One way for child care centres to extend the interests and learning experience of the children is by taking them out of the centre on excursions or involving them in incursions – where visiting specialists come to the centre to spend time sharing their knowledge with the children.
These types of experiences can build upon the learning which is already taking place at the centre or stimulate the children’s in a new area of investigation. In my experience, the best type of child care excursion for young children is that which emphasises hands on, real life experiences; providing children with the opportunity to expand their knowledge and sense of community through trips within the local neighbourhood of the centre. For example, children transitioning to school in the near future spending time at a local school or children interested in cooking visiting a local bakery. These are far more appropriate to the interest and energy levels of a group of very young children than a big day out at the zoo or aquarium, there is after all, plenty of time for ‘big’ excursions once they are at school.
Excursions should be carefully and thoroughly planned to ensure the supervision (of children on the excursion and those remaining at the centre) and safety of the children is paramount and that all relevant state regulations are maintained at all times. Planning should consider transportation, facilities at the venue, food and drink requirements, timing, costs, ratios of adults to children, and practicalities such as preparations for toileting/nappy changing, spare clothing, a first aid kit and a mobile phone. Families should be fully informed of all arrangements, providing consent for their child to be involved, and their assistance and involvement sought wherever necessary.
The value of incursions should also not be overlooked. By planning events where external individuals or groups are invited to visit the Centre to deliver an agreed program of activities, many of the difficult logistics of taking a group of young children out are avoided. Incursions also most often allow the experience to be more personally tailored to the needs of the group. Examples of incursions include a dramatic performance by a theatre group, a dance teacher sharing his/her knowledge of a type of dance with the children or a parent or community member as ‘expert’ sharing a skill with the children.
Whether choosing an excursion or an incursion, the experience should reflect what matters in the lives of the children involved; using the children’s interests and current investigations to make links between what the children know and the new learning it introduces.
The ABC of Child Care series of posts aims to illustrate for parents what quality child care looks like in practice as both a tool for parents looking for child care for the first time and as a resource for all parents with children in care. As someone who ran a high quality centre for many years, I believe we all share a responsibility to ask questions and expect results when it comes to the environment and people caring for and educating our youngest and most impressionable citizens.
Find the other posts in the ABC of Child Care series here.