Leave No Trace with Little Ones


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You might have heard in regards to the Leave No Trace motion, however what does it imply to “Leave No Trace”? Is that even attainable when you’ve gotten youngsters in tow? The reply is sure, kind of. The mission of Leave No Trace is to coach and encourage everybody to guard the outside by instructing individuals to benefit from the outdoor responsibly. It isn’t about leaving zero hint; it’s about decreasing our environmental impacts every time and nevertheless attainable. That might seem to be a frightening activity if you find yourself making an attempt to wrangle a toddler on a path, however we’re right here to assist! We have listed every precept beneath together with some ideas and methods for following them when you’ve gotten little ones in tow.

three children walking on a trail in the woods

Photo by Jessica Human

Principle 1: Plan Ahead and Prepare – Know Before You Go

Getting misplaced on the path or getting caught in a storm whereas mountain climbing generally is a worrying expertise. Add in just a few little ones to the equation and issues can get downright harrowing. While these experiences aren’t all the time avoidable (like an sudden rainstorm), somewhat planning forward can assist you keep away from most of those worrying experiences.

Here are some tricks to contain your kiddos on this step:

  1. Have your youngsters verify the climate forecast with you and assist them determine what clothes they need to put on.
  2. Look at a path map along with your kiddos (a paper map, a web-based map, or a telephone app) and determine collectively which route you wish to take.
  3. If they’re sufficiently old, allow them to select their very own snacks to deliver alongside.
  4. Older kiddos can pack their very own journey pack to take together with issues like a snack, water, and journey instruments (like a journal and a pocket microscope).

Principle 2: Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces – Stay on the Trail

Keeping kiddos on the path could be difficult. They are pure explorers and wish to examine each little factor they uncover. However, exploring off path can result in trampled vegetation, elevated erosion, and broken animal habitats. A sturdy floor consists of established trails and campsites together with areas with rock, sand, gravel, snow, and dry grass. If you have to go off path (like for potty breaks that simply can’t wait), search out these sturdy surfaces every time attainable, and stroll frivolously avoiding as a lot vegetation as attainable.

Here are some ideas for holding kiddos on the path and lowering your impression on the path.

  1. Take a potty break as quickly as you get to the path to scale back the variety of off-trail excursions.
  2. Play foolish video games with kiddos with the primary purpose of staying on the path. For instance, you may fake that the vegetation on both facet of the path is lava, and so they have to remain as near the middle of the path as attainable to keep away from the warmth.
  3. You may play the “ninja” (typically known as “secret spy”) sport the place youngsters must step as frivolously and quietly as attainable and disturb as little as they’ll to keep away from “detection”.
  4. Have a dialog along with your youngsters about what occurs when lots of people go off path. Point out indicators of abrasion and destroyed vegetation alongside the path.
families hiking together on a trail

Photo by Jessica Human

Principle 3: Dispose of Waste Properly – Pack it in, Pack it Out

Kids are messy creatures. Aside from their affinity for mud puddles, there are additionally spilled snacks and the occasional diaper explosion. It’s a great factor to do not forget that something that wasn’t present in nature (just like the mud) needs to be packed out. This consists of spilled snacks. It could seem innocent, however these snacks often find yourself within the stomachs of wildlife. This can result in sickness (I doubt any animals have fishy crackers as a part of their pure weight loss plan) and elevated dependency on people. Once animals rely extra on people, they lose their concern of people, which could be harmful for each them and us.

Here are some ideas for disposing of waste correctly with kiddos in tow.

  1. Always have a bag available to gather your trash (and some other trash you could discover) alongside the way in which. This could possibly be so simple as a plastic grocery bag or a particular reusable trash bag.
  2. Anytime you cease for a snack or meal break, have everybody use their “owl eyes” to seek out any trash left behind earlier than you head again out.

Principle 4: Leave What You Find

This is one other difficult precept to observe with little ones. Especially in case you have a rock collector like I do! While taking pure objects, selecting flowers, carving on bushes, and so on. could seem innocent, it will possibly harm the ecosystem, particularly when lots of people are doing it. Rocks, sticks, flowers, and even pine cones function shelter and meals sources for quite a lot of organisms. If the plant you decide occurs to be invasive to the realm, you could possibly be inadvertently spreading the species as you transport it. That being mentioned, you don’t wish to stifle the curiosity of a budding geologist or botanist.

