By Jennifer Close
Books: I Can Go Hiking by Edana Eckart; Wild Tracks! by Jim Arnosky; and Birds of Colorado Field Guide by Stan Tekiela
With our move from the humidity of Florida to the cooler mountains of Colorado, we have a new-found love for hiking as a family. Unfortunately, we have also discovered that taking a few nature walks does not make a family of hikers. There are so many things to think about if you are going to hike with your family.
In the beginning, our kids were a little nervous. They wanted to know if we would see a bear or if we would get lost and not find our way home. At the same time, they were excited to get outside and start walking.
Our first family hike was about two and a half miles and had just enough rocky terrain to make it exciting for the kids. While we were hiking, we spotted a few tracks in the ground and birds in the sky. Both of my children wanted to know what the bird was and who made the tracks but I wasn’t really much help. What is a parent to do? Head to the library, of course!
There are lots of books about hiking for children. We read I Can Go Hiking by Edana Eckart. Though the book was way below my son’s grade level, he sat and listened as my six year old tried to read it herself. It was a fun way to introduce hiking but my children were ready to move on to the next book in our pile.
Wild Tracks! by Jim Arnosky has gotten some serious reading time in our house.
Wild Tracks! doesn’t just share what the tracks look like, the drawings are life-size. It includes life-size tracks of deer and other hoofed animals like the American buffalo and the wild boar, and bear tracks. There are feline, canine, reptile and bird tracks.
Both of my children are pretty sure that we have seen bunny tracks in the snow in front of our house and they are excited to compare the tracks to the picture in the book next time it snows.
In addition to Wild Tracks, we also needed a birding book. We have spotted dozens of different birds and every time we do I feel like a failure of a mother when my children ask what its name is. Mommy has no idea, children. Birds of Colorado Field Guide was recommended to me by my friend, Barb Likos of Mom off Track, shortly after we moved here. If you don’t live in Colorado, there is likely a field guide for your state.
Though Birds of Colorado Field Guide by Stan Tekiela is geared towards adults, even my six year old daughter flips through it regularly. Each bird is given a double page spread in this pocket-sized book. There is a large picture of the bird and facts like size, what the male, female and juvenile bird looks like, what the eggs look like, what they eat and some extra notes from the author. My favorite part of this book is the Compare section. If you aren’t sure that the bird in the book is the one you are looking at, flip to the pages given in the compare section to see if it might be a different bird. We have used this feature several times when trying to decide what type of bird we were looking at.
A tracking book and a birding book are two books every hiking parent should have. Since reading these books together as a family, we have been much more observant on our hikes. Our children spot tiny tracks and take pictures of them so they can compare them to the book. The birds are not as easy for my 6 and 8 year old to catch on camera but they remember what they look like and flip through the book to find the birds’ names. It has been a great family adventure so far and I look forward to many years of hiking with my children.