Animal tracking with children is a great way to help them connect with nature and get outdoors. It helps foster an interest in the wildlife around them, as well as being a free, easy, and educational activity. It is fun for any age group, and different ages take away different things from the experience, so it is fine to do with siblings who vary in age. Animal tracking teaches them about the living things in their area, and helps them learn about those creatures. You never know, you may learn a thing or two as well! Animal tracking with children is hard as the animals can hear you coming long before you get to spot them, but looking for the clues keeps it entertaining. It involves all the senses. The children can see something is living around where they are. Then one day they may be keen enough to be silent enough to see the animals before they hear you coming….well it’s something we are aiming for anyway!
13 Tips For Animal Tracking With Children:
- Before you head out, make sure you have either a spotter’s guide, a print out, or some hand drawn notes to refer too. We take some pictures in our journals that we have drawn of paw prints of our local animals. Bear in mind it needs to be of wildlife find around you.
- Look for footprints in the mud and the snow. We are very lucky that the snow holds footprints well and makes it very easy for us in the winter. But you can follow footprint tracks well in the mud too.
- Look for any fur or feathers caught on bushes or branches.
- Look at the shape and size of poo. You can always look up later what you have seen to try and help discover whose path you were on.
- Look at the consistency of poo as well. What is in it may give clues as to what its diet consists of, e.g. berry seeds or undigested vegetation.
- Check the area for any broken branches or snapped twigs, giving clues as to what may have wandered that way. If branches are broken higher or lower this may give clues to the size of the wildlife.
- When animal tracking with children, you may smell their wee or poo around you. Just like a dog likes to wee on the same lamp post every time it walks past to mark its territory, wild animals like to mark their’s on the same spot.
- If you are very quiet and good at tracking animals with children, you may hear them making sounds around you, so listen carefully.
- Look and see if any vegetation around your been eaten. For example any bark stripped off the trees, berries munched, or flowers deheaded.
- Use binoculars to get a closer look without disturbing anything.
- Take a camera to take photos to look up later, or a notebook to jot down notes or drawings.
- Try and walk into the wind, so any sounds you are making, or smells you are carrying, are carried off in the other direction. This will decrease the chances of the wildlife being alerted to your presence.
- Keep your distance from any wildlife so you can watch without disturbing or frightening them. As well as being unkind, it might also put your safety in danger if a larger animal runs towards you scared, even if they are not predatorial.
You definitely do not need expensive equipment to do animal tracking with children, but if you have them, some things may be useful, including binoculars, a camera, and a notebook. Also, definitely do not head out without some sort of crib sheet as mentioned at the start, and above all have fun!