Please Don’t Take The Babies (Respecting Infant/Toddler Readiness)

Dear Janet,

I’m not a parent so my question has a different angle, but I was still hoping for your opinion and advice.

I work in a childcare centre where I am the primary caregiver of 5 infants and toddlers varying between the ages of 3 months and 2 years.

Our centre plans a trip once a year where all the children on our roll go on an excursion that fits with the current interests of the children (somewhat!). This year, our management has organized a trip to an underwater world called Kelley Tarltons. We will travel by bus and our journey will be approximately 45-60 minutes long, depending on traffic. The plan is then that we will be at the venue for 2 hours before eating lunch there and returning home.

I feel that this is far too stressful and over-stimulating for the children in my group and have discussed this with management. Two of the five children in my group have more than one sleep per day, and the rest of them usually go to sleep at around 11am. We would not return from our trip until 1.30-2pm!

It seems as though I am the only staff member on the team who thinks it is unnecessary for the children under the age of two to attend these big field trips. Whenever I bring it up, everyone says it’s only one day and tells me I’m being over the top about the infants’ and toddlers’ routines. They argue that children do this sort of thing all the time with their parents and families, and that they will be missing out if they do not attend.

Am I being over the top? What is your opinion on big outings for small children? I know it’s only one day, but if I could avoid one day of stress and unpleasantness in my life, I know I would!!

Thanks in advance, I hope this made sense,

Kind Regards

Dear Helen,

This makes no sense at all.  Helen, your instincts are absolutely spot on, and I’m stunned. If we were on the same continent you could see my jaw dropping. Infants and young toddlers taking a 5-hour group excursion for their own pleasure? So they won’t feel left out? What are these people thinking?

This, to me, is an example of 1) childcare managers and professional caregivers that don’t understand child development (evident beyond all doubt by their disregard for the perspective of the primary caregiver, the person who knows the children in her care best);  and 2) the tendency all of us have to project our adult point of view onto our infants and toddlers. It sounds fun and stimulating to us, so it must be a good idea. It’s easy to make this misjudgment with pre-verbal children.

Do these choices harm babies? Probably not — even if they create stress, discomfort and exhaustion. But what these developmentally inappropriate activities are almost certain to do is waste a child’s time, time the child could be spending engaging in self-initiated learning adventures, creating and imagining, feeling content, secure and confident in familiar surroundings, socializing, free to move and explore, empowered by knowing the routine.

When my children were infants and toddlers, I had the sense that they shrunk every time I took them on an outing. They seemed so big and capable at home, kings and queens of their domain, but once they went out into the larger world they became small, more passive and a little more helpless — as if their powers had suddenly been stripped away.

Over-stimulation, unpredictability and the constant transitions that our infants and toddlers face on outings (going in and out of the car, the store, the restaurant, the bathroom, etc.), not to mention being restrained in seats for extended periods of time, are all fine in measured doses, but these are not the kinds of environments in which babies thrive and learn best.

Now, if we want to go somewhere or participate in an activity and need to include our infants and toddlers, that’s one thing… But what I’ve noticed over the years in myself and others is that we often forget to ask ourselves these questions: 1) “Who is this for?”; 2) “Are they really ready to actively participate in this experience, or would it be better to wait until they are a bit older?”; and 3) “Will this be more enriching than an afternoon dawdling in the backyard or a walk down the street?”  (Hindsight being 20/20, I often realized I’d miscalculated #3 after the fact.)

Helen, I truly hope you can convince your staff that a glimpse of some lovely sea creatures is not worth the ordeal this field trip will be for you and the children. Even a two year old will enjoy the experience far more a year from now.

But either way, I am so glad these babies are in your care.

Warmly,                                                                                                                                                                                                 Janet

In response (and I had included in my note to her a request to post our exchange), Helen wrote:

Hi Janet

Thanks so much for your speedy reply! You have certainly helped to ease my mind – I was starting to doubt my feelings!! 

We are having a staff meeting next Monday and the trip will be on Friday so I’m really hoping I can make some changes for the sake of my little friends! 

I’d be more than happy for you to re post my email on your blog. You needn’t change any of the information as I can 100% say that nobody from work will be reading it! And if they did, I wouldn’t be worried! 

Thanks so much,                                                                                                                                                                                Helen


(Photo “Stop! I Want To Get Off!” is by comedy_nose on Flickr.)


Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. Wow, I’m shocked that the parents would be okay with such a field trip considering the young ages of the children. Kudos to Helen for realizing this is off-base.

    1. Yes, exactly! And the argument Helen is hearing is interesting, “They argue that children do this sort of thing all the time with their parents and families, and that they will be missing out if they do not attend.” I almost get the feeling that the management believes the parents want this, that it will be impressive to them. It’s like the mostly-teacher-made crafts that some preschools send children home with every day. These products might impress parents, but have little or nothing to do with what’s good for the children.

      1. I hope the parents don’t feel pressured to send their little ones on this big excursion. I wouldn’t be comfortable with my 18 month old going on a bus without me, let alone the rest of it but if I didn’t have any alternative care arrangements then I may feel that there is no choice but to give my permission.

