"Look! A Bus!" When my twins were toddlers it seemed like everywhere we went they found buses, trucks and trains to watch. These big machines are endlessly fascinating to most toddlers.
As parents and toddler teachers, we fill our play spaces with trucks and cars and encourage our toddlers to vroom them across the floor. We read great picture books, label vehicles we see, and sing "Wheels on the Bus" more times than we can count. But do these experiences teach our toddlers about these vehicles they find so fascinating?
They do, but the real deal is much more meaningful.
Going on an actual bus field trip allows them to see how massive these vehicles are up close. A field trip shows them the process of riding the bus. A field trip answers some of their questions and gives them new ones to ponder with their toy trucks back at home or school.
I have done this type of field trip a couple of times. I did it will a class of 3-5 year olds in Minnesota and also twice with my own twins when they were 20 months old and again when they were 2. Below are my top tips from what I learned from these experiences, along with the many things they learned from these fun and easy busy field trips.
Bus schedules and maps are online - just search online for your city's transit system.
Consider how long your child can sit when planning the length of your trip. We were on the bus for about 30m both ways.
An over-crowded bus will distract from the adventure and potentially overwhelm your toddlers.
Talk to your toddler about expectations before you get on the bus - for example, you must sit while the bus is moving. Walk through the whole experience so they know what to expect.
Have your bus fare ready to go before you get on the bus. Your toddler or preschooler is probably free (another thing to double check online beforehand!) but you will need to pay the fare. Have that handy so you don't have to dig around for it when the bus arrives and your toddler is super excited.
Plan a few waiting games. We had to wait for a while to get back on the bus and this was the hardest part of our trip. We survived with singing songs and playing ISpy.
If possible, plan your adventure for a day with pleasant weather. If it ends up less desirable, make sure you are dressed appropriately for waiting outside.
Are field trips with toddlers actually meaningful? Aren't they too young to remember anything?
I get asked this all the time and I understand. Your toddler is probably not going to remember this bus field trip when they're 10 or 50. They will remember it next week. They might remember it 6 months from now.
The point is that it is meaningful right now.
It answers their questions. It deepens their understanding. It gives them more things and experiences to think about and build on. It affirms that their interests are valuable.
At the end of the day the things we take for granted as common knowledge are often brand new information to young kids. Real life and hands on experiences offer a wealth of knowledge that is learned more quickly and integrated in their minds with deeper purpose than reading that same knowledge in a book or having it just explained to them.
1. That people get on and off a lot! My kids were fascinated by all the different people they saw.
2. That you have to pull the cord to tell the bus driver you want to get off. (Self Help)
3. Where your money or bus pass goes and that you have to pay money to get on a bus. (Math)
4. That buses have to stop at red lights, just like cars. (Cognitive)
5. That the bus does actually bump (like in Wheels on the Bus). (Sensory)
6. You have to look for the right bus number or letter by reading the sign at the bus stop and on the front of the bus (Literacy)
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