Monday, September 24, 2012

Activity for hiking kids: Animal Track Casts

Animal track cast. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR.
Generally, exploring and discovery is enough for kids, but sometimes even they can grow bored with that and become restless. Remember that they naturally have shorter attention spans than adults.

Fortunately, there are lots of tried and true activities you can do on the trail that’ll keep kids from getting bored. Among them is Animal Track Casting.

Once you find an animal track, make a plaster of Paris cast of it. Using a strip of poster board, form a circle around the track, paper clipping the two ends together. Add water to the plaster in a bag, mixing and squeezing it until it has the consistency of a thick chocolate malt. Pour the plaster over the track, ensuring it covers about half-inch deep the area surrounded by the poster board. Let the plaster harden for about 15 minutes. Pull up (carefully!) the cast, peeling off the poster board strip. Any dirt or grass on the casting can be brushed off.

Be forewarned that you’ll need to carry a number of materials with you to make the casting, so you might want to do this near the trailhead.

Materials: About 2 cups of plaster of Paris carried in a large re-sealable bag, poster board strip (about 2 inches wide and 15-20 inches long), paper clips (two work best), bottle of water

Ages: 12 and up

Read more about day hiking with children in my Hikes with Tykes guidebooks.