      2. First, Kudos to Helen! Second, this is more common than you can imagine and I have been in the same situation myself in a few different settings. The struggle that goes on with both parents and other staff when you try to interject some common sense is sometimes very discouraging. I hope, in my lifetime, we will get close to a consensus on respect for children and developmentally appropriate practices, but I’ve been at this for 25 years and still see a wide river to cross. All I can do is my part, and continue to share what I’ve learned with others, as you do.

        1. People seem to have less common sense these days, and get caught up in making sure their kids get to do whatever someone else’s kid gets to do, regardless on whether it’s appropriate or safe for them. I am a children’s librarian, and I had a mom throw an absolute fit, complain to everyone who would listen, and trash me personally on social media, all because I wouldn’t let her toddler/preschooler participate in a science activity for older kids due to valid safety concerns (the age range for the program was clearly indicated, and I had already discussed this with her prior to the program). Nevermind that the child was blissfully unaware and perfectly happy playing with measuring spoons/cups and some water. It was not about the child at all; it was all about the mom wanting her “fair share” and getting her way.

      3. Some working parents feel tremendous guilt about what they think their child is missing out on when they are in care. They see facebook posts of their stay at home mum friends taking their child to the zoo etc and worry that their child is having a less rich childhood than their own. Such trips probably appeal to parental guilt. 🙁 Sadly they then fed the guilt and so that cycle continues 🙁

      4. A key difference that should be pointed out to management is that when parents take their children to such a place, they go home when their child has had enough.
        When you are away with a big group, these signs from the child are often overlooked. I suspect your staff are more focused on the change to the day they get personally from going on the trip.

      5. Anthony Wengler says:

        I believe taking a kid out of their “comfort zone” every once in a while is good for them. Teaches them to adapt and embrace new environments. This isn’t coming from your every day run of the mill dad, I’m very active in my kids life and how they are raised. I guess I don’t believe in the sheltered lifestyle for kids. I want my kids to be able to explore new things and to break out of that comfort bubble. However, if I truly believe that one or 2 of them won’t get enjoyment out of it, then I’ll figure something else out for them. But if it’s just because it’s inconvenient for me with naps and such, well then I just need to suck it up. Much love!

  2. I agree! This is crazy! Thank goodness these children have a teacher who is thinking of their needs and is willing to go out on a limb to express how ridiculous this really is!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Hi, I just wrote a long reply to this which disappeared as I missed the “CAPTCA Code”. But just to say that I work in an Early Childhoold Centre in the same country as Helen (I recognised the trip venue) and we only take our older children on trips like these- the oldest 20 or so, so usually all the 4 year olds and some 3 and a half year olds. Even the 3 and a half year olds find it quite demanding but they are generally aware enough that they still prefer to be included.

    Our theory is that we are still including everyone by doing it this way as all the children will eventually get a turn when their time comes. In the meantime ones who stay behind enjoy a quiet peaceful morning without the “big kids”! So no one misses out in the long run.

    Any parent who really thinks their baby or toddler would enjoy a trip to the aquarium is free to take them in their own time where they can better plan the day according to that child’s own routine.

    We also try to take a less conventional approach to choosing our trip destinations and try to choose places where children get to touch, be physically active and engaged. We did go to our local aquarium once but it wasn’t that popular with teachers or children- not much touching and the rock pool they could touch had lots of rules about how to do it. Our children prefer “Clip N Climb”- climbing walls managable for all ages including preschoolers. Ten pin bowling was fun too.

    All the best Helen, Elizabeth.

    1. Hi Elizabeth! I’m so sorry you lost the long reply, but this is really helpful. Thank you for explaining how excursions like these can work well!

    2. I was able to enjoy many years encouraging the 2 year old (approx) age group in my work and we would come across this feeling from parents; that indeed big trips were something they were impressed by and a lot of them did feel like these opportunities were something to be desired so the children did not miss out.
      We were able as a centre to minimize these feelings for parents by planning small, wonderful to children expeditions brief in nature of the kind as posting pictures to parents from the post box 3 mins down the road (baffled parents to be sure but thrilled our adventurous toddlers) and made sure that when we passed the ‘big side’ our older friends would wave and excitedly wait for our return. And also our huge’ adventure when the town got it’s first set of traffic lights just down the road and we went to cross with small groups to allow everyone to press a button with good-humored parent helps observing the much anticipated christening of the lights These remain some wonderful memories for me as a teacher. We also loved to use the time the older children were away to visit the bigger area, using their resources and having morning tea/Kai at their tables. Also tended to be helpful for children who were going to be transitioning to the older room. I don’t pretend that we had all the answers (because we certainly didn’t!) I will just say I was lucky to have the support of some of the other key teachers that believed in this type of toddler-led expedition and we always reflected on the adventure after to help guide our next big trip to inspire learning rather than stress.

  4. Janet, This post is so extremely valuable! It contributes to the much need understanding of all that is best for our young developing children. (As all of your posts do!)

