We feel very strongly that we need to teach our children how to care for the outdoors. After exploring all over Utah, and many other places in the United States, it is devastating to see names scratched into rocks, and places destroyed from trash. So we decided when our kids were very young to help them understand the Leave No Trace Principles, and how to keep our earth beautiful and healthy. These basic principles are a great starting point in teaching children how to care for the outdoors as they adventure and explore.
Leave No Trace Principles for the Outdoors
In case you have never heard of the Leave No Trace Principles, there are 7 different topics.
- Plan Ahead & Prepare
- Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Others
We are going to share some ideas of how to teach these simply to your children, and how to best implement them as a family when you are outdoors.
Principle 1: Plan Ahead & Prepare
We teach our kids that being prepared is so important. Being lost, or not having the right gear, can cause trouble not only for your family, but anyone who has to help you. So, we talk about preparing for adventures. Make sure to have everything you need: enough water, food, sunscreen, hats, good shoes, etc. We also stress having all the information you need before arriving at an adventure. Do your research! We have written this website with this very purpose in your mind. We hope it helps you properly plan so you know before you go! Here are some tips on how to pick an adventure that is right for you.
Principle 2: Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
This is so important in areas where there are wildflowers or biological soil crust. Even though most of us don’t mean harm, America is being loved to death by people who walk (or camp) without thinking. We can help by always staying on the trail. We ingrain this into our children every time we go hiking. Stay on the trail. Cutting corners creates confusing ghost trails and causes dangerous erosion and rock slides. In addition, when we camp, most developed sites have a specific place to park the car and a tent pad to hold your tent. These simple measures keep the damage we do to a specific designated location.
Principle 3: Dispose of Waste Properly
We started this idea right in our home before we even began adventuring. Leave the area you were in better than when you arrived. We do this when hiking and exploring, too. Not only do we pack all of our trash out to a garbage can, but we pick up garbage as we go. Let’s leave the outdoors beautiful! All garbage and trash should be placed in garbage cans.
Also of great importance, is to clean up after your pets. We don’t adventure with a pet, but we know that many people love to camp or hike with their dogs. This is great, but know before you go if your dog is welcome. (In some watersheds, they are not.) Then, be willing to bag up and carry out their waste. This is part of responsible pet ownership and adventuring with your furry loved one.
Principle 4: Leave What You Find
This one can be tricky for kids. Children are natural collectors. They want to pick up a rock, or pick a flower, as they stroll along. The problem is that adventurers are out in record numbers. If every child that walks by takes a little piece of nature’s beauty, it isn’t long before there is nothing beautiful left. In many places, such as National Parks and lands, it is against the law to take or move anything. Always remind your kids to leave things where they found them for others to enjoy. One simple solution is to let them take a picture with it and then encourage them to leave it for others to enjoy. We like to tell them that when they leave the outdoors as it is, they can come back with their future families and see it again!
One of the most important things you can do with your kids is point out the naughty. One of our biggest complaints about other travelers is that they etch, scratch, or damage our wild places. In our view, nothing is more despicable than graffiti on rocks, trees, and especially our Utah sandstone. If we see this, we talk to our kids about the naughty people who have been there and done this. Please don’t be on our naughty list. A big part of leaving what you find, is leaving what you find as it is.
Principle 5: Minimize Campfire Impacts
I don’t think that we take this one as seriously as we need to. Utah is always plagued with summer wildfires, and most are human caused. Put out any fires that you use completely before you go to bed or leave the area. Make sure to create fires in designated fire pits and do not leave a campfire unattended even for a moment. It is so easy in our desert climate for a fire to get out of hand. Please be careful with fire. We let our kids help us put out fires, so they can learn the importance of this principle.
Principle 6: Respect Wildlife
We have seen a lot of wildlife on our adventures. Many people ask if we ever get scared if we see a bear or bobcat, and the answer (so far) is no. I believe this is because we respect wildlife and give it the space it needs. There are two main things we teach our kids about wildlife: never feed wild animals, and give them their distance. If you follow these ideas, you will be able to stay safe. These are the steps we use if we run into an animal on the trail:
- Stop. Do not get any closer.
- Back away slowly with no sudden movements and observe the wildlife. Most of the time, they are just as surprised to see you as you are to see them. So if you offer no threat, they will move on.
- Don’t turn your back to the wildlife. Watch to see if they seem aggressive.
- If they continue on their way, give them time to move away from the area, and then you can continue on your hike.
- If the animal seems upset, keep backing away and make noise. Try to scare it by being loud and seeming large.
- Use technology to get closer. Our kids each have a set of binoculars, and Mom uses her telephoto lens. This helps us feel and seem closer to wildlife than we really are.
We always talk as we hike and adventure, so animals know we are in the area. We aren’t crazy and annoyingly loud, but we aren’t silent. Just a little chatter so that the wildlife can hear us coming.
Principle 7: Be Considerate of Others
This is a great lesson to learn for all aspects of life. We use nature and the outdoors to teach it. We make sure to talk about how to be considerate of others we meet in the outdoors. This means simply being courtesy to other travelers. Step to the side to let others pass on the trail. Help anyone who needs directions or help. Obey the other principles so that we can all enjoy being outdoors for a long time. Just be friendly. It also means we talk about those we don’t meet who will visit in the future. Again, we stress to our children that they can bring their future children back!
Love the Earth at Home
We can help keep the earth healthy even when we are at home. We try to teach our kids that every little things makes a difference, which it does. Here are some other things that we try to teach our kids to do at home to help recycle, reuse, and conserve.
- Turn the lights off: This one is the most difficult one for our boys! We have practiced a lot. When you leave a room, turn off the lights.
- Don’t leave the water running: Whether you are washing hands or brushing teeth, if you aren’t using the water, turn it off.
- Recycle: Happily, our city has a good program where we can recycle many things each week. We also take our glass bottles to the local glass recycling center. We teach our boys which items can be recycled or reused.
- Purchase products that are earth friendly: Buying products that are made from recyclable or reused materials is a great way to help the earth. You can read about adidas and how they are making shoes out of recycled materials.
We love Utah! We want it to be an amazing place to visit. We believe that we are stewards of this beautiful place, and that it is our responsibility to keep it beautiful forever. Please join Utah’s Adventure Family in our quest to keep Utah (and everywhere) pristine!