School trips can seem daunting for many children. But, with careful planning, you can prepare them for a wonderful time away.
This parent guide covers:
- Why residential school trips are important
- Common worries children have
- How to talk about anxieties
- Practical things to do
- Staying on top of trip information
- It’s everything you need to help your child be positive and prepared for a great residential trip.
Why are School Trips Important?
These are lots of reasons to send your child away on a school trip for more than just a quick day trip.
In a typical day away from school, most of the time ends up on a bus and queuing for the loos! A longer trip reduces the rush and lets your child learn more.
School trips are good for Mental Health
Many of us are worried about young people’s mental health. One in eight children aged 5 to 19 has a diagnosed mental disorder. School trips build confidence and develop resilience skills, giving children a positive mental health boost.
Did you know getting muddy is good for you? Scientists think it could have an anti-depressant effect. It’s time to embrace the muddy experiences a residential trip offers!
Studies show that mud could help:
- lower stress
- improve concentration
- increase cognitive ability
School trips are great for Physical Health
Are you worried your child spends too much time indoors watching a screen? A longer schools trip is the perfect way to ditch the devices and get outdoors to connect with nature. Fresh air and Vitamin D from sunshine builds a strong body and brain.
At school we manage our children’s friendships. A school trip lets them make stronger connections. It’s a time for bonding with classmates.
We want children to have the confidence to achieve more. A longer school trip removes parental authority for a short time within a safe and secure environment. It allows them to blossom into independent young people.
6 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Their Residential School Trip
So, now we know why they are important, how can you best prepare your child for their school trip away?
Let’s look at a few simple ways you can help them.
1: Positive Conversations
Talk positively to your child. Discuss the things they will enjoy on their school trip. Don’t ignore the negatives but try to minimise their worries.
It’s easy to put ideas into their head accidentally. For example you might say, “If you’re scared of the dark, you can use your torch.” Even if it hadn’t occurred to them before, you’ve made them think the darkness will be frightening.
If you are feeling worried, discuss your concerns when your child can’t overhear. Arrange for them to be somewhere else if you want to talk about your anxieties with their teacher.
Children want to know they’ll be missed but don’t want to feel guilty for leaving you. It’s tricky to strike a balance. Avoid making dramatic statements about how lost you will be without them or suggest you won’t care that they’ve gone.
2: Watch Your Body Language
Children are quick to pick up on signals. They look to you for clues about how they should feel. If you show them you feel anxious about their school trip, they are likely to start feeling the same way.
For lots of parents, sending your child away on a school trip can be a difficult time. Don’t bottle up your emotions but avoid showing them in front of your child. Save the tears for when the coach is out of sight.
3: Put Their Fears in Perspective
It’s common for children to be worried before they leave. Don’t dismiss things that seem trivial. Small concerns, such as going to the toilet in the night, can build into bigger anxieties unless addressed.
Taking time to talk will give them the opportunity to discuss these fears.
Tips for talking:
- Acknowledge how they are feeling.
- Let them share worries but don’t suggest ideas for fears.
- Small to an adult can be big to a child. Don’t laugh at their worries.
- Let them choose when to talk to you.
- If you don’t know the answer to a question, suggest you find out together. Avoid lying to them.
Children often worry about problems that are unlikely to happen. These includes things like floods, power cuts or getting lost. Putting the fear into perspective can reassure an anxious child.
When they mention a fear, agree there is a possibility this could happen. But, ask them to think about how likely it is. Get them thinking about the probable outcome.
For example, if they were scared of a night-time power cut, you could ask:
- How often do we have power cuts at home?
- Will the school trip have ever had a power cut before?
- What normally happens when we have a power cut at home?
- What might they have ready in case this happens on your school trip?
- What do you think your teachers and trip leaders would do?
- What is the worst thing that could happen on your school trip? How likely is this?
Instead of dismissing the fears, getting them thinking about the probability will help reduce the anxiety.
4: Build Their Independence
A school trip might be the first time your child’s been away overnight. Arrange a sleepover with a friend or family member to help them practise.
Make sure they can take care of themselves. The basics include:
- Brushing hair
- Getting dressed and undressed
- Brushing teeth
- Making simple drinks and snacks
- Eating with a knife and fork
- How to take medicine (such as asthma inhalers) under adult supervision
Along with these life skills, think about jobs they might have to do. Involve them with age-appropriate chores to build their independence.
Why not get them:
- Washing up and drying dishes
- Loading and unloading the dishwasher
- Making their bed and changing sheets
- Sweeping the floor and wiping counter tops
- Hanging laundry and putting clean washing away
5: Keep Them Informed
School trips take a lot of organising. It’s easy to miss information. Stay on top of communications that are sent home.
Read letters and emails from school together and let your child make notes of important details. If your school runs an information evening, take them along so they can hear more about the plans.
The internet is great for showing them where they are going. Use Google Maps to look at the route and see images of the local area. If the trip company has its own website, look for helpful information and resources.
Often, schools will have rules about what can and cannot be taken on the trip. This includes:
- Pocket money
- Games and toys
- Mobile phones
Make sure your child knows what they must leave at home.
6: Let Them Pack Themselves
It’s tempting to pack for your child to avoid forgetting anything. But, letting them pack their own bag builds independence. Do a final check to make sure they have remembered everything.
Let them take the lead and offer your help as needed. They can create a kit list to show what clothing and equipment they need. Plan a shopping trip in plenty of time to make sure you have everything.
When packing, they could lay everything out on their bed to show you before folding it away. Whilst we want them to be independent, we don’t want to spoil their trip by not having half the things they need!
Final Thoughts About Preparing for a Residential School Trip
Preparing your child for longer school trips can feel like a challenge. There’s so much to organise and it’s tempting to do everything yourself to avoid mistakes. But, letting your child take the lead with packing and planning their trip can build their independence.
For anxious children, acknowledging fears reduces the worry. They will feel calm and more confident whilst away from you.
After all the preparation, your child’s residential trip will fly by! You can look forward to them returning full of stories about their wonderful time away.
Wildchild Adventure run award winning school trips for primary and secondary schools. Conveniently located within easy reach of the M25, find out how our all-inclusive trips will immerse your children in the great outdoors.
Your Questions Answered
School trips give children of all ages a unique outside-the-classroom learning opportunity. Getting children outside the school environment gives them a fresh, new perspective and helps to add a new dimension to specific topics they may be exploring at school. For teachers it’s a way to really enhance classroom learning – getting children outside studying nature and experiencing firsthand what it feels like to build their own fire is the best – and easiest- way to teach pupils about the importance of nature on our health and wellbeing.
- The impact of Nature deficit disorder and the preventative role schools can play
- Secondary School trips to ease the transition for pupils
- Building character through primary school trips
- Six reasons why more schools than ever are staying in the UK for their school trip (spoiler alert: it’s not because of Covid!)
- School trips after the pandemic
- 5 winter outdoor learning activities for schools
- 5 ways to get more from your School Bushcraft Trip
- Residential trips to benefit learning
- Perfect Primary School Trip Planning
- How to promote Outdoor Learning in school