    Kudos Helen for sticking up for what is best for the children you obviously care about. It is clear you are an attuned caregiver! The children are fortunate to have you!

    1. Thank you, Deborah. The insights you share with parents and early childhood educators about the developing brain are invaluable to me, and they always corroborate Magda Gerber’s child care approach.

  5. Helen,
    I agree with your frustration. The functional words are:
    “..children do this sort of thing all the time with their parents and families,.. ”

    What our school has done to avoid such compromises for the child is to have family field trip days. We design a focus trip and announce it well enough in advance so parents have ample time to schedule the day with their young child. Teachers are there, parents are there for as long as they choose, and children are more comfortable. It is a great bonding day for parents and teachers, as well.

    Perhaps that can be a seed you plant for future trips with such small children.

    At any rate….I support your position and can not imagine carting children that young on a field trip without the parents.

    1. Aunt Betty says:

      Brenda, What a great idea!

  6. WOW! Thanks so much everyone for your awesome responses, I’m blown away!

    The thing that really seems crazy to me, is that out of all the parents of my babies whom I have spoken to about this only two would rather their babies didn’t go on the trip. I think it has this level of ‘impressiveness’ that their baby would attend such an ‘educational’ field trip and Janet you are spot on about adults projecting their point of view onto the children.

    Oh my word…why can’t we just let the babies be babies?!

    I’ll get there one day! I’ve been feeling really downtrodden about the whole scenario and got to thinking “whats the point” as I observed one of my 10month old boys being manhandled without a word uttered in his direction. I began thinking that surely I wasn’t making any difference.

    Then later in the afternoon, I went to him, knelt beside him with open arms and said “Could I pick you up my friend?”. To which he responded by rolling onto his back, lifting his arms to me and giving me the most beautiful grin!

    Yes! It certainly is worth it!

    I thought I would also add, that I have been to the FB group and seen the wonderfully encouraging words there too. You are all so fantastic!

    1. Thank you for advocating for the little ones! Just this holiday vacation, we were visiting my parents and we briefly entertained the idea of driving to the coast so our toddler (13 months then) could see the aquarium. She loves watching fish and other animals, so it seemed perfect…

      But then we realized that it would also entail two hours stuck in a car seat for her (which she dislikes), and we’d pretty much have to head for home after about 15 minutes if she was to have a successful nap (she won’t sleep in her seat). So, basically, for 15 minutes of fish-watching, she’d be enduring two hours of confinement and increasing exhaustion.

      Put that way, it was a no-brainer to just stay home, and do quiet things like taking a walk to get the mail, which she loved.

    2. Thank you for being and advocate and a nurturer our babies will love long term. You are making up for the lack of this by their parents. My children go to an RIE school and some parents “buy” into it others do not but that does not stop our teachers from treating our children with the respect they deserve. Just getting dressed to go outside for a two year old is an adventure. They don’t need all that stimulation in their world. Keep up the good fight.

  7. Hi Janet,

    Associated with a childcare centre from the same country where Helen comes from , I totally understand her worries and respect them.
    Children in most centres here spend more time at the centre than the teachers do themselves. In fact most of their childhood is spent within the walls of their preschool. Their connectio with the outer world is very limited. I beleive that most centres organise trips in order to help make these connections, but who are these connections for? My ideal way to make connections with the outer world is to invite parents or extended families to share a morning or afternoon with us sometime, take our babies out for a walk to the local park where it is safe , and where the children can make connections with nature. This I beleive is meaningful towards a child’s learning as well as less stressful for the child . Not only is the fresh air good for the children but it also helps them with experiencing the natural world that our country is blessed with. Good on you Helen, I would be protesting too, if my centre took our babies to kelly Tarlton, especially when it involves children as young as three months.

  8. First this is a great question and great answer and good comments to!! I personally would NEVER let a daycare take my baby anywhere!! I am wondering how the parents feel about there children getting on a bus and going an hour away from there facility… At least one of the CAREgivers actually CARES about her little ones 🙂

  9. Wonderful discussion and I agree completely that this is an inappropriate choice of activity for this age group within a care setting.

    I just wanted to add that I also think it’s a completely unreasonable expectation of the carer to cope with children that young outside of the centre. It’s hard enough coping with hygenic and appropriate feeding and nappy (diaper) changes within the walls of the centre without trying to meet the same standards with other people’s children in a public place, not to mention the physical difficulty of transporting those children around; are they giving you a one-to-one carer ratio, Helen? I would be absolutely cracking it at that meeting for both the children’s and the carer’s sakes.

  10. While I don’t totally disagree with the philosophy of your argument, Janet I can’t help but question it when considering the realities of making a family function. That includes excursions, time away from home and time spent looking around the great big world in order to break down the walls that make children feel small.

    For our family, with one infant, outings are common place. It’s a matter of fitting them into our routine and maybe a little extra time preparing for what we may experience while we are all together.

