When I was younger, I was a Girl Scout. I was very lucky to be in an extremely active troop. We went camping all weekend long, at least once a month! As an adult now, I have a vast appreciation for just how daunting that must have been for the adults involved. But as a girl, those weekend getaways, with all of my closest friends, were pure joy! The memories we made on those outings will stay with me for the rest of my life. And I know that everything we did out there in those woods, helped to mold me into the woman that I have become today. I pray that my children get to experience the same type of friendships and personal exploration that come out of encounters like that.
Spider Sniffing and Snipe Hunting are two of the things that we did on those camp outs. They're a bit like a rite of passage for the newbie woodsman - activities led by seasoned campers to introduce the newest members to the forest. But these are both activities that can be easily adapted for family fun nature outings. The memories that you make will last a lifetime, and that in itself is priceless!
Let's start with Spider Sniffing, since it is a daytime activity...
Most places have public hiking trails nearby. Simply pick one that you feel comfortable with. Before you begin down the trail, tell the kids that you'll be Spider Sniffing. Tell them that spider webs can have different smells, depending on the species of spider that built it. (They really don't, but you can let them in on that little secret later.) You can even elaborate by saying some smell like strawberries, or popcorn - or anything else that you can think of that has a strong, distinctive, and familiar smell. A little while after you start down the trail, say, "I smell strawberries." - even if you haven't seen a spider web yet. You'll be surprised at how quickly others will smell it too. Keep going down the trail and say, "Now I smell popcorn! Do you small that?" Pretty soon everyone will be pulling up smells like bubblegum, or cotton candy. Your brain will even get into the game, because you will actually start to smell some of these things - even though they are clearly not there! By the end of the trail you all will have had a good laugh and been amazed at all of the different smelling 'spider webs'.
Now let's get into Snipe Hunting...
This one is a just after dark activity that requires at least two "in-the-know" people. One to lead the group hunting the snipes. And at least one behind the scenes person. This activity also requires a couple of supplies:
- Flashlights - It's dark and you'll be walking through a wooded trail.
- Paper bags - To catch the snipes in. (Plastic bags don't work very well for this, because they need to be able to hold themselves open.)
Just before dark have the behind the scenes people SECRETLY go out into the trail dressed in dark clothing - preferably someone that can see pretty well in the dark, because their job takes place without the aid of flashlights. Have them take position just off the trail and somewhat hidden, but still accessible to the trail. A great place to hide is behind bushes or such. They will also need to gather a few rocks or pine cones (anything with a little weight that can also roll).
Once everyone is in position, set the stage: Explain to the kids (or anyone that has never been snipe hunting before) that snipes are very small little creatures that live in the woods and only come out at night, just after dark. They are very shy and spook easily, so the kids need to walk quietly and look really hard under bushes and such. Tell them to keep the flashlights and paper bags as close to the ground as possible, so that they might be able to see and/or catch one.
As you begin down the trail tell the kids to tap their fingers softly on the back of the bag, to lure the snipes in. The behind the scenes people will see your hunting party coming because of the flashlights. As your party approaches their hidden position, the behind the scenes people can snap a few branches or rustle some leaves to really kick up the excitement, but they need to be careful not to be seen yet. Once the hunting party is close enough, the behind the scenes people roll the pine cones or rocks into the children's bags. The kids will quickly snatch up the bags to look inside and see a snipe. It's great fun!
Because these are both woodland or forest type activities, you could make a full fledged family camp out around them...
Pitch a tent. Build a fire. And don't forget the s'mores! :)