Saturday, August 8, 2015

Kids Up Close and Personal with Heavy Machinery: A Renaissance Dad Field Trip

Note the OSHA approved closed toe shoes.
I know that almost any parent has had the experience of spending a lot of money on a birthday or Christmas gift for a child, only to have the child find more enjoyment in the box, ribbons, or wrapping. That can sometimes be a frustrating experience. It can be the same with outings. I am glad that we have a zoo membership. Most of the time when we go to the zoo the kids spend more time playing on the playground or on the splash pad, things that cost nothing in most areas around our house. Kids have a wonderful, uncanny knack at finding joy in the simple things in life. Sometimes.

When I take my kids out and about in society, I usually don't want to spend a lot of money entertaining them. And after our umpteenth trip to Lowe's (especially when there are no Build and Grow clinics happening),  we need to find something else to do.

Getting a run down on all of the equipment in the cab
 Enter the CAT plant. In a conversation with a friend of mine, I discovered that her husband worked for CAT. And we just happen to have a CAT plant fairly close to our house. And we also happen to have kids who can name every type of heavy machinery. And light up when they see "working" diggers out and about. And correct library books that incorrectly name parts (like the book that calls backhoe stabilizers "legs", to which my three-year-old always says, "Daddy! Those are stabilizers, not legs. Humph!"). So when I heard that I had a connection to the CAT plant, I decided that it might be time to take a Renaissance Dad field trip.

Big E trying her hand at the wheel loader.
We met our friend early in the morning at the CAT plant. We spent an hour or so getting to see the cabs of the machines, touring the plant, and otherwise getting up close and personal with all kinds of awesomeness. Personally, I contemplated leaving my education career and spending more time around tons of steel and hydraulics and chest pounding toys for big kids. I did have to contemplate this trip and decide if it was really for the kids or if it was just something that I always wanted to do. In the end, I decided that it was something that was for the kids, and a lot of my enjoyment came in their wide-eyed stares, their exploration, and their overall squeals of joy and laughter as they got to play on the equipment that they otherwise just get to see working in the distance.

And the best part about the trip to the CAT plant is that I didn't have to worry about the kids enjoying the empty box more than the experience.

Big A working the mini excavator like a boss!
Now if I could just figure out how to get a mini excavator to play with in my yard...

Little E figuring out the articulated dump truck.

Big E is ready for daddy to rent a skid loader.
The sadness when it is time to leave the CAT plant.