Here are some ideas and alternate options for holding your nature collector blissful whereas leaving nature in nature (or at the least most of it):

  1. Use “do” language to assist little ones perceive the way to work together with nature. Use statements like “let’s be nice with the flowers” or “touch softly”.
  2. Encourage your kiddos to make use of their senses to expertise the item IN nature. For instance, allow them to take a couple of minutes to really feel, see, and even odor the item. You can discuss it after which have them substitute the item the place they discovered it.
  3. Take alongside some paper and crayons to they’ll do some leaf or bark rubbings.
  4. Have them draw an image or take a photograph of the item.
  5. When all else fails, enable them to decide on one or two favourite nature finds to take residence and substitute the remaining the place they discovered them.
child gently touching dainty flower

Photo by Jessica Human

Principle 5: Minimize Campfire Impacts 

Improperly tended campfires are one of many main unnatural causes of wildfires. If you’re tenting be certain you already know the native rules on fireplace and search out established fireplace rings when attainable. If you have to collect wooden, use lifeless and downed wooden that’s no bigger than the diameter of your wrist and could be damaged simply by hand. When leaving, douse the fireplace with water till it’s cool to the contact. A greater various can be to make use of a camp range for warmth and cooking, or a easy lantern for gentle.

Here are just a few ideas for minimizing campfire impacts with kiddos:

  1. Keep flammable objects far-off and out of attain from curious arms, and don’t enable youngsters to play with sticks close to the fireplace.
  2. Have kids assist accumulate firewood. You could make it a sport to see who could be the primary to seek out 5 items of dry, downed firewood no bigger than the diameter of their wrist.
child watching campfire in a ring

Photo by Deanna Curry


Principle 6: Respect Wildlife

Observing animals within the wild is fascinating for each adults and children alike. Whether you see a deer sprint throughout the path forward of you or a woodpecker busily looking for meals, there’s simply one thing awe-inspiring about watching wildlife. To preserve having these encounters safely, we have to educate our little ones the way to respect wildlife. That means holding a protected distance, by no means feeding wild animals, and storing meals and odorous objects securely whereas tenting.

Here are some ideas for instructing our kiddos to respect the animals they encounter on their outside adventures and to maintain the wildlife wild.

  1. To assist younger ones perceive what it means to maintain a “safe distance”, have them stand with an arm raised to shoulder peak with their thumb pointing up. Then have them have a look at the animal with one eye closed and attempt to cowl it with their thumb. If they’re a protected distance away, their thumb ought to utterly block sight of the animal.
  2. Remind your youngsters that bugs are wildlife too, and we must be cautious to not hurt them. We can admire an intricate spider internet or an extended line of ants with out destroying what we discover.
  3. Bring alongside some journey gadgets equivalent to binoculars and a magnifying glass in order that kiddos can observe wildlife safely.
  4. Contrary to common perception, chicken feeders can observe the Leave No Trace Principles IF they observe the Audubon Society Guidelines. These embrace avoiding seed mixtures and cleansing the chicken feeders at the least each season. If you wish to appeal to quite a lot of chicken species, it’s best to have completely different chicken feeders at completely different heights with several types of seed/meals in every of them.

Principle 7: Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Respecting different individuals you meet on the path helps make sure that nature could be loved by all. Modeling and inspiring behaviors equivalent to staying to the best on the path to let others go or taking breaks on sturdy surfaces away from the path goes an extended strategy to preserving the expertise for different guests. Other good practices embrace avoiding speaking on cell telephones or making excessively loud noises whereas on the path (when attainable).

Here are just a few ideas we use to encourage being form to others on the path:

  1. If your youngsters are like mine, they wish to fake to be wild animals when they’re on the path (notably howling wolves). This can get extraordinarily noisy, so I began difficult them to be quieter animals, equivalent to a bunny or squirrel, or fake that they’re sneaking round like a cheetah.
  2. Practice “moving to the right” along with your youngsters whereas on the path or on a neighborhood stroll. When you apply forward of time, it will possibly keep away from confusion while you ask them to maneuver to the best to let different individuals or cyclists go on the path.


It is necessary to notice that these rules are GUIDELINES, not strict guidelines. As dad and mom, we all know that this can be very unlikely that we’ll be good at following these rules on a regular basis, and that’s okay! The level is to not attempt for perfection on a regular basis. It’s to lower our impression on the atmosphere every time and wherever attainable and to show our kids to do the identical. The ideas above can assist your loved ones make fewer environmental impacts. You may try these different enjoyable sources from Leave No Trace to assist your kiddos perceive the impression their actions could make on the atmosphere:


Fun Resources from our pals at :


How do you apply the Leave No Trace Principles with your loved ones? Let us know within the feedback beneath!



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