Teaching Your Kids the Importance of Trail Stewardship

Teaching Your Kids the Importance of Trail Stewardship

Photo by Parent of the North Lyndsey Bull.

As parents, we want to teach our children to appreciate and respect the outdoors. Part of that responsibility is instilling in them good trail stewardship. By following some simple practices, we can ensure that our children develop a love for the environment, while also helping to protect it. 

Hiking and exploring the great outdoors can be an incredible experience, but it's important to remember that the trails we use are not indestructible. As visitors to these natural areas, it's our responsibility to be good stewards and preserve them for future generations to enjoy.

Here are some tips for being a good steward on the trails:

Bang on a fencePhoto by Parent of the North Sierra Burton Roundy

Educate them about Leave No Trace principles. 

Before heading out on a trail, take the time to explain the Leave No Trace principles to your kids. These seven principles include things like packing out your trash, and staying on designated trails because straying from the trail can cause damage to fragile ecosystems and create new paths that lead to erosion and other problems. It also includes respecting wildlife. By understanding these principles, your kids will be better equipped to take care of the environment while enjoying it. 

Man holding a baby

Photo by Parent of the North Lo Rivas 

Lead by example.

Children learn by example, so it's important to model good trail stewardship practices. Show them how to pack out their trash, stay on the trail, and respect wildlife. By doing these things yourself, your children will be more likely to follow suit. Leave natural and cultural features as you find them: Whether it's a beautiful wildflower, a rock formation, or a historic site, leave natural and cultural features as you find them. Avoid disturbing or removing them, as this can cause irreparable damage.

Pack out what you pack in.

Whatever you bring on the trail with you, make sure you bring it back out. Leave no trash behind, and if you see any litter, pick it up and dispose of it properly. Even something as small as a gum wrapper can have a significant impact on the environment. Kids love to help, so encourage them to pick up any litter they see on the trail. This will not only help keep the trail clean, but it will also instill in them a sense of responsibility for the environment. 

Mother and son in the snow

Photo by Parent of the North Alyssa Snyder

Teach them about wildlife.

Teach your kids about the wildlife they may encounter on the trail. Explain that they should keep a safe distance from animals and never disturb their habitats. Also, teach them how to properly dispose of food scraps to avoid attracting animals to the trail. Remember that you are a visitor in their home, and treat the wildlife you encounter with respect. Keep a safe distance and never feed them, as this can cause them to become dependent on humans for food.

Family bike ride

Show them how to be mindful of others. 

When hiking on a crowded trail, show your kids how to be mindful of other hikers. Encourage them to step to the side to let others pass and to keep noise levels down so as not to disturb others. Every trail has its own set of rules and regulations. Make sure you know them before you hit the trail, and follow them. These rules are in place to protect both the environment and other hikers.

Woman walking in the sun

Emphasize the importance of trail maintenance.

Explain to your kids how trails are created and maintained and how important it is to help keep them in good condition. Show them how to clear fallen branches from the trail and report any trail damage or erosion they may encounter. Remember that some places don’t want you to move branches unless you are properly trained, so research before hitting the trail. 

At the end of the day, being a good steward on the trails is all about respecting the environment and doing our part to preserve it. By teaching our children good trail stewardship practices, we can instill a love for the environment and a sense of responsibility for its care. These practices are essential for the health of the ecosystem and help ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.

Like this post? Check out 9 Tips For Raising Your Kids To Love The Outdoors by Parent of the North, Sierra Roundy. 

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