    Maybe I don’t understand your point thoroughly but I don’t think it’s a bad thing as a parent to want these experiences for myself. Obviously an infant isn’t choosing the venue but we keep our trips – to street festivals – to a friend’s house two towns over – to a group date at the zoo – family friendly. We all share smiles and laughs and stress but we are together and part of a community.

    It sounds to me like it’s the stress of dealing with the group that’s got your writer questioning the appropriateness of the outing and not it’s effects on the children as individuals (of their own community), per se.

    What if she asked the managers to schedule at a more appropriate time? What if a seperate bus helped her get them back sooner? What if they took a quiet time somewhere to simply roll around a grassy knoll? I see so many options here that would help them experience their universe other than play time in the backyard. Exposure is so critical for learning – even for the very young…

    Just my humble opinion.

    1. Mara, thank you for sharing your opinion. I tried to make it clear that I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with wanting to get out of house (or needing to take the baby out with an older sibling, etc.). But from a very young child’s point of view, these outings are usually overstimulating and overwhelming. What we might perceive as enriching, but a little stressful, can be hugely stressful to a small child, who thrives with some semblance of control over his or her environment…and learns much more during a predictable, “boring” day. Mindful parents try to understand their young child’s perspective and know better than to gauge these things by the way we see them. Sometimes we might opt to participate because we want to get of the house and join friends, etc., but not because we believe this is in the best interest of our child. It usually isn’t.

    2. Mara, I could not respond more eloquently than you have, and wanted to thank you.

      Janet, I find myself jiving with so much of what you share here, but like Mara, I just wasn’t on the same page with you in this instance. I see my outings with my daughter as an opportunity to share with her. She spends a great deal of her day engaged in open-ended play on the floor. We sing and read together, and we have quiet time where we’re both simply in the same room, allowing each other to have our own space. I am often reminding my husband that what we might find boring is brand new and quite intriguing for her. I’m loathe to disrupt her routines.

      That said, I don’t believe I’m not doing what’s in her best interest by wearing her in a carrier at the grocery store, or having coffee with a friend. I watch her as she explores these new environments with her eyes, as she turns to listen, and I try to recognize when she’s had enough and allow her to rest in my arms, or, if she’s really quite had it, we go home. I suppose I’m just not sold that she’d be better off if we spent each day at home.

      1. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought Janet made it clear that it’s just fine to need to take your child to the grocery store, etc. I read the article as it’s fine to take your baby or toddler places if they’re places you want or need to go. But if you don’t like aquariums and wouldn’t go there yourself, don’t make a trip there because you think it would be good for your toddler.

      2. Aunt Betty says:

        Jillian, as long as you are paying attention to your baby’s cues outings are fine and are enriching. By keeping them short you can still meet her schedule and needs.

        For example I would take my niece and nephews to the store, local park or just for a ride on the subway. Anything that we could do in an hour they loved it. Walk in your neighborhood and watch people at work and observe the activity. And while your observing narrate what is happening.

      3. There is a huge difference in taking your infant child and possibly older children as well out on excursions and taking a group of infants and toddlers out on a field trip especially along with a group of preschoolers. Yes infants and toddlers need to go out, explore, and do age appropriate activities within reason. With one or a few children of various ages you can easily tailor the activity, adjust, or go home early should your child become overwhelmed. If you have a group of infants and toddlers who came on the field trip all together with the older children you do not have that option. Also think about the amount of stuff you need to bring along just to make sure one infants needs are met, now think about that multiplied! I have worked in a child care center with infants and toddlers as well as Nannying. At the schools I worked at the younger children did not go on field trips. Occasionally we would strap them all in the 6 child capacity strollers and walk them around the parking lot. Let me tell you that was stressful enough! Trying to make sure no one was in immediate need of a diaper change, feeding, or nap with a group of children all on individual schedules was challenging. I cared for a family with twin infants and a 3 year old. We went out all the time, mostly for the older child, but the babies rolled with it. Whenever they weren’t we were able to easily pack up and go home. Helen would not have that option. To say that the infants and toddlers would be missing out is ridiculous! Maybe the toddlers would realize the older children were getting to go somewhere without them, but they can be easily distracted with another fun and age appropriate activity.

  11. I opened Facebook to read this post JUST as we’d decided not to take our 2-year-old to the block party outside our house. All the activity started at 5:30pm, which would have meant a very long transition back to normal energy and late bedtime.

    We more often than not skip events where our son’s nap schedule will be impacted because he’s the one who pays the price for the over-stimulation.

    And it seems odd to me, but we’re just about the only people who do that. Everyone else has their kids on the go, non-stop, on the weekends when I think what they really need is to sit on the back porch and watch the birds fly from one tree to the next. At least that’s what our guy prefers.

    1. Jana, I appreciate your sensitivity so much. And I can certainly relate to: “it seems odd to me, but we’re just about the only people who do that. Everyone else has their kids on the go, non-stop, on the weekends when I think what they really need is to sit on the back porch and watch the birds fly from one tree to the next.”

      As the parent of two teenagers and a ten year old who are focused, attentive and confident learners, I can assure you that you won’t regret this care you are taking to temporarily avoid activities that aren’t age appropriate.

