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Family Outing Fun

10 Top places you can have a great time with your little one

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Looking for ideas for family fun? A family outing is about having a great time, but they can also be educational. So hit the road and check out some of these top destinations for preschoolers.

1. Aquarium

Want 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 Farm

Spending 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 Park

Woo 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 Walk

Going 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 Plant

One 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.

7. Fire House

A great free activity that never fails to make a preschooler happy is a trip to the local fire house. The bonus? They'll learn some important safety information. Call one near you and find out if they host an open house or if you can drop in for a private visit. Most firefighters are thrilled for the opportunity to discuss fire safety with kids and often punctuate their talk with exciting visuals -- boots, hats, equipment and oh yeah, those big trucks.

8. Farm

Drive down any country road and you'll see the signs -- "You Pick Apples" "You Pick Peaches" "You Pick Corn". Pull the car over next time and see what all the fuss is about. Kids will get a kick out of filing their bushels with homegrown goods (and might even be inspired to eat them) and have a good time climbing the trees. But visiting the farm isn't just about picking the harvest. Often there is more involved -- tractor rides, corn maze and animals to pet and visit with.

9. Library

It's the ultimate in entertainment -- books, music, movies -- all for the taking and all free. Check with your local branch to find out what types of programming they offer. Many host "Mommy and Me"-type programs as well as other fun events -- puppet shows, book clubs, arts and craft classes, sing-a-longs, story times and more. Even if you aren't going with any clear purpose, just walking in the door and reading together can be a great activity. Spend some time browsing the shelves and picking out some books to bring home so the fun can continue.

10. Park

The old standby, the park is still tops when it comes to preschool destinations. Equipped with playgrounds, bike trails, a pool, picnic areas and more, when it comes to having fun outside, a day at the park just can't be beat. Visit your favorite local spot or, for a bit of variety, try driving to the next town over to see what their park offers. Parks are also great for on-the-go playdates -- pack a lunch and throw the bikes in the back of the car and see where they day takes your group.
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