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Family Field Trips

Exploring the Museum -When it comes to museums, often "less is more." Whether you're visiting an art museum or a science center, focusing on a few key exhibits will help you and your child avoid "museum fatigue," and give you a good reason to come back another day. While you're there, enjoy observing and discussing what you see. Think about who created the art and what might have motivated the artist. Notice the subject matter --whether it's people, animals, flowers or scenery, and share how the art work makes each of you feel. Why would or wouldn't you want to meet the person in the picture? What would it be like to walk along that beach? Or eat the fruit on the table? How has the artist gone about expressing something that goes beyond words? Why do people say that a picture can be worth a thousand of them? Many museums have free- admission days and children's programs, so find out when they are and try to get to the museum for brief visits rather than exhausting marathons.

Goin' to the Zoo
- This childhood ritual provides a great chance for families to share and appreciate the amazing diversity that exists in nature. Within all the differences, there are patterns. Animals of all shapes and sizes need to eat, sleep and poop -- a revelation young children find endlessly fascinating. Feeding time leaves a special impression.Kids like watching the different ways animals move (the giraffe bending to eat; the tiger pacing; the bear lumbering, climbing --maybe even swimming). Watching parent animals care for their babies provides insight into the natural world. So does seeing animals groom each other, play together, and squabble for resources. Don't be surprised if after a zoo visit your three-year-old only talks about the sparrow splashing in the water fountain.Chances are she's still processing all the sights, sounds and smells that make a visit to the zoo such an enriching, if at times overwhelming, experience.

A Walk Around Your Neighborhood - Take a walk around your neighborhood and in a relaxed, conversational way exchange observations with your child about what you each notice. If you do this on a regular basis, each walk can have a different focus -- notice the features of houses, or the types of trees and plants. Point out the numbers on the doors and mailboxes; the colors of the buildings; the shapes of the windows. While there's clearly a learning component to this activity, please don't make it into a pressured "lesson." This is a great activity for kids of any age, and can include your reminiscences about the neighborhood you grew up in, and provide a chance for you to listen to your child talk about a variety of feelings and thoughts. It's often easiest to converse while walking.

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