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Everything You Need to Get Started

If you like the idea of heading outside with a group of kids, but need a little help getting started, here is a list of the most essential outdoor learning tools you'll want to have on hand.


Forest Backpack Traveler

Well Fitting Backpack

Backpacks are great to keep all those outdoor learning supplies handy, but I can tell you from experience, the fit really matters!  To spare you back, I recommend a backpack with a hip belt that's the right size for your height and dimensions.

Observing Flowers

Magnifying Glasses

Kids love getting up close and personal with the outdoors.  Whether it's inspecting a fallen log for bugs or exploring the erosion of paint on a bench, magnifying glasses are one of the best tools to have on hand when heading outside.



Clipboards are great, especially if each child is carrying their own. But, if you're the one doing the carrying, almost any type of lightweight, 8 x 11 firm cardboard or plastic will do. For many years, I used old, stiff cardboard envelopes I got at a teacher's supply warehouse, as as light weight substitute for clipboards.

Colored Pencils

Pencils, Paper &

Pencil Crayons

Pencils, paper and pencil crayons are one of the best ways to get kids to focus on whatever you're looking at outdoors are . I love watching kids gets deeply absorbed as they sketch what they see or write about their outdoor experience. Pencils and paper are light to carry and kids can share a range of pencil crayon colours between themselves.



Binoculars will help you and the kids zoom in on anything interesting you spot at a distance. You won't need high quality binoculars.  Basic, compact binoculars that magnify objects at 10x will do. I like to carry 1 pair for every 8 children. 


Bug Boxes

Kids love inspecting the fascinating world of insects up close. Bug boxes are great if you can coax your insect or bug into the box and then examine it through the magnified box lens. I carry 2-3 bug boxes for every 8 children.

Compass & Map


If you know how to use a compass, you can teacher kids to use it and navigate the outdoors. Compasses are great for orienteering and scavenger hunts. If you don't know how to use a compass, have a look at this great video by REI.

Sibley's Field Guide.jpg

Field Guides

Having guide books and laminated pocket guides will take your outdoor learning up a notch. You can find these guides covering a wide range of topics from trees and plants to birds, insects, mammals and rocks/minerals. Kids love pouring through these to identify whatever they're inspecting outdoors, and many guides have all kinds of neat facts about each species.

Natural Silk

String & Scissors

Such a simple tool, but so useful.  String can be used for so many activities, from a quadrant bug hunt to hanging outdoor rain paintings. Keep some string in your backpack, along with a pair of scissors to cut different lengths on the go.

First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit

Having a small first aid kit with all the necessities for small injuries is a must. There are lots of portable first aid kits you can sources.  If you want to keep costs low, you can always make your own from supplies at the drug store stored in a Ziploc bag.


Nature Journals

Kids love to have a record of what they've explored and learned outdoors. Using a journal helps them focus their attention and deepen their learning. You can find inexpensive notebooks online or in stores, or you can help your kids make their own nature journal out of paper, string/staples and folded sandwich bags. You can find instructions at Dragonfly Designs.


Rain Shelter

Rain can be fun to play and explore in, but you'll also need a dry place to do some activities and have a rest. You can string up a tarp for an inexpensive shelter, or you can purchase a more expensive but sturdy canopy.

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