As a lover of the great outdoors, I believe it is very important that we teach our children the principles of leave no trace. If you are wondering what I mean when I say “leave no trace,” I mean that visitors to natural areas should leave no evidence of human activity behind them. It is a term that I first became familiar with in when I was in Girl Scouts. My awesome Girl Scout leader took us for hiking and camping trips and it was a mantra she always said when it was time for us to pack up and leave an area. Here is an in depth look at the Leave No Trace Principles for kids.
Why Leave No Trace Is Important
Whether you are out camping or just enjoying the great outdoors, help your kids learn to leave no trace. For example, I once went hiking with my family and noticed another family up ahead on the trail. They decided to cut across some brush for a short cut and trampled over new vegetation. Signs clearly indicated not to cross and the area was even roped off, but they crossed anyway, stomping a path. This one instance causes other people to follow the lead, and before you know it, it’s a new man-made path and those flowers and brush no longer have the chance of ever growing back. The principles of Leave No Trace help ensure that our actions don’t alter the ecosystem of the natural environments we enjoy visiting.
7 Principles of Leave No Trace For Kids
As I indicated above, I learned the principles of Leave No Trace when I was in Girl Scouts. My son was a Cub Scout and it turns out that they also have the same seven principles. In trying to figure out where the principles came from, it seems that there is actually a Center For Outdoor Ethics that helped establish the principles in order to protect the outdoors. They even offer a formal Leave No Trace Training program. What does leave no trace mean? It means leaving no evidence that you were there by not taking things, damaging things, or leaving things. Whether you venturing out to a local park, national park, or any natural environment, we should always respect these outdoor ethics.
Plan and prepare.
Planning ahead and being prepared for your outdoor adventure not only makes sure you leave no trace, but it also helps keep your family safe! Making sure you know what to expect from the weather, the terrain, the length of trip, and the campsite, will make sure that you stay safe and have what you need. Careful meal planning and proper equipment makes sure that you can have safe campfires and in established spaces (fire rings or BBQ pits) and prevents creating unexpected trips off the path.
Respect the path.
When you’re in nature with your children, stress the importance of following trails and marked paths. Besides stomping over vegetation, you could be endangering your children’s safety. When you can’t see the ground as easily, you are more prone to slipping or falling, contracting poison oak or more seriously, contracting Lyme disease. According to Health Canada, “You are most likely to come into contact with ticks by brushing against plants.” In addition, you could also get lost in the woods. Yikes! So do yourself and your family a favor by staying on trails.
This goes for a camping trip too. Using actual approved camp sites helps to make sure you are not messing up the vegetation. Resulting barren areas tend to erode quickly. This will also keep you from putting yourself in danger of unexpected wildlife encounters.
Choosing durable surfaces for travel and camping also helps protect fragile ecosystems and prevent erosion created by new pathways. Uncontrolled pets can be additional sources of new pathways. Always keep pets leashed even on a short hike in order to respect wildlife as well.
Polluting endangers the environment and the animals. When you’re out and about, realize others may use the same space as you when you’re done, so leave it the way you found it. CLEAN!
Pack out what you pack in. Use biodegradable soap. Don’t contaminate natural water sources.
Leave What You Find.
Pretty flowers? Don’t pick them and they will stay pretty for everyone to enjoy including the pollinators. Don’t remove natural objects that you find as that can have an impact on the environment. Let seed pods grow. Let plants keep their energy producing leaves. Leave berries for the wild animals.
Practice fire safety.
Fire safety is another of the very important leave no trace principles for kids. If you are in an area that allows fires, use only designed fire pits. Do not break tree branches. Make sure to use already dead fallen and fallen wood. Make sure your campfire is completely put out and do not leave any burning embers.
Never feed the wild life.
It’s easy to forget that cute chipmunks and squirrels are actually wild creatures, though they sure look like they could be our pets. When we feed wild animals, the animals are conditioned to associate humans with food, and if it’s a bear for example, we don’t want bears around our families at all! This is a safety hazard for us and the animals since if we’re not around, how will the animals survive? They won’t, and if we are around, how do we know the animal won’t attack? We don’t.
Be Considerate Of Others.
Travel and camp in small groups as to not overwhelm the wildlife and environment. Let the sounds of nature prevail and don’t play loud music or make loud noises. Stay on marked trails and do not trespass on private property. The seven principles of leave no trace help protect natural spaces.
I hope you found these Leave No Trace principles for kids helpful and that it helps you impart these family values to young children. It is a great way to protect the natural world for future generations.
At the end of the day, if you enjoyed your time in the outdoors and want to enjoy it again, ensure that can happen! Help the environment by teaching and enforcing leave no trace so when your children grow old, they can enjoy it too with their families. As Aristotle once said, “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” Nature inspires me and recharges me. I figure the least I can do is try to protect it and respect it through my actions.