Leave No Trace is an organization that came up with 7 outdoor principles meant to promote and inspire responsible “outdoor recreation through education, research and partnerships”. Teaching little ones about the Leave No Trace principles is important to ensure that our impact on the wild ecosystems is minimal. That being said it is important to let kids explore and have fun. Finding a way to teach Leave No Trace on the trails while hiking but also letting them engage with their natural environment is important. So how do you teach littles to leave no trace? Here are a few tips to help you out with 4 of the Leave No Trace principles! Also… I would love to hear your suggestions in the comments below so make sure to comment if you have any tips!!
Leave what you find:
Rocks and Sticks: Enjoy picking up rocks and sticks that are on the trail but tell your kids that they are just for playing outdoors. Make sure to leave them on the trail before you leave for home!
Flowers and Leaves: Kids are drawn to flowers. Let’s be honest it is because they are so beautiful and stand out especially on the trail. Since they would love to touch and pick all the beautiful wild flowers we have a rule: Touch them with your nose. Our two kids aged 3 and 1 love being able to engage with the flowers but we also keep them right where they are supposed to be… In the Wild. We leave the picking of flowers to dandelions in our yard or our own household garden flowers.
Dispose of Waste Properly:
Make sure that you pack out all garbage that you bring into the wild. Even if your little one is used to putting any waste into the garbage use this moment to teach them about waste and the direct effect on the environment you are enjoying together. Talk about why you brought a special bag to pack the garbage away. Orange peels and apple cores? Pack them and take them home. Although they can bio degrade is it better to pack them up too and compost them at home. Bringing non-native species into a natural environment can be harmful to the local species.
Respect Wild life:
Chipmunks, birds and the little animal: Do not feed or touch the little animals. On the Leave No Trace Canada website they talk about how small animals can carry diseases like rabies and it can be stressful for the animal. Sometimes parents of small animals that are touched abandon their little ones.
Bears, Moose and the big animals: Before going on a hike talk with your little one about what to do in case you encounter a big animal on a hike. Even if it is a short, quick talk with about staying calm and quiet if you see a bear. You can also start teaching them the different between a black bear and a grizzly bear. Did you know it is not the colour and that some black bears are brown! The main difference is that grizzle bears have a hump on their back.
Some more bear education might be appropriate for your child and you could tell them to: Keep Calm, Don’t Run, Walk Slowly Backwards, Leave the Area. More tips can be found on the Parks Canada website.
Be Considerate of Others:
Hiking 101: If your toddler is hiking teach them that the right of way goes to the uphill hiker (unless of course it is safer at that moment for the downhill hiker to have the right of way). Young children love to know how things work and the trail is no different. The more you teach them about the trails and trail etiquette the more they will take ownership for the hiking experience.
Clean up other hikers waste: Did you or your little one find garbage on the trail? As long as it is safe to pick up the piece of trash have your toddler pick up the litter and put it into your garbage bag. This is a perfect time to educate your little one on littering, the importance of picking up garbage and working within a community to all ensure that we are protecting the environment.
For more information on Leave No Trace principles check http://www.leavenotrace.ca/home
If you encounter a bear: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/docs/v-g/oursnoir-blackbear/page3.aspx