Family Matters: Venturing out into the wider world

New life experiences: The world outside the service can offer additional learning opportunities.
New life experiences: The world outside the service can offer additional learning opportunities.

Many early childhood services find it difficult, if not impossible, to take children on excursions.

This is because of the multiplicity of rules and regulations around what they can do and how they are meant to manage risk.

This is unfortunate as it is really difficult to imagine how we can help children learn to be part of our community and our society by locking them inside a service and excluding them from participating in the community around them.

There are many different ways that groups of children in a service can become part of the community.

Some services have parental permission to take children on spontaneous outings – on a sunny autumn day the children may enjoy going down to the local park to roll in the leaves.

Think about the learning opportunities this provides – a chance to talk about the seasons, and how the leaves falling from the trees now will be replaced in the spring with new growth, to explore all the different autumn colours and different shades of red, orange, yellow and brown, to feel the difference in fresh leaves and leaves that have gone brittle, and perhaps to explore why some trees lose their leaves and others don’t.

... but children remain valued members of our community and we need to make sure they are present, visible and learning...

Then there is the sheer joy found in scrunching through the leaves, in rolling in them, building with them and creating all kinds of different art work.

Spontaneous outings might arise when groups decide to make something special for morning tea or lunch. A walk across to the shops, exploring the shelves (perhaps where each child is given a picture of an ingredient to locate) then going through the process of paying for the item all offer important learning opportunities.

Then a return to the centre where the special food is mixed up, cooked and shared offers more learning (science in terms of how ingredients mix, change when cooked; maths in terms of measuring out different ingredients then the complicated fractions helping decide how much each child gets in order for the food to be shared equally).

Services also organise one-off outings to various facilities where learning opportunities are provided for children that add to the learning offered in the service.

These outings might involve children taking public transport together (a really valuable opportunity to learn about how buses work for example). Regulations require that parents are notified of these kinds of outings two weeks in advance so appropriate arrangements can be made in terms of cost, provision of travel safety equipment, and that appropriate resources (clothing, water bottles etc) can be sourced. 

Early childhood services work hard to create great learning environments inside their services but the world outside the service can offer additional learning opportunities that help children develop as well-rounded members of our community.

In many societies, children learn about the world by participating in it alongside adults.

In our world, parents work in contexts where children can not accompany them, but children remain valued members of our community and we need to make sure they are present, visible and learning about our world by being valued members of it.

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