If your child loves hiking and camping, or if he/she isn’t sure about hiking and camping, or if he/she has never ever hiked or camped at all, here is a great idea to get the whole family primed for hiking and camping adventures in the new year. Give your kid a backpack with age appropriate equipment of his/her own. (Oh, I am so tired of being politically correct! From now on I am going to alternate between he and she, his and hers.)
Buy a small backpack just the right size for him. Chose a color that you know she loves, but also look to be sure the pack is well made, and that the straps are not so skinny that they will roll up and dig into his shoulders. Here is a basic list of what to put into the pack of the youngest child: a bandanna handkerchief in a bright color; sunglasses; an inexpensive magnifying glass; a few band-aids in bright colors in a little plastic bag to keep them clean. As you shop for an older child, add to the gift pack an inexpensive camera, inexpensive binoculars, a notepad, pen, pencils and crayons, and a book that reflects her special interests–birds, wild flowers, animal tracks, etc.
At a Minnesota State Park last summer, the rangers had Kids Discovery Kits, a little pack with a big variety of goodies inside, to help kids have fun at the park. These kits were not on sale, they were availble to be checked out at the park office. Good for Minnesota, and lucky campers who had a chance to borrow one of the kits. I was so excited by the idea that I made lists of all the items in each pack. You can use the lists to add to the great gift pack that you are putting together.
Each pack had a theme. For the child who likes animals, there was a Track Pack. Minnesota’s pack held: rubbing molds or instant setting plaster to create casts of tracks; a wildlife card game; a book, Tracks, Scats, & Signs, from Northwoods Press; cards with animal tracks; instructions to “walk like an animal”; cards with pictures of local animals; paper, rubber stamps, and a stamp pad. The Bird Pack contained binoculars; a bird book; i.d. cards for birds; and Pocket Naturalist Guides, a night guide and a butterfly & moth guide.
A third pack was just for a general good time while camping. It contained a journal, pencils and pen (those are items I would put in every pack); crayons; pencil and crayon sharpeners; scissors; paper, some plain white, some colored; recipes (six ways to make s’mores); camping poems; a star chart; a flashlight; some special books; and simple games. I would add, just to use in camp, not while hiking, watercolors with brushes and glue, to make art projects.