Bush exploration for kids

2013-03-25 07:32

As rhino numbers dwindle at the hands of poachers on a daily basis (not to mention lion and elephant in other parts of the continent), conservation and sustainability are no longer just hot topics for debate, but an actual battle to which all South Africans have been called. 

Of course we can't all be at the forefront of the fight, but the good news is that there are so many different ways in which to ply our diverse energies.

If you're a parent, the most valuable contribution you can make is to raise your kids with an awareness of the incredible gift that is our natural heritage.

While books, magazines and television shows may have their place in helping educate kids about the environment, nothing beats getting out there to see, touch, taste, hear and smell it for themselves.

With winter bush season steadily approaching, we have a few suggestions of fun veld activities to do with your kids that will keep them entertained, their brains stimulated, and hopefully also encourage them to pursue a lifestyle that is congruous with conservation. 

Plaster of Paris paw prints

(Every Bed of Roses)

While being a good game tracker may not be central to the average city dweller's survival, knowing a kudu spoor from a caracal's is pretty damn cool skill to have, no? Well, we think it is... and so will your kid (maybe not obviously at first, but the idea will grow on them).

An excellent way of introducing your child to the art of tracking, is to take a walk around your rest camp or head out on a game trail and tell them to look out for different animal tracks. If you're not too clued up yourself, take a guide book along for reference. Once they've spotted a few, suggest that each pick their favourite, which you will then transform into a plaster of Paris mold. Here's a quick and easy tutorial on how to go about it

If everything works out well, your children will each have a perfectly molded game track to take home with them, show off at school and treasure forever. Every time they look at it, they will also have fond memories of their bushveld holiday. 

Insect exploration


While insects, spiders and scorpions definitely shouldn't be taken lightly, it's a great idea to familiarize your kids with these little creatures by introducing them personally.

A fun way of doing this is going on an insect hunt. What you will need is some sort of crawling creature field guide, so you don't mess with the wrong critters, and, if you're interested in a bit of extended research, also a few empty jars and/or a ‘gogga box.' 

Take a walk around your rest camp (or even your backyard) and tell your kids to keep their eyes peeled for interesting looking insects. Look each one up in the field guide, explain what they are and share an interesting fact or two. 

If your kids are keen to observe a certain insect/spider/scorpion for longer, check if it's a harmless species and allow them to capture it in the gogga box/jar. Make sure that the container has a bit of grass, sand and other elements from the insect's natural environment. Carefully release it an hour or two later. 

Another fun insect game is to try coax an ant lion from its pit-like hiding place by softly disrupting the surrounding sand with a blade of grass or a small stick. Ideally the shy creature will mistake the movement for prey and emerge from its hole. 

Treasure hunt

If you're the organised type, send your kids off on a natural scavenger hunt in the area around your accommodation. Give each one a map of the area they should explore, and a list of five to 10 items to collect. These could include leaves from certain plants, dried droppings, stones and whatever else you think could be fascinating finds. 

Once all the items have been collected, get your kids to set out all their treasures, explain how/where they found each and then help them with identification and information. 

Game viewing competition

Finally, when you head out on a game drive, get your kids' full cooperation by engaging their (probably) healthy sense of competition. Have a few different prizes to cover a few different ‘categories.'

Categories could include things like ‘most animals spotted,' ‘rarest animal sighting,' ‘most interesting bird sighting' and ‘cute of the day.'

Read more on:    travel south africa

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