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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Making Tracks Hiking Stick

 This morning my 4-year old son and I made trail sticks (aka walking sticks) together. I thought my little guy would get into creating his own hiking stick with either trail symbols or animal tracks. Since he is familiar with, and into animal tracks right now, I went with that theme. Here are the five simple steps to our activity:

1. Find the perfect stick. We already had the perfect piece of wood stashed in the garage—found ages ago—that I decided to saw in half to create two pint-sized yet sturdy hiking poles for my son, but it would be a naturally fun extension to go outside in search of a stick to use!

2. Note your child’s “sweet spot.” I recommend first having your child grasp their hiking stick to see where their hand will naturally lay when using. Leave that part blank, free of any drawings that will wear off or embellishments that will affect their grip.

3. Keep it simple, a quick reference. We chose four commonly encountered tracks and I made photocopies of these along with a 1:1 scale ruler to add to his stick for measuring tracks along the trail. Older kids can draw their own tracks with the animal’s name, and actual track sizes copied from field guides, along with a ruler guide (make sure it’s drawn to scale), 6” is fine. For younger children, print out tracks (shrink images to fit stick), with the name of the animal and actual track size. Have little ones color in and glue them onto their sticks. (Hint: Coat glued on tracks with ModPodge Matte Finish to seal for longer wear.)

4. Be sure to include the ruler! For measuring tracks and other things you encounter on the trail. We ended up using our pre-measured print out to hand draw our rulers directly onto our sticks, because we liked the look of that better :)

5. Embellish sticks with drawings (my son added a heart), ribbon, yarn, feathers, shells, or scrap leather pieces if you wish. I recommend placing them part way down the stick, below your child’s track drawings and hand grasp for comfort and ease of use. We added found feathers to ours.

Time to enjoy your unique and handy creation! Take your hiking stick on your next hike as a useful tracking guide. Keep adding to it: add trail symbols that could help save your life(!), attach a small compass to the tip, attach a hand lens to one of your ribbons, add feathers, etc. The designs and handy uses are practically endless :)

Measuring tracks...


Good for heading up tree-root ramps too!