When my kids were younger, I was not the type to be cooped up inside, especially during the holiday season when there was so much going on. But, even though I loved getting out and enjoying the holiday sights, my oldest on the Autism Spectrum was a bit of a scrooge about it all.
Instead of allowing my son’s bah-humbug holiday attitude to keep us all home, I decided to create sensory-friendly field trips that would limit crowds, lights, and noise. So, if you are looking for ways to get everyone out the house this holiday season, here are my top 10 holiday homeschool field trip suggestions.
#1 – Historic Sites
Visiting a historic home, fort, or site is a great holiday outing, especially on a weekday. Many of these sites go all out with decorating for the holidays, and although they are very busy on weekends, they still maintain hours during the less busy weekdays. To find the historical society in your area, and the local sites they maintain, you can search the Preservation Directory by state and region.
#2 – Hiking and Geocaching
Geocaching is an awesome family activity, and one that can not only become a new holiday tradition, but a fun family pastime. Hiking alone makes for a wonderful field trip, but when you turn the hike into a treasure hunt, it becomes an over-the-top adventure.
Caches on or near hiking trails are very common, so plan a holiday hike near a cache or plan to hide a new one on the trail. The largest website devoted to this pastime is Geocaching.com. On this site you will find everything you need to know about finding and hiding caches.
#3 – Christmas Tree Farm
Cutting your own Christmas tree is a lot of fun, and a very festive activity. And although tree farms can be rather busy during the holiday season, they do maintain less busy hours amidst the holiday tree-buying frenzy. The key is finding less busy times, and it usually just takes a quick phone call. Most of these farms are family-owned and more than happy to help you make your visit enjoyable and accommodating to your family’s needs.
#4 – Ceramic Shop
During the holiday season, local ceramic shops are usually equipped for kids’ groups to come and paint ornaments, nativity sets, and even items kids can personalize to give as gifts. A quick search on Google will give you a list of your local ceramic shops and their hours of operation.
#5 – Library
Your local library is likely to have at least a few holiday events; some of them during daytime hours or as ongoing holiday season activities. Check with your librarian, or on your local library website, to find out if your library is offering any sensory-friendly or quieter daytime activities your family could participate in.
#6 – Parks and Painted Rocks
Painting rocks and leaving them for others to find is a trend cropping up all over the United States. No matter how artistic you are, or how capable your kids are at painting in general, this activity can easily become a new family holiday tradition. To find out more about how to paint and leave rocks for others to find, you can visit the Kindness Rock Project website.
kindness rock project
#7 – Winter Sports
If you have an active family and live up north, winter sporting options abound. For those who like going fast, skiing and snowboarding are great options. Most ski resorts offer homeschool days when you can rent equipment and get lift tickets at a reduced rate during the less busy weekdays. Plus, many ski resorts also have equipment to accommodate children and adults with disabilities.
If you like to go at a slower place, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing may be better options. Local park and recreation departments often have trails and rentable equipment for both of these winter sports. Local parks are also a great place to go sledding, and their sledding hills are guaranteed to be empty almost days when public school is in session. And, whether you live up north or not, there is still one winter sport almost anyone can enjoy during the holidays: ice skating. Temporary ice skating rinks in the north can be found outside most of the winter, and during the holiday season many southern cities also set up temporary ice rinks indoors, fully stocked with rentable skates.
#8 – Holiday Daytime Performances
School groups as well as homeschool families can access daytime holiday performances. Most children’s theaters, ballet companies, and orchestras offer discounted tickets for these performances which are geared to the younger audience. If your child has specific needs for accessibility during the performance, make sure to call the theater directly to book your tickets so they can arrange for seats that meet those needs. Bringing earmuffs to muffle noises can also help children who are easily distracted or who may be anxious about loud noises during the performance.
#9 – Nursing Home Visit
Local nursing homes love to have kids visit. Plus, what kid doesn’t like having a few extra grandparents? If your family has never considered visiting your local nursing home, the holiday season is a perfect time to start because there are always so many activities planned throughout December.
Most nursing homes have a volunteer coordinator you can call to find out how your family can get involved. By letting the coordinator know the specific needs of your kids, they will be able to determine which activities would be the best suit your family’s involvement.
#10 – Tourist Attractions
Many tourist attractions decorate, or have special exhibits, for the holidays. And, while these places may be busy on evenings and weekends, they also have lower peak times you can take advantage of with your homeschooling schedule. Museums, zoos, gardens, aquariums, and tours (caves, factories, etc.) are great places to check out. Call ahead to find out when the attraction expects visits to be lower in volume, when there will be less groups visiting, and if any of the special exhibits have hours that differ from the general admission times.
General Homeschool Field Trip Advice
You might be a pro at homeschool field trips, but if not, this video will help you think through the most important things you will need to consider when taking your special needs child on a field trip.