When school is in session, we can become so preoccupied with homework, multiplication tables, and science fair projects that we forget all about the learning possibilities that exist just outside our doors. The deserts, mountains, and plateaus crawling across the countryside are bursting with opportunities to observe and interpret the outside world. These observational skills are crucial for our growing children, as they are learning to recognize, describe, understand, and manipulate the things around them.

So, the next time you schedule some outside time for you and the little ones, whether you’re hiking a trail or exploring a nearby creek, be sure to take advantage of the many teaching opportunities waiting for you along the way. How do you spot these opportunities? To make it simple, we’ve gathered together 4 of the easiest outdoor lessons that can be taught to a variety of ages in most any outdoor environment:

How to Use a Compass. The basic application of a compass is to discern magnetic north, which is a fairly easy concept for a child to follow and understand. Explain to your child that the compass uses a “bird’s eye view” of the world, and that it always displays magnetic north. For older kids, teach them how to determine a bearing or destination, given the location or direction of an individual.

Our WildLife Compass is a quality and kid-friendly compass that makes using the device a fun and interactive experience!

How to Identify Plants. It’s extremely useful for children to get into the habit of recognizing and describing the things around them. For identifying plants, you can encourage your child to carry around a sketchbook or journal, which can house rough sketches, printed pictures, and observational notes regarding the unique plants that show up along your path. For a more 21st-century approach, you can download smartphone apps capable of plant identification, which can help to match your pictures with an ever-growing database of the world’s flora.

If you need a durable and water-resistant bag for carrying your plant specimens, our GoGear Belt Pack works perfectly. Remember: when investigating your surrounding plant life, there is always the possibility of skin irritation or allergic reaction. So, investigate responsibly!

How to Use a Map. Maps can be either very simple or very complex, and their purpose depends a lot on the information each map chooses to highlight. However, to begin simply, speak with your children about the cardinal directions (north, south, east, west), which should be familiar from their use of their magnetic compass. Reference the legend on each map, explaining to your child that the legend will show you what the colors and symbols of a map actually represent.

If your newly-appointed “map captain” needs a light for surveying things in the dark, our Wildlight and LifeLight lines are perfect for the task.

How to Identify Animals. Much like with identifying plants, it is most important that your child has a way to document and describe the animals they meet, such as with a sketchbook or a camera. Once they have a handle on identifying and documenting each animal, make things fun by incorporating both plants and animals into a larger scavenger hunt, or ask them to identify the predators and prey among their specimens.

During all this outdoor education, it’s always important to stay hydrated. Let your little explorer keep their thirst quenched with our kid-favorite, RoarBottle T-Rex.

When you take your kids outside, the opportunities for learning are seemingly endless. So, next time you’re hiking around with the kiddos, be sure to take the time for the many educational moments that will come your way. Taking the kids camping? Check out the Ultimate SunCo Camping Checklist before you head out!