Monday, August 5, 2013

Camping and Hiking with Kids

We have waited far too long to take Noodlebug camping and we finally did it this past weekend.  We decided to go to Lassen National Park for our first camping attempt.  Noodlebug has been studying Earth Science in camp and we thought a park with a volcano would be a lot of fun. It was!!!

We already do a lot of day hikes with Noodlebug.  We try to keep it to about 2 miles.  Often, our day hikes involve letterboxing.  Since it is a little bit like a treasure hunt, it helps keep Noodle interested as we walk.  They do not allow letterboxes in National Parks so we couldn't do that this time. Sometimes, we also bring along a small, light-weight collection box.  The June Kiwi Crate came with one that has little compartments separated by color.  Your child can look for things to collect that match the different colors. You could easily make your own. If you want something more lightweight, you could create some index cards with different images or words on them for your own Scavenger Hunt.  I would laminate them and put them on a ring.  I saw a great idea in the latest Family Fun magazine for doing this using paint chip cards in different colors. You just punch a hole in each color, put the cards together on a ring, and then take them out into nature to try and match the colors up.  I had a great idea to make Noodlebug an explorer's belt that I saw in an Action Pack magazine but it hasn't come together yet. This belt has little pouches for collecting items and for carrying tools like a magnifying glass.  I love that it is hands-free!

The most important thing is to take time to wander.  Let kids explore.  We made lots of stops on a various hikes so that Noodlebug could take time to look at water bugs or flowers or whatever else struck his fancy.  At one stop, we stayed for about 20 minutes so that Noodle could build a little dam.
After reading Richard Louv's LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS, I feel even more passionate about giving kids time to explore in nature.  I don't to rush my child through the experience and I don't want to structure all of this time there.  At our campsite, I created parameters for Noodlebug in terms of exploration. He knew he couldn't pass certain trees or logs.  Beyond that, I let him explore on his own. 

I also made a little logbook for him.  I folded a few sheets of regular copy paper in half along with a sheet of construction paper for a cover and stapled it together. He could use his logbook and crayons to record what he found.  Another big hit was stopping at the Visitor's Center to join the programs they had for kids.  Lassen has a Chipmunk Club for ages 4-6 and a Jr Ranger Club for older children. They let us do both.  The Chipmunk Club involved taking a sheet of pictures on a hike and circling different flora and fauna that we found.  The Jr Ranger activity involved discussing ways to be green and doing a few related activities.  We turned in the sheets and received a sticker and a patch.  He loved that!  I think most National Parks have activities like that for children.

I think the best part of the trip was unplugging completely and just spending time together as a family hiking, exploring, singing and telling stories.  I'm already looking forward to our next adventure.

No comments: