Whether it's for camping, hiking, a day at the park, or some fun in the backyard...one of my sons favorite things to do is gather up his nature discovery backpack and head outside. This is such a great way to get kids up-close with nature, and allow them (in safe ways) to come up with how they want to explore it.

The contents of his discovery backpack vary depending on where we're going or what he's in the mood to do that day. But basically it contains some of the components below.

•Child-sized backpack (preferably with a small outside pouch to hold a water bottle).
•Pocket Magnifier
•Clear plastic zipper bags for collecting things
•Plastic container (like a small margarine tub) for holding bugs and other small creatures. Please remember to always release them back into nature!
•Camera (My son uses our old digital camera, which he loves!)
•Shovel (We use a small plastic one from the sandbox toys.)
•A journal & pencil...to write about, or draw pictures of, their discoveries (you can usually get small spiral bound notepads at the dollar store). Sometimes we'll print out pictures of any new creatures we've seen that day so our son can glue them into his journal and then he'll write a sentence or two about where we found it.
•Plastic (grocery store size) bag. We always collect litter everywhere we hike. It teaches our son that litter doesn't just “go away” and he gets to contribute to helping clean up the earth.
•Hand-held kitchen strainer for catching tadpoles and pond insects. Can work as a sifter in a sandbox or at the beach too.
•A pocket field guide for birds, trees, insects, or anything else that interests your family.
•Water and snacks

We keep his backpack ready to go...packed and in the coat closet, so that he can access it any time. Make sure you add any other gadgets your children use when they play outside. Drop me a note if you find that your kids love packing something specific that I haven't included here. And happy exploring!


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Comment by Suz Lipman on February 9, 2010 at 9:22am
Hi Chris, this is so smart. Great information and very inspiring. It's always great to read about things that make it easier to get out the door and into nature.
Comment by Jennifer Aist on February 8, 2010 at 9:16pm
Great idea!

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