Do you remember how awesome it was take field trips? It was the ultimate win-win for a child. So you’re saying I don’t have to go to algebra class AND I get to snoop around a lightbulb factory? I loved them. My kid loves them. Just about everyone loves them. So if you are trying to teach your kid skepticism and critical thinking, one of the best things you can do is take a field trip where you can apply those skills together.
The best places for critical thinking field trips are spooky but safe. Think haunted houses with scheduled tours, museums to strange phenomena, and paranormal tourist traps. When my son was six we took a trip to one of the many Gravity Hills around the US, where the laws of physics seemingly suspend and objects roll uphill! With a little bit of critical thinking and hypothesis testing, even my six year old figured out the illusion. It was a fun excuse for a road trip to a beautiful small town.
Here are some ideas for critical thinking field trips. As always, use your best judgement for how spooky is just enough for your kid without actually scaring them.
Haunted cemetery tours – I took one of these in New Orleans and it was a lot of fun. The one we took was kid-appropriate and it turns out that many cities have them. Call ahead to check the age-range though because some of them get into dark topics.
New Age shops or fairs – this can be a lot of fun and a good way to inoculate a kid to the many supernatural ideas they will be pitched as they grow up. From Tarot readings, to EMF hats, to orgone collector units and healing crystals, kids can have a lot of fun with all the trinkets and weird ideas. As a fun bonus, they get to see how you behave in such a place, and this will give them a model for how to be kind and respectful while also disagreeing with people.
Cryptid Tracking! – if you happen to live in one of those areas of the US where people claim to see Bigfoot, the Mothman, or lake monsters, then it can be fun to go the spots where the sightings took place and puzzle through how someone might get the idea that they saw something. These places usually happen to be beautiful too!
Paranormal Museums – did you know that there is a Cryptozoology museum in Portland? Or a UFO museum and “research center” near Roswell New Mexico? There are strange and fun museums dotted all along the highways and small towns in the US. A quick search online might turn up one near you.
Of course this list is just a start. There are dozens of other ideas depending on where you live, what you like, and your child’s age. If you happen to be taking a family trip, see if you can build in a side quest for critical thinking. If your child gets excited by magic, take in a show and see if you can figure out the tricks together. If your teen is in a goth phase, take a trip to the Creepy Doll Museum and become the coolest parent ever. However you do it, taking a critical thinking field trip will likely be fun, educational, and build lasting memories.