Want to encourage your child’s natural curiosity about the wonders of nature and take advantage of Cyber Monday as well? Make the most of some of the online bargains available right now, and put together a backpack kit for your young redwoods enthusiasts. A few carefully chosen items will help them learn valuable observation skills and appreciate the intricacies of the natural world.
Start with—of course—a child-sized backpack to comfortably hold their nature gear (so you won’t have to!). We like the Vaude Puck 10 Backpack for kids. Comfortable to carry, this “forest kindergarten specialist” includes a water-resistant bottom, gear lash points, and a rain cover— perfect for the damp conditions of the redwood forest. (On sale at Sierra Trading Post for $34.95.). L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, REI, and the North Face are other outdoor retailers currently having online sales on kid-sized gear.
Once you’ve got your backpack, add few well-selected and kid-appropriate items to add to the fun of being outdoors:
Nature Guides —A few kid-centric guidebooks can help identify what young explorers see (Ancient Forests) and hear (Peterson First Guide to Birds of North America) in the woods, as well as decipher clues about who has been on the trail before them (Tracks, Scats and Signs). Find these titles on sale now through Alibris, or find an independent bookseller near you. Check our reading list in our Redwoods Resource Center for more inspiration.
Nature Notebook —There is one secret to creating the perfect nature journal. It has to be…empty! A small, spiral-bound notebook with blank pages for recording nature observations, drawings and notes will work well. It does not need to be fancy, but it should be durable. Encourage your child to write down what they see, where they see it, and any other observations from nature. Then embellish with drawings, quotes or poetry, as desired. Moleskine sketchbooks are a classic, durable choice; with the added bonus of an accordion pocket for feathers, leaves, and other treasures found in nature. And thanks to Barnes & Noble’s Cyber Monday sale, all Moleskines are buy one, get one half off. (Black Moleskine Large Sketchbook, 5.25”x8.25”, $18.95 at B&N)
Colored pencils —Perfect for nature sketching. Prismacolor pencils are break-resistant, long-lasting, blendable and waterproof…a great combination for small hands and the often damp weather found in the redwoods. All Prismacolor pencil sets on sale now at deep discounts from art supply retailer Dick Blick. A basic set of 12 or 24 fits easily into a pack ($9.99 for 12, $19.99 for 24).
Here’s a tip for caring for colored pencils from preeminent naturalist and artist John Muir Laws: Dispense with the paper or metal box that the pencils come in and bundle your pencils together with elastic bands. Make one bundle for warm yellows and reds, one for blues and purples, one for earth tones and greens. This will make it easier to grab the pencil you need in the field. Store the pencil bundles in a box or bag that will help prevent the tips from breaking off. You can put a piece of crumpled-up tissue at the end of the box with all the points so that they do not bang around and chip.
Other easy-to-find and packable items to round out your young naturalist’s backpack could include a 6” ruler (measurements are an important part of naturalists’ note-taking), a double lens magnifier (for getting way-up-close looks at slugs, bark, and plants), small wax paper bags for bringing home forest treasures, and, of course, snacks!
When you’re ready to hit the trail with your young explorer, use our Redwoods Finder interactive map for help planning your next adventure. Also, download our free Kids Activity sheets for fun, redwoods-themed activities for groups of all ages to do in any redwood park!