    2. Yes. I’ve grown dismayed by the number of “child-oriented” and “family” events that seem to be scheduled only for the adults – such as toddler storytime during the hours when most toddlers are napping, or events that take place at or after most little ones’ bedtimes.

      I supposed we’re so used as adults to ignoring our own need for regular sleep, that our children’s needs isn’t something that automatically comes to mind when planning these things.

      Whatever it is, it is frustrating!

      1. yes! I get so annoyed with the timing they have for babies and small children. 9-10? even 10-10:30? That’s when my son is napping. 1-3PM. Story time at 6:30 or 7PM? Again, that’s when he is napping or asleep at night….I’ve had parents tell me, oh just skip a nap! No way. It’s not worth him being tired and cranky and not feeling like himself. Of course I want him to be involved but I remind myself, it will be better when he is older and able to stay awake longer and this season of babyhood is short!

  12. ” They seemed so big and capable at home, kings and queens of their domain, but once they went out into the larger world they became small, more passive and a little more helpless — as if their powers had suddenly been stripped away. ” It’s incredible Janet, every time I have a question, or have taken some sort of action with my 5 1/2 month old boy and am doubting myself, your posts are spot on! I’m new in the city that I live in and have no friends, so I decided to join a playgroup. The ladies were all nice but it was an hour train ride… one way! Also, the children are at least half a year older and it was incredibly noisy. Mael was as you said “passive” and people kept picking him up, and handing him toys… well, maybe it was also overwhelming for me. So I decided to join a monthly playgroup instead, that way I’ll feel a less guilty because it’s totally more for me than him.

    1. Hi Nadia! I hope you’ll keep trusting your instincts. But I’ll also say that I don’t think you should feel guilty about doing things for you. I guess it’s about weighing the enjoyment for both of you vs. the hassle, but don’t let guilt cloud your view. After all, parenting can be tedious and lonesome…and a bored, lonesome mom isn’t nearly as good as a content one.

  13. Loved your response to this. Like many of the commenters, I can’t imagine allowing my child to go on this trip!

    ” They seemed so big and capable at home….” Love this quote and it really stands true for me.

    Because we live in a small (often noisy) condo with no yard, in a climate where our local park is not feasible year round, I’ve struggled with needing to get out but also realizing that Betsy was not herself on our outings.

    About 6 months ago I found our solution. We became members at our local nature museum. We visit frequently and I’ve watched her become big and capable in that environment. My daughter walks in like she owns the place and directs us to the exhibits she’s most interested in that day. Or, we sit on the bench and watch people, visit with one another in the cafe, etc. Whatever she’s into!

    Although this doesn’t necesarily pertain to a school setting like this particular post, it might be helpful for parents who have a genuine need to get out of the house, but also struggle with seeing the change in their child in novel settings.

    1. Thank you, Katie, for your nailing this with your perfect illustration: “My daughter walks in like she owns the place and directs us to the exhibits she’s most interested in that day. Or, we sit on the bench and watch people, visit with one another in the cafe, etc. Whatever she’s into!”.

      Infants and toddlers learn much more from familiar situations than they do from novel ones, because their interest in active learning begins when they already understand a little…and that make them want to understand more.

      1. Aunt Betty says:

        Where’s the “LIKE” button?

    2. Aunt Betty says:

      Exactly Katie.

      Short outings to places that become familiar really do provide a great learning opportunity. Continue to follow your child’s lead. Good for you.

  14. Ronda Coe says:

    Oh my goodness! That is silly. No way would I even think to have our Infants and toddlers go on a trip such as this or any trip for that matter. I am a Director of a Child Development Center and I would back you up on your decission in a heart beat! What are they going to obtain or learn from this except for a stressfull day. Follow your heart because apparently you are on the right track for these precious little people in your care.

  15. Evie Hirschmann says:

    There are so many things wrong with this from several view points. However, I believe that safety is the #1 concern. It feels to me like the Administrative Staff members are not thinking clearly. Are there any parents who don’t agree with the excursion? Would they be willing to speak up? I find that parent concerns usually far outweigh the staff’s concerns.

  16. Alana Thomlinson says:

    I’m guessing since you are heading to Kelly Tarltons that you are in Auckland NZ. I also work with infants and toddlers in Albany, and when the older children are planning a big trip which I feel my littlies won’t benefit from or is too much for their routines, I point out that they (the older toddlers) would enjoy being able to enjoy/explore the ‘big’ playground without all the preschoolers there.
    I find being able to give an acceptable alternative quashes the discussion that they are missing out as I am giving them a more appropriate experience within an environment which is new while still being familiar and able to work around their own needs and routines.
    Good luck for your staff meeting. 🙂

  17. I am also a teacher of infants and toddlers in nz, our centre that has children from 3 months to three years have just arranged a outing. It is a seven minute bus trip away and we will only be away from the centre for 2hrs , the youngest children will be staying behind as I/we feel that the infants and even some of the younger toddlers are not going to benefit from this outing away from the centre.

