I found that I was pretty prepared and was well equipped for the hot and hilly afternoon with my 5 year old, primarily because I had been to this park before. So right of the bat, some advance work is very beneficial meaning, knowing the location or area. If that is not possible physically, then having maps of the area definitely helps. Many are available online these days in PDF format; just Google your destination, or go to its web site if one is available. Make special note of where the facilities such as restrooms are located, and if the worst happens, know the location of the nearest hospital hopefully that knowledge is never needed in your outings.
When we arrived, we ended up being late and missed the start of the foray. The group we were supposed to meet up with had already trekked into the foliage. Frustrating - traveling with little ones tends to be prone with set-backs that can cause an earnest parent to be tardy to many an appointment irregardless of how early one starts or prepares can I get an "Amen" on that?
At any rate, we were able to pick up their trail via the clear-print tracks in the sandy trail that were easy to follow at first. My daughter loves to look at tracks and so that was a good opportunity to help teach her how to follow a trail. Shortly after starting out, through my limited skills in tracking, we were able to find one of the leaders of the group.
Before finding him, along the way we were able to help a woman on the trail who arrived to the foray late as well. However she arrived with 6 kids! - 4 boys all with pails in hand in eager anticipation of finding mushrooms, one 2 -3 yr. old girl who amazingly was able to keep a pretty good pace on the trail with her mother and siblings. ...And finally an infant about 9 months old. , who she carried in a baby harness on her back. Her family followed us as we were trying to track the main group. I was very impressed by the mother who seemed remarkably comfortable taking the sandy hilly trails, with a little one just ahead of her, and an even smaller one on her back.
But unlike my daughter and I, she and her family were traveling light...I mean really light. My daughter and I had the bare minimum to harvest mushrooms in the woods on a sunny hot day, whereas this lady seemed to only be carrying her child.
Eventually, we met up with the whole group, who were all pretty much ready to go home, because the pickings were slim. Yet, I did not forget the admiration I felt towards that person who had so many young people with her, but little else by way of the basics for being in the wilderness with kids.
As it turned out she was from Alaska, that explains the kindred-ness I felt towards her, with being in the "wild", as well as her fortitude - she exuded a very formidable gentle strength.
Anyways, she was tardy as well because, while I only had one kid to wrangle and prep for this outing...she had six, and it was her first foray from what I understood, so she did not know the area at all (remember what I said about advance work). However, we worked together to find the group, and I of course shared our supplies with her, particularly water and insect repellent.
So that experience and encounter prompted me to want to share some of the tips and supplies I bring when I go out with my little one.
Well Before Heading Out, Work with Them At Home
Get your child engaged and not overwhelmed by a new environment by working on the following at home, well before heading out to the woods.
Lost-Proofing Teach them when walking a trail to always look back to where they came from. People get lost in the woods by only tunnel-visioning through the woods and not paying attention landmarks. Actively looking over your shoulder every so often helps you to recognize the way back, when it is time to turn around and head back.
Learn Some Plants Teach them some common and useful plants, such as Plantain (Plantago), which is good for bug bites, stings, cuts and scrapes. It is also edible, and is useful to ease exposure to poison ivy. Also, teach them what that plant looks like as well that it should not be touched, and never eaten. This will give them familiarity with the natural environment, building confidence.
In fact WildCraft an Herbal Adventure Game is a great way to learn about edible and medicinal wild plants through a board game - highly recommended! Click here for more info about this fun board game >> http://www.learningherbs.com/wildcraft.html
Learn Some Animals Teach them about common animals in your area, such as squirrels, chipmunks, butterflies, birds, such as sparrows, and cardinals, etc... This will help engage your childs curiosity, builds confidence in knowing their surroundings, and the other inhabitants her or she shares it with. It can also be a way to keep them occupied on the trail for example, by making a game of looking for and finding various animals.
These are just suggestions to work on BEFORE going out. Again this will give kids a sense of confidence, curiosity, familiarity, and peace of mind when in the Bush. Now let me focus on what to bring, or rather, what I may bring when going out with my Little One.
What to Bring
For a general Every Day Carry kit (EDC) I like Dave Canterbury's, concept of "The 5 Cs of Survivability", from the Dual-Survival show he co-hosted on...
- Cover in the form of a tarp, large garbage bag, space blanket, wool blanket, etc...
- Combustion in the form of some way of making fire: lighter, matches, ferro rod, flint & steel, etc...
- Carry in the form of freezer bags, backpack, shoulder bag, etc...
- Cutting in the form of a good blade
- Cordage in the form of 550 Paracord (ideally), but 25' of clothes line works too.
After I have The 5-C's taken care of, I make sure I have a basic first-aid kit as well. Additionally taking a basic first-aid course would not hurt as well as a parent.
QUESTION: Do you know how to properly perform CPR on your child? Food for thought.
What to Bring for the Little One(s)
Here is a list of some items I may bring when going into the woods with my child...
- Insect repellant
- Tight elastic-waisted pants (they should be wearing these to avoid ticks)
- Change of clothes including Socks (they should be wearing these to avoid ticks)
- Hand sanitizer (travel size...port-a-potties can be a a little unsanitary)
- Rain poncho or large garbage bag
- Blanket or their favorite "security" toy
- DVD/CD's for kids and player
- Color/Activity Books
What They Can Carry or Should Have On
- Bright colored clothing maybe bright colored ribbon tied in their hair or bright hat/visor. This aids in Lost-Proofing by increasing their visibility in the foliage
- Whistle the pea-less kind
What You, the Parent Can Carry
- Extra money - stash at least an extra $5 somewhere accessible
- Extra tire(s) - and the knowledge on how to change them
- Cell Phone fully charged
- Build/find shelter - and the knowledge on how to make or find
- Fire-Making - and the knowledge on how to do...at least 3 - 5 methods
Other Things to Consider
Consider alternatives, or work-around for a kid with special needs, like an extra pair of glasses, or reserve inhaler for asthmatics.
Have duplicates of essential items that will be needed "Two is One, One is NONE". This means to carry back-ups or a Plan-B, because one can always be lost, broken, or not go as planned.
Know how to check for and remove ticks; avoid thickets (bushes), because of ticks and poisonous spiders , The Black Widow, and the Brown Recluse are common spiders found in the US.
This IS NOT a definitive list by any means. I just want to give you inspiration on what to bring to make your outing in the woods with your Little One(s) that much more fun and safe.
Until next time! =)