It’s no secret that I think it’s important to take kids outside as much as possible, but I also know what a struggle it can be! Sometimes it’s us, and sometimes it’s them, but it’s always nice to have a little incentive once you’re out there to make the most of it which is why I’m such a big fan of having a nature backpack that you can just grab and go.
Nature backpacks have become more and more popular, possibly because for more and more families, getting outside and into the woods is becoming more of a chore. More of us are city dwellers and the suburbs ran out of abandoned lots long ago. So when we do finally get out of the house and into the woods, the last thing we want to hear are complaints of “I’m bored!” Enter the nature backpack.
I put together my son’s nature backpack a few years ago, and I love it. It’s light and child-sized, but the straps can be lengthened enough for me to wear it if he gives up on life. It has just enough to keep my kid interested without being too heavy and it has essentials that work for us.
As always, know your kid! Maybe you have an artistic kiddo in which case I’d suggest pencil crayons or watercolour paint. Ours didn’t get used enough to justify lugging them around every time. Maybe you prefer a book that focuses more on birds, or plants. Or maybe you don’t even need a book because you’re a walking encyclopedia yourself! Maybe it’s hot where you live, so a water bottle is a must have. Ours usually wait in the car. Over time, you’ll be able to tweak what you bring to make it work for you. I’m a big fan of less is more. Too heavy and bringing it will be a chore!
So without further ado, here’s what works for us:
1. Nature guidebook
Unless you’re already acquainted with the plants and animals around you (in which case, kudos!) I definitely recommend having a guidebook on hand so that you can answer your kiddo’s questions. Sure, the internet is great, but it’s big! I can waste a lot of time refining my search results. Having a book on hand is much faster and easier. I grabbed ours at the checkout of our local Canadian Tire.
Even if your kiddo isn’t artistic, I still recommend a small notebook of some sort, just in case. Ours came with our Foldscope, but more on that later.
Not only are binoculars great for birdwatching and examining landscapes that we can’t check out close up, they are also fun! Just make sure your child remembers not to walk while looking through them. Not that I know from experience myself or anything.
Another fun gadget. It keeps kiddos occupied while teaching them direction better than never-eat-shredded-wheat ever could.
This is a real microscope that you assemble yourself (a lesson in itself!) that is totally, one hundred percent, kid-proof in my experience. Sure, you can always take samples and bring them home, but isn’t it more fun to learn on the go? What’s more, it’s extremely affordable. Get a Foldscope of your own here. (And no, this isn’t an ad, I just really love them!)
The objects in our nature backpack are not going to be for everyone. If you’re just starting out, use what you have on hand! Fold up some sheets of paper, throw in some pencil crayons and a magnifying glass, and call it a day! Then, reevaluate as you use it more and more. As I mentioned above, at one point ours had art supplies. Another time, I repurposed old play-doh pots for storing items. The only limit is your imagination!
Do you have a nature backpack at your house? What’s inside?