One of my favorite activities when my son and I were part of IMAGINA, Miami Nature Play School's parent child nature program, was creating an Explorers Kit. Beyond the fun of making it (which required sewing & stamping to create the pouch for our goodies) using it often in our lives since then has been the biggest reward.
"I love my explorers kit because I like having a magnifying glass to see the animals very close" Tomas, 4
So what is an explorers kit? Its basically a collection of tools your child (and you!) can use to engage with the natural world. When you take a child/person in nature that isn't used to it, it can be challenging at first. A kit, can make that transition easier by providing familiar tools to explore the world with. An explorers kit can include anything from binoculars to tweezers and an observation book/nature journal for older children. My 4 year old's current kit includes:
- a magnifying glass
- safety googles
- bug house
- bug tongs
We are looking to add a few more items soon:
- observation book and crayons
- small net
- specimen bottle
- small shovel (for finding dinosaur fossils- the latest obsession in my household)
Its great to have this packaged as a kit, in an old tin box, mochila or small bag/backpack so you can just grab and go explore on a whim. Personalize your kit to match your child's interests and keep adding as they grow for a life filled with outdoor adventures. Does your child love bugs? Call it their bug explorers kit. Dinosaurs? Make an Archeology Kit. No time to create something from scratch? No worries! There are plenty of amazing kits available online. We love this one that comes pre-made, and pretty much everything over at Imagine Childhood.
In their free and super useful Parent's Guide to Nature Play the Natural Start Alliance encourages having nature play tools and toys handy. We pasted an excerpt of their reccomendations below:
"Nature itself provides curious children with an endless variety of toys, but there are also human-made devices that can enhance their nature-based play. Here are a few good ones.
Earth Movers: These are a must, since kids just love to dig in mud, sand, and pea gravel! Supply shovels, spades, rakes, hoes, buckets, plastic barrels, etc. — and get children’s sizes. Keep a child’s wheelbarrow handy, too!
Binoculars: Buy a basic pair ($50 or less) for your kids (they’re sure to get banged up). A 7 X 35 size is good for most children. Focus adjustments are tricky for preschoolers, though, so let them use a play pair made out of two empty toilet paper tubes.
Magnifiers: Look for large ones — at least 3 inches in diameter. Another good option is a magnifier stool: a large magnifier with three wooden legs. Check the internet for these.
Bug Cages: Kids love to capture insects such as fireflies, praying mantises, and butterflies, so keep a small bug cage on hand. Make one using screening and a box, or use a jar with air holes in the lid. Encourage the early and safe release of all captives!
Nets: Speaking of catching bugs, you’ll want a net! Inexpensive butterfly nets (“air nets”) are sold in toy and hobby stores; look for long handles and long netting. Sturdier aquatic (“dip”) nets are also handy to have if there’s a creek or pond nearby. Check science supply stores for these.
Cameras: Give your children inexpensive digital cameras to “hunt” with! Another fun option is to mount a motion-activated “scout camera” in your yard (get a digital one with a flash, at outdoors stores). These can reveal what’s visiting your yard at night!"
Have your own kits? Other ideas? Please share below so we can learn together!