Making a journey stick is a fun way to involve children of all ages in an explorative, outdoor activity. This is an activity you can do over several days or you can do it in under an hour.
What is a journey stick?
Creating a journey stick makes a trail experience our outdoor adventure more memorable, provides teaching moments for you and your child and is fun and engaging for everyone. Adapt and do it in a way that best works for you and your family.
Clarify the Task
First, clarify the task for your children. Making a journey stick involves going on a walk, hike or journey outside and finding a “special stick” and some special outdoor collectibles.
Your stick can be short, long, wide or narrow. It can also be a stick that can double as a walking or hiking stick on the journey.
Explore and Collect
Next, take action and explore. I always like seeing the treasures my kids find on the trail that I would have never noticed.
You can make this a special time to help them explore with a purpose or let them grab any and all collectibles.
For toddlers you can encourage them to forage and collect anything that’s “exciting to them”. If you want to make it more purposeful there are lots of fun ways to do that as well.
This can turn into a mini lesson on colors, shapes and counting. For example, you can encourage them to see how many different brown things they can collect or encourage them to find the colors of the rainbow.
You might also encourage them to look for different shapes (e.g. squares, rectangles, ovals or 3-D shapes like spheres and cubes). You can also encourage them to find a certain number of things and use it as a time to work on counting (e.g. can they find 10 different items for their journey stick?)
For older kids you might encourage them to find different kinds of things in separate categories or different things in the same category. You might want to give them a checklist of things like a scavenger hunt.
For example, encourage them to see if they can find one leaf, one acorn, one pine needle, one flower and one feather. Or you might encourage them to see how many different types of things they can find in one category (e.g. how many different types of leaves they can find).
As mentioned earlier this can also be a super laid back experience. They are bound to have fun foraging for anything that they find interesting. The overall purpose is to help them engage and explore the world around them.
Teach and Learn
Third, use it as an opportunity to teach. This is where the fun part comes in. After your journey you can discuss together what things they collected and see what you can learn from what was collected.
If they found an acorn, do they know what tree the acorn came from? Do they know what the inside of an acorn looks like?
If they found a feather, do they know what kind of bird the feather came from? Why do they think birds have feathers and not fur?
If they found a variety of leaves, can you learn together what kinds of trees the leaves come from?
How about identifying shapes? Is anything they found in the shape of a triangle, sphere or square?
Was it hard to find certain colors in nature? Why do they think this is a hard color to find?
You get the point. The options for teaching and learning are limitless.
Finally, use it as an opportunity to create. This is where your stick can become a lovely piece of treasured art. How does your child want to remember their special journey? Do they want to glue the items they found from their journey onto their stick or tie them on with string?
Do they want to paint their stick or carve it? This is a good time to work on knife skills with an older child if they have an interest in carving their stick.
There’s no right or wrong way to make a journey stick so let your creativity take over in the process and please share your experiences with us. After all, ‘life’s about the journey not the destination’, right?
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