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My Path - interactive activities for pathway play.
My Path:
Planning your journey
During the fall months, pathways can offer unique experiences for children and families. You won’t want your child to miss out on the opportunity to enjoy the beauty and wonder of the changing colors and active wildlife! Use these helpful tips to prepare for your journey to ensure it is both positive and memorable.
My Path Links Literature Connections Sharing Your Experiences Engaging With Nature Planning Your Journey Playing Along the Way
Stay hydrated
Don’t forget to bring water, whether it is hot or not! Children’s bodies dehydrate faster than adults and don’t cool down as quickly. It is harder for the body to control heat when temperatures are higher than 80°F, especially when the humidity is higher than 70%. Sunlight, wind, and exertion can increase the effects of warm temperatures. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children drink one cup of water before going out to play, one cup of water every 15 – 20 minutes during play, and one and one half cups of water after play. You should not wait for your child to tell you how much fluid he or she needs, as thirst can be an indicator of dehydration. Although cold water is best for rehydration, flavored sports drinks may stimulate your child to drink more. Having enough fluids will keep their bodies healthy and able to keep up with the hike! Refillable kid size hydration packs (sold at camping and hiking stores) allow kids to carry their own water and sip as they go.
Dress appropriately
Springtime weather can change quickly, and so can body temperature depending on the level of physical activity. Dressing in multiple layers allows a child to take layers on and off to regulate their temperature as needed.
Wide brimmed hats are recommended for added sun protection. Investing in a good quality rain jacket with a hood can extend outdoor play time enough to allow your children to enjoy light spring showers! Kids can find their way into water and wet conditions even if there is no rain in the forecast. You will want a pair of waterproof boots with rubber soles that will provide good traction on wet surfaces and are great for splashing in mud puddles! Inexpensive versions can often be found and the boots can be washed off quickly and easily. Boots are a great investment as they allow your child to spend more time outdoors comfortably, and to explore territories that might be off limits without the boots.
Bring along healthy snacks
Children have small stomachs but high energy needs, so packing healthy snacks for your trip can help refuel bodies and minds. Children often like to have ‘picnics’ or ‘garden parties’ so you can make it fun by involving them in the planning and preparation of snacks. Although it may require extra work to have them ‘help’ you now, in a few years, they will have learned the skills and will be able to do this job for you. Packing snacks in small reusable containers or plastic sandwich bags makes carrying them easy and safe.
Snack ideas:
  • Fruits such as apples, oranges, grapes, and pears
  • Carrot or celery sticks
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • Cheese
  • Nuts
  • Granola or energy bars
You can make your own healthy trail mix by combining your choice of ingredients and packaging into small bags. Trail mixes can provide carbohydrates and protein and are easy to carry, and convenient to eat. Children love to participate in making this fun to eat snack!
Possible ingredients:
  • Nuts such as walnuts, peanuts, cashews, or almonds
  • Low sugar breakfast cereals
  • Dried fruits such as raisins, dried apricots, dried cranberries
  • Pretzels
  • M & M’s, or chocolate chips
  • Small crackers
Allow time for exploration
Most children will like to meander and stop and investigate their environment. It is important to allow ample time for them to engage with their surroundings! Although getting exercise is important for you and for them, if at all possible, allow enough time for them to fully appreciate the experience and the natural world around them. If you are short for time, it is best to plan a shorter walk rather than be disappointed that you were unable to complete a longer trip and decrease frustration. Remember that walking outside can reduce stress, so it is important for children and families to take advantage of these opportunity together to encourage play along the way, conversations, and discovery. Having realistic expectations and being flexible will make the experience more enjoyable for the whole family!
Wear sunscreen
Spending time outside on a sunny day is a great mood enhancer and a great way to soak up the medically necessary vitamin D. To avoid the unhealthful side effects of too much exposure, children should wear sunscreen on exposed areas of their skin. Most of the sun’s rays can come through the clouds on an overcast day; so use sun protection even on cloudy days. Choose a sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection, has an SPF of at least 30, is water-resistant, hypoallergenic and fragrance free, and is easy to use with children. Zinc oxide is an effective sunblock that can be used with young children.
Bug Safety
The Center for Disease Control recommends applying insect repellent to reduce exposure to mosquito bites before adventuring outdoors. They recommend products that contain active ingredients with DEET or Picaridin as these products have been registered with the EPA for safety and have demonstrated a higher degree of effectiveness. Oil of lemon eucalyptus has shown similar effectiveness to products with low concentrations of DEET. Usually, the higher concentration of the active ingredient, the longer that product will last without the need for reapplication. Be sure to read and follow all product instructions. Adults should always apply insect repellent to children, and should avoid applying to children’s hands, eyes, mouth, and ears. The use of a single product that combines insect repellent and sunscreen is NOT recommended, as these products may result in too frequent re-application of insect repellent. Another good way to protect against insect bites is by having your child wear long sleeves and long pants. Lightweight clothing in light colors can be most comfortable in warm weather and protect against insects.
Be proactive
Educate yourself about the regulations of the area and discuss expectations with your children prior to your journey. It may be helpful to obtain travel maps to familiarize yourself with the area, facilities, and other site specifics. Plan your destination with your children, discuss what they want to do once they get there, and always tell someone your travel plans. Weather can change unexpectedly, so check the forecast and plan clothing, equipment, and supplies accordingly.
Create a “My Path” backpack
A hiking backpack can be pre-packed with essential items and always ready for your adventures. This pack can stay in your closet or in the back of your car, so it is conveniently waiting for all the adventures your family embarks on! Pack weights should not exceed 1/3 of your body weight.
Things you may wish to include:
  • Binoculars
  • Nature guides: identifying trees, rocks, salamanders, bugs, birds, etc.
  • Magnifying glass
  • Bug collection container
  • Journal/writing instrument/color pencils
  • Watercolors/paper/water
  • Dry socks
  • Re-sealable plastic bags for collections & permanent marker for labeling
  • Camera
  • First aid kit
  • Bug spray
  • Compass
  • Lightweight blanket for sitting/picnicking
  • Trash bag
  • Maps
  • Sunglasses
Plan for FUN along the way
Incorporate ideas found on “My Path” from the “Playing Along the Way” or “Engaging with Nature” section as you plan your journey. Brainstorm ideas with children about what fun things they would like to do on their journey or bring along with them.
Some ways to infuse play and engagement with nature include:
  • Fishing
  • Signing songs
  • Playing simple games
  • Skipping rocks
  • Collecting items for collages
  • Storytelling
  • Imaginative play
Program developed in partnership with:
PlayCore Natural Learning Initiative
© 2010 PlayCore, Inc. and Natural Learning Initiative,College of Design,
NC State University.
All rights reserved.
Pathways for Play is a trademark of PlayCore.
Spontaneous play (children playing together without direct adult intervention) is recognized by child development experts as a crucial aspect of healthy childhood.
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