1. AquariumWant to make a splash with your child? Head on over to your local aquarium. There's always plenty to do and see. Where to start? Just looking at the many colorful, visually interesting displays. See how many different types of fish your little one can find. Then catch a show or check out some of the "hands on" exhibits where patrons can actually touch and feel different types of fish and underwater life. Remember that an aquarium isn't just about fish. Many include habitats of other animals including penguins, otters and sea lions. Take advantage of the knowledgeable folks who work there if your child has questions -- they will be happy to help and share their information.
2. Zoo or Game FarmSpending time with animals in an up-close and personal environment is likely an adventure that is right up your preschooler's alley. They'll be fascinated by seeing creatures that they have only previously experienced in books, tv or movies. Try to go when it isn't too hot or cold so you can see some animal action -- the morning is generally better, but call and ask. Even more exciting, plan a trip in the spring when all the new babies are being born.
Some zoos and game farms actually allow you to feed and hold the animals, a special treat. If you decide to participate, prepare your little one ahead of time and make sure to wash his hands very well afterwards.
3. Amusement ParkWoo hoo! Time for some fun at the amusement park! Big or small, theme parks offer non-stop excitement. If you've got a mini thrill-seeker on your hands, be prepared to ride some of the rides with her -- many parks won't let kids under a certain height go on some attractions. There are often special "kiddie" sections with rides and amusements especially designed for the younger set. You might want to bring along a stroller or rent one when you get there. Many amusement parks span quite a bit of acreage and you'll be doing a lot of walking. Also find out what the policy is on bringing in your own food and drink.
4. Museums (Children's or Otherwise)Want your preschooler to experience a tactile adventure that can stimulate their senses? Check out your local museum. No longer bastions of artwork hanging on the wall behind velvet ropes, many museums today encourage their patrons to interact with their exhibits through drawings, building projects and climb-on displays. Many museums are housed with IMAX movie theaters and planetariums for an even larger-than-life happening.
Even if your local museum is not seemingly kid-friendly on the outside, it still might be worth checking out. Every trip to a museum is a learning opportunity and even just strolling around the halls looking at the displays is a nice way to spend an afternoon.
5. Nature WalkGoing outside is a win-win-win situation. Wide open spaces give your little one lots of room to run and explore. An ever-changing environment ensures you'll always see something different. And nature's offerings -- rocks, leaves, plants and animals -- present endless opportunities for learning. No matter where you live, chances are there is a national park, beach, nature preserve or ecology center that you and your preschooler can check out. Bring along a bucket or bag for collecting stones, shells and other cool things -- when you get home you can incorporate them into an arts and crafts project.
(When heading outside, always make sure your child is properly protected with sunscreen and bug spray if needed).
6. Local Factory or Manufacturing PlantOne of my children's favorite television programs is How It's Made, a 30 minute show that simply visits different manufacturing plants and films how different products are created. They love to watch the machines at work, each with a different important task.
If you live near a factory or plant, it might be worth a phone call to see if they offer tours or host visitors. Preschoolers are curious by nature, and a chance to see something being created up close is sure to be a treat.