    So these infants at Helens centre are going to be sitting on someone’s knee for the bus ride and then carried or pushed around all day their sleep time and bottle/meal times will be change they will be having nappy changes done in a strange / new place joust so that they can ‘look’ at so e fish etc….. I am sure they would benefit from staying behind at the centre and enjoying the quiet, spending sometime outside in the fresh air…..

    1. Too young to join in the excursion.

  18. Dear Helen,
    What a thoughtful teacher you are.
    The parents at your centre are very lucky to have you. As a parent myself I would never want my under two venturing that far without me or my husband there. For us visiting Kelly Tarltons was something special we wanted to share with our child.

  19. Nancy jones says:

    I would talk to each parent ASAP . If the parents want their infants to stay in the routine you and they have established then the center need to respect that. It sounds as if this field trip is above and beyond their interests anyway. It seems as if the center is trying to provide an interesting trip, but for the older children not infants.

  20. Charlotte says:

    Do the parents have a choice in this? Maybe some (like myself! ) would agree with your instincts and prefer their children not participate? At my son’s preschool the outings are few and are often places within walking distance (library, local primary school) and are for the nearly 5 year olds! My son is 3 1/5 and the only outing he has participated in ever has been a play on the nearest primary school’s playground during the school holidays. The outing was for 45mins and the school is 5 houses down on the same side of the street. I had to sign to let him go. I was ok with this as it was for a short time, was local and I nice simple yet different experience for my child.

    1. Aunt Betty says:

      That’s great Charlotte.

  21. Christina says:

    I think its a bit much taking such small children on outings, yes mums/dads do take them out, mostly because they would have no one left at home to care for them, so they have no choice but to come. I can tell you if my second child came on a bus trip at the age of 18 months the staff would have to clean up her motion sickness, if I was a parent I would NOT be happy with such a trip and would demand my child stay back at the cente. too many people want to do so much ‘older kids’ stuff with little ones who are just as happy to stay in the environment they are in, rather than all sorts of group outings …… what will they get from it? tiredness, crankiness and a few cool pics in their learning books, ??? not my idea of a fun day for a small child

    1. Aunt Betty says:

      Yes when you have older children at home then you will take the babies out on some excursions which you do with the older children. But family groups are small and the children are usually of varying ages. Parents can also tailor the outing to accommodate the baby.

      Taking a whole class of infants and toddlers doesn’t make the outing enjoyable in the least.

    2. This is great. I felt some pressure as a mum of a 2 year old to take her to a nice play farm. It was expensive. And what did she do during our time there? Throwing stones in the water and she loved it. It taught me a valuable lesson what kids really need and enjoy in the early years and it saved me loads of money!!

  22. Kresha Warnock says:

    In our program, at a Midwest university in the U.S. We never take our infants and toddlers on formal file trips. I really like the fact that you note the importance of the little one’s nap schedules. While we can be too rigid in this area, I suppose, I think many parents can also ignore the need for consistent sleep.

  23. Laura Lesche says:

    Please keep us posted, Helen! I wish every daycare had a caregiver as thoughtful and considerate as you! Thank you for looking out for your children! ~ a grateful Mommy

  24. Besides all of the pertinent thoughts on how unnecessary this excursion would be, in my state in the US, I don’t think it would be legal. At that age, babies are required to be in a carseat for good reason, not on a bus. Our daycare doesn’t start excursions until they’re 4 for that reason.

    1. Aunt Betty says:

      Usually daycares in PA must wait until the child is no longer in diapers as well as the car seat issue.

  25. Thanks for this post Janet. I was about to plan a zoo visit for my almost 18 month old to show him the real animals as he loves to watch them in book. I’ll make this later when he’s a little more older to enjoy it. I’ve an incident to share along the lines of the picture given in this post. The apartment we stay has this small play area for children with slides,swings,carousel etc. When we first came here about two months ago I was a little worried that kids younger than him was fine playing on swings and other things. But I respected his wish to just pick and throw sand all around. Now after 2 months he pointed at a duck and a carousel and giggled when I helped him ride them. It was worth waiting!!
    He’s a little uncertain in social situations (not sure if there’s an age when they start socializing), but I trust he’ll socialize when he’s ready:-) thanks Janet for your insightful articles.

    1. Aunt Betty says:

      Take him to a small petting zoo. Or take him to a friend’s house with pets that may be different from your own.

  26. Aunt Betty says:

    You are spot on Helen!

    My mother believes young children should not be included in many activities but would be happier at home with the other parent or a baby sitter. This is an opportunity for some parent time off. When the child is old enough/mature enough to participate the activity becomes a “right of passage”. This always felt special to me.

  27. Gosh, I can totally understand why Helen would feel concerned about this and I’m amazed the other carers and parents don’t share her concerns. I’d feel very uncomfortable letting my child go on such a big trip at only two years old. Fine if it was a family trip but not as a pre school trip.

