. (See, it's not all bad.)
- Have bus games at the ready. Without leading your group in some kind of organized activity, there will be climbing, bouncing, sliding/falling off the seats for the duration of your trip. These car seat restrained cherubs do not know how to handle the freedom of a bus ride, so brush up on your road trip skills: "I Spy", "The Name Game" song, hand clapping games (remember "Miss Mary Mack" or "Say, Say My Playmate"), or if you're hard core, you can bring along string to teach them how to play cat's cradle, or a pack a paper fortune teller. You'll be the cooool-est!
- If you decide to bring a water bottle (a dangerous idea when no bathroom stops are scheduled), think of bringing one that has a squirt bottle top. You may not be able to find a water fountain, but you could give them a squirt of water in an emergency.
- Just forgo the camera. I say this because I still carry around a giant camera and lens that would not have survived the bus ride alone. I also don't think there was a moment to stop and pose for a photo without being hurried along by a teacher (and I hate being corrected by a teacher even years later).
- Pack your patience, and some extra love. Your assigned chickadees will offer all the hugs they have to you, so just accept them gratefully because you know they'd be happily hugging their own parents if they were here.
Field trips are one of the few things that kids will remember about each year of school, so why not do your best to make it an extra special day for them. While, yes, it can be tiring, feel lucky to be able to share this experience with your child, watch them interact with their classmates and teacher, and get a feel for a day in their lives. You can always rehydrate later!