It is important we advocate for our natural world and instruct kids about our duty to protect. Sure, we want them to be kids: splashing in the water, making mud pies, climbing trees, and exploring freely, yet, there are heavily used and environmentally sensitive areas that truly need our protection. Equally important is for the youth to use good judgment and not trash our planet.
Teaching and learning leave no trace principles is a lifelong educational journey. Take kids outside frequently, lead by example, and communicate these lessons every chance you get. It will sink in.
Teaching Leave No Trace Principles to kids: Outdoor Ethics
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Planning is important especially if you are visiting a new park, other regulated open space, or unfamiliar territory. Parks, forests, and reserves all have different sets of rules to obey.
Know what the rules are so you can give the children guidelines to follow. Can they remove those rocks or collect living organisms from the sea? Moreover, let them know how and where to find these rules.
Preparation also includes packing items to assist in active conservation such as bags to pack out trash you bring and any litter found nearby.
Educate how to avoid unexpected wildlife confrontations. Do you know what to do when an animal encounter happens? Study, plan and be as prepared as you can. Discuss your upcoming adventure with the children ahead of time.
Do not litter. Dispose of waste properly and pack out what you bring.
Travel and camp on durable surfaces. Most of you will car camp in existing campsites. If backpacking or dispersal camping in more remote locales know how to find previously used site. Educate the kids.
Minimize campfire impact and know where you can have one. Some regions strictly forbid campfires due to a high hazard area.
Leave what you find - especially in highly impacted and restricted regions such as Marine Protected Areas.
Take photos and memories instead.
Do not feed the animals. I am sure this rule is broken often and one that irks me to no end. Do not tease animals with food, either. Do not pet, harm, or get to close to wildlife. Wild animals can be unpredictable. Instead, observe at a safe distance. Study them, sketch them, and photograph them. Use binoculars if you need to.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
This is a lesson worthy of everyday life and does not apply only in the outdoors.
When teaching kids Leave No Trace principles and appropriate outdoor ethical behavior I find preaching rarely works. Much better is to lead by example, for their entire lives. Start when they are babies by spending time outside together: go hiking, camping, and learn from nature experts. Visit educational nature centers that make learning fun. Let us build a lifetime of memories playing and preserving the outdoors, together, with our kids.