Years ago, at a campground, I made one of the best discoveries. The campground had an interpretive trail like many we’d been to, but this one gave you an “adventure backpack” to take with you for $5 and a $20 deposit. In that backpack was a laminated field guide, binoculars, a handheld microscope, baggies for collecting treasures, a trash bag to help clean up as you visited (clever), and a scavenger hunt page. My sons loved it! And we resolved to get backpacks of our own to have with us wherever we went. These packs were lifesavers on so many occasions. Not only did I not have to carry water and snacks for everyone anymore, but they used them to bring home all sorts of exciting treasures that I didn’t need to clean out of their pockets before I did the laundry!
Here’s a list of what we kept in them in case you’d like ideas to make your own!
A “field guide” of some sort for the area we were in.
- Handheld microscope
- Baggies for collecting
- Trash bag for helping clean up where we go. My older son insisted on having rubber gloves for this purpose.
- Sunscreen and chapstick
- Kite string
- Water bottle and snacks.
- A hat
- Geocache trinkets
- Pens, pencils, and sketch pad
- A small pocket knife, yes, I let my kids have pocket knives.
I’ll admit, sometimes the bags got a little full and we had to cull thru them from time to time. When they were little the packs were smaller but as they grew they transferred to the regular school backpacks everyone has. I spent about $20 on each backpack that lasted forever since we weren’t lugging around books. And from $10 to $20 on the microscope and binoculars. They don’t need to be fancy, just a little tough, built for kids.
Other things that ended up in the backpack were a fire starting kit, a space blanket, a book we were reading, a pedometer, candy, bird calls, and old wooden games we got at a fair one time. Things were always rotating in and out of there. Sometimes we were hosting “Flat Stanley” characters or a stuffed animal needed to come along.
Every time we went anywhere, from a walk around the neighborhood to hiking in the forest, from the local park to Disneyland, those bags went with us. We’d constantly stop to inspect a bug or plant, identify it, maybe draw a picture of it, or take a picture. We collected interesting leaves and rocks. We built paper boats and floated them down streams. And I took notes to remember an idea they had or something we needed to bring the next time we came.
Speaking of notes, I took pictures or made notes to remember the things we talked about or investigated and translated that to my personal blog the next morning while they watched cartoons. That was my “education tracking” during our elementary age years.
Get out there and have some fun following where your kids lead you on the trail or in the neighborhood!