  28. Helen,
    My 13m son goes to a daycare in Auckland with a RIE philosophy. There are no activities planned for the infants (he’s in an under 2 group), but is allowed to explore his environment and spend time outside if he wants. His teachers are peaceful and respectful. I’d never consent to him leaving the centre to go on a trip, but know it would never be suggested!
    I feel so lucky my wee boy has such respectful carers, and feel for the children at your centre. Thankfully they have you to advocate for for them.
    Good luck. I hope the meeting went well.

  29. I’m in Auckland and looking for RIE inspired centres or at least one with respectful carers like you Helen. Hope they listened and keep being your awesome self!


    1. Yes me too! I would like to take my baby to be cared for by you Helen, and I’m sure I’m not the only one!

  30. I read it Helen (though admittedly I’m your friend not your team mate)! This must have been so upsetting for you! I had similar fights with my own team about similar events. This year my boy’s (now 3) preschool had an end of year play. They included all the groups of children. I felt so sorry for all the babies that were shoved in front of the sea of faces. My boy (I’m quietly pleased to say) was sitting with one of his teachers sucking his fingers. As soon as he saw me, he burst into tears and came straight to me. He didn’t want a bar of what was happening. It was just too scary. He set a presidence and a lot of other children followed his tearful lead. He got up and danced at the end (very reservidly). I was think of boycotting the whole thing and telling the teachers I wasn’t impressed and this activity wasn’t in the best interests of the younger children. The flip side is, I used to work with most of these teachers. I’m glad I didn’t boycott it, imagine what my boy would have been through if I wasn’t there!

  31. Not only will the little ones spend much of their time in carseats or on laps they will need to be in prams or carried for much of the Kelly Taltons’ trip.
    We went there as a family with our then 4 children. Miss 11 months at the time loved it and adored seeing the “cats”. The older 3 also had a blast. BUT there was 4 children and 4 adults (inlaws were visiting) so lots of one to one and help for miss 2 1/2 and mr 7 and miss 7.
    Fast forward 2 1/2 years the older children really wanted to go again and we thought it would be nice for our new youngest to see it.
    Well we really didn’t think about the difference an extra child and one less adult would make. I wore the baby and yes she saw some thing but the 3 and 5 year olds still needed a lot of help being lifted, helping to balance on steps on the moving floor etc. It really wasn’t a lot of fun for any of us.
    As an ECE teacher the thought of taking a large group of preschools with potentially worse ratios than my family would not appeal at all. It really does need a 1 to 1 ratio for under 2s (probably under 3s) or a 1 to 2 at a pinch. Add in long journey and missed naps and it sounds more detrimental to the children than any benefits that might be gained from this experience.

  32. Hello Janet,

    This blog got me a bit concerned on our upcoming international trip. The whole clan is going to Japan for Sakura festival and it’s a 4 hour plane ride from home. We are planning to bring our 1 year and 3 month old baby. This is his first international trip, though he has already taken a 1-hour local trip to the province last Christmas.
    Your thoughts?

    1. Hi Joy! It won’t be easy, but it sounds doable. I see this as different from the situation presented in that it is a family trip.

  33. This post and the comments are so valuable and validating! My twins are 14 months old now, and I discovered Janet’s page and read her book only recently. But the information resonates with me so much!

    I’m also one of the few that I know who refuses to introduce my twins to experiences way beyond their means. I have always thought that when the boys were ready for experiences and outings they’d gain much more from them. I have declined invitations to events at times that would interfere with naps or keep the boys out ridiculously late. Of course I’m not completely inflexible! I did grab a zoo membership when the boys were about 6 months old. At that time, I mainly benefited from the zoo and the animals but the boys loved the stroller walk in a new place and in just a few months were clearly able to enjoy the animals and surroundings as well.

    Thanks for this post, and for the fantastic comments!

    1. You’re so welcome! Thanks for sharing your experiences

  34. hi there, my only daughter is just 3, and for the previous 2 years at her day care , they have brought the kids out on a couple of trip to the local play activity centre which is fine and safe, but earlier this year, they wanted to take them to the zoo. My daughter has mild autism and as such , can wander off and put things in her mouth. with the staff ratio, my husband and myself agreed to not send her to day care that day. We were not confident with the staff ratio on the trip and we felt she couldnt be watched sufficiently. We have brought her by ourselves where we can keep an eye on her but yet give her a bit of walking freedom. She loved it in the end, but again, i completely agree with OP…. All age appropriate activites, and always stick to nap times!!

  35. This is nuts!

    Firstly, my babies & toddlers travelled with us on planes, trains, boats and cars all over the place … they coped well as did we … the point being this was normal familiar territory for them and us … we took prams and carriers and more than enough spare knees (extended family & close friends) that our youngsters could nap in safe secure oblivion whenever and wherever needed.

