Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hiking Skills

Disclaimer: any specific kid on a specific day may be capable of a wide range of things. Or not capable of things they could do last week. Your knowledge and observations about your kid are a better guide than any number of bloggers or experts.
Kids are sponges for new information. Especially little kids don’t know what’s normal outside what your family does. If you hike and camp, they will think it’s normal. Teach them outdoor skills as you teach them indoor table manners, how to answer the phone, etc. Kids want to be with you, they want to act like adults, they want to help.
While she is not expected to navigate at all, we do expose her to the basics. Like reading a map.

Or using a compass

Plant identification can start fairly young. The first one I pushed her to recognize was poison ivy. Then the more common flowers. She quickly started asking beyond my knowledge, so we got her a laminated pamphlet of common local flowers. This not only teaches her the flowers, but how to find that information. We occasionally hike where there are edible berries. We often hike where there are non-edible things. When she gets bored, or just points out berries, we ask “should you eat it?”
And then there are the times when you actually can pick and eat things…

Boo often talks, sings, or just shouts with joy while we hike. So we don’t see a lot of wildlife. But to a little kid, a squirrel is just as exciting as a moose. But tracks are always exciting. We see deer tracks frequently. Even when we don’t, we can find people tracks, and decide who may have made them (You? Me? Mommy? Someone else?). One of our favorite parks has turkey and coyote tracks with reasonable frequency. In the winter, rabbits and squirrels leave tracks. She frequently references her guidebook. When we do see critters, we teach her how to respect their space.

Scat is almost infinitely interesting to Boo. Especially while she was potty training. And when you are very small, it’s not easy to tell scat from some sticks. So instead of her poking the potential scat with her fingers, I taught her to pull it apart with a stick. This easily segued into checking what the animal has been eating, and using that information to guess at what the animal may be. (Turns out I can’t identify a lot of scat. I know a lot more now than 2 years ago.) We have been known to “collect” a picture of unknown scat to compare to our books when we get home.

Something that isn’t usually an issue for us is climbing safety. Illinois just isn’t that rugged, and we don’t seek out especially tricky hiking. But then we went to San Diego for a week to visit my sister. And the hiking there is a little… rockier. We had a little catching up to do on safe rock hiking.

We always carried drink and a snack for her. She caught on fairly quickly, and before we leave for a hike now she makes sure her pack has water and a snack.
Around 4, she started getting so comfortable on trails we frequent that she felt perfectly fine running far ahead of us. Going wherever she felt was best. Now she knows that she has to stay where she can see us (because a 4-year-old can’t judge where you can see her), and not pass any intersections.

I'm sure I'm missing a lot of things we teach her just by being outside where a kid should be.
What outdoor skills were you taught as a kid? Which ones were most useful?

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