    Secondly, my kids attended kindy for 3 hours/day on weekdays commencing around aged 14 months … there they played, snacked & napped in familiar territory… and yes, they went on excursions – they held hands and walked to the park to play on the swings and slides; they also went on shorter bus trips but those only went ahead if a parent or grandparent/ child (a familiar figure) went along too as primary care-giver …

    I am all for kids experiencing new and exciting things but the overiding consideration must always be for the kids … kids love to be adventurous (they find adventure in the simplest of activities), there is not disputing that, but they require the safety & security of familiarity … one primary care-giver, no matter how accomplished they are (and in posing the above question,you give a clear indication you are one of those), cannot provide adequate care to 5 under two’s. Any child care facility management team that would consider such an excursion approriate would never have been entrusted with the care of my children. What on earth are they thinking?!

  36. Gari Stein says:

    Stand firm Helen. Protect those little ones…..

  37. I too worked in daycares and allowing toddlers to go for about a 40 min walk (broken up into 20 mins there and 20 mins back) without strollers on hand made me nervous.
    Now, a mother of a 2 yr old girl and 3 month old boy, this article is just what I needed to reassure me that I am not a horrible mom.

    I had anxiety taking my oldest out and about during her first year especially. Pressured by single friends or couples with no children to go to their homes in evenings or wanting to visit us at times that conflicted with nap or bedtimes. Culturally, around Christmas is a huge deal and everyone parties past midnight. If my babies don’t get adequate daytime rest, bedtime becomes a nightmare. And vice versa which becomes a cycle of being overly tired.

    Lately, I have been feeling like maybe a horrible stay at home mom because I see other SAHMs like my sister in law, take their little ones (around the same ages as my babies) to a day trip to the zoo. Or museum downtown or beach for a full day. This article has really hit home and made me feel like I am not so horrible after all. Our schedule mainly focuses on my toddler. But I try to be home everyday for lunch or if not, then their afternoon nap and my 3 month old’s last few naps in the day. Parenting and trying to balance life with babies is so hard. Pressured to be a perfect parent. Totally feeling like your babies are missing out on learning. Once in a while, I may do a day trip on weekends with the hubs and not come home until early evening or after dinner. But I know that we will pay for it at bedtime, and nighttime.

    Anyways, I feel better that I am not that bad of a mom. And glad I am not alone!

  38. Hi Janet, to your comment about your own children “shrinking” and becoming “more passive” on outings, I’m wondering if you feel there’s any variation in this area based on baby’s personality/temperament? I tended to take things pretty easy with my baby when I was home with her during my maternity leave, but I did often have to schedule “activities” outside of the house; yes, they were more for me than her — I had to have structure to keep myself sane! And living in NYC, it often meant taking a subway or bus, so a lot of stimulation. All that said, my babe always LOVED it. She’s always been a social butterfly, and relished the opportunities to look at and interact with new people, see new things, etc. She would always be in the carrier, and we breastfed, so she was still able to sleep when tired, and eat when hungry. We rarely dealt with any overstimulation meltdowns. Now that she is a toddler with a stricter schedule, things are different, and we definitely have to be more mindful — for instance as an infant she loved restaurants, but now that going out to eat involves her eating with us, it can often be too much. But as a baby, it was always great!

    Anyway, sorry to get long-winded, but curious to hear your thoughts on this; do you think I was misreading my child? Do you think infants vary in whether excursions offer good vs bad stimulation, depending on their temperament? Thank you in advance for reading, I love your work and books. <3

  39. I am really enjoying the comments on this post. I know when my daughter was a baby we went to activities to keep ME feeling stimulated and social, but that were appropriate for her, of course. I remember meeting a group of moms at the zoo for one such outing, the babies crawled in the grassy picnic area and then took naps in their carriers/strollers while parents walked and talked and took in a few exhibits; I don’t think my daughter had any idea we were there to see animals!

    I wanted to chime in and say that recently I realized we are having the opposite problem – my girl is 2 years and 9 months, and more ready for “big kid” activities. The RIE playgroup that I discovered for her 2 years ago (and which was our favorite outing until recently) does not work for her any more! She will officially age out at 3, but a few months ago it became hard to manage her in a space with so many crawling and toddling kids – she and her pals run, leap and shout. After the arrival of a new baby at home she started pushing smaller kids, aggressively shouting when her toys were touched (or even looked at) and we left a few times when she fell apart – we’d never had to leave before! How odd, I thought, this group was meant to be her special place, and I assumed would be a great opportunity to maintain some familiarity and routine after baby arrived.

    I decided to try her in a dance class a friend recommended for kids 2.5-3.5 on a whim one rainy day, and she did beautifully and loved it even more the following week (she even “practices” along to video clips we took of her in class). The class is designed well – the first half hour is free play in a tumbling room, then they spend about 20 minutes dancing with the teacher, rotating through costumes, ribbons and music, while parents watch from a seating area. But what I noticed right away during free play was how happy she was to communicate with the others in class – expressing when she wanted a turn (haha, something I didn’t teach her!), watching and learning new skills from them, and even asking names (and lots of running and laughing with the others in class!). Then I realized WHOA – what she needs now is a place where she escapes being “big sister” for an hour, not a playgroup with plenty more ‘little siblings’ who need her to be the patient and gentle big girl. Amazing how quickly their needs change – and silly me for assuming routine mattered more than her development/readiness.

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