Outfit Your Little Explorer: Small Tools for Big Adventures

Does your child love to explore outside? Do they always seem to be digging in the dirt, splashing in the creek and looking under rocks? Are they always spouting facts about wildlife or plants? If so, then it sounds like you have quite the little explorer!

While my daughter does love to run around on the playground like other children, she usually tires of the swings and slides. Instead, she chooses to engage in the natural world by playing in the clover or pointing out birds, and she is forever picking up rocks for her collection.

If your child seems to have an adventurous spirit, you can encourage their curiosity and support their interest by giving them the right tools. While these items are not necessary to explore the natural world, they can further your child’s knowledge and fuel their excitement for learning.


Every great explorer needs a good backpack to hold all their gear. The backpacks listed here are versatile and can be used for hiking, camping, or for school. Or they can be used for backyard adventures.

For very young children, (ages 2-4 years old) The North Face Sprout Backpack works really well. For children that are a bit older, the REI Tarn 12 (for ages 5-8) or REI Tarn 18 (for ages 8-14) provide balance, support and a larger capacity.

Magnifying Glass

A magnifying glass is a useful tool that will help your little explorer to see tiny details that they may easily miss otherwise. This tool also goes a long way in helping your child to feel capable and smart when exploring their surroundings. Young children will be excited by the bright colors and easy-to-hold handle on The Very Hungry Caterpillar Magnifying Glass. While older children will be ready for anything with the KidExploria LED Lighted Magnifying Glass Set complete with three different lenses for various magnifications.

Field Guides

You may be thinking that field guides are too complex for many adults, so how in the world can a child use them? Field guides offer valuable information and help to teach children and adults about the various plants, animals and natural phenomenon that they encounter or observe, without adding to their screen time. They also teach our children patience and the nearly extinct skill of doing real physical research. But for kids to be able to find field guides useful, they should be easy-to-use and age appropriate.

The Fandex Field Guides provide vibrant colorful pictures and information in an easy-to-use fanning format. Their guide topics include wildflowers, trees, butterflies, birds and bugs.


Binoculars are a fun and useful tool, but if your child enjoys bird or butterfly watching they can be particularly beneficial. Binoculars can be a bit tricky to use so some help can help ease the learning curve, but you should also make sure that the pair you pick is age appropriate.  The HABA Terra Kids Binoculars can be fun and easy-to-use for young children, while the Ultra Compact Mini Folding Binoculars or OutNow Tech Ultra Compact Folding Binoculars are great for older kids. In fact, these binoculars are so useful that you may find yourself using them at your kid’s soccer practice or softball game.


A camera is a terrific way to encourage exploration and appreciation for nature. However, a camera is also an amazing way to bring your family closer together. By taking the time to look at the pictures and have your child explain them, you have a great opportunity to strengthen your bond, while helping to build your child’s confidence by showing that you are interested in what they want to share with you. For the young photographer, the VTech Kidizoom Duo is a great way to introduce children ages 3-9 to photography. For your older child, the Nikon COOLPIX S31 10.1 MP Waterproof Digital Camera with 720p HD Video is a great way to give them the freedom to explore the environment both on dry land and underwater using pictures and video.


This list represents a sample of the many tools that you can use to encourage exploration, discovery and wonder in your child. Each child is different, so tailor any tools acquired to your child’s interests. Encouraging your child to be curious about their natural surroundings and explore them in a safe way, is an incredible way to promote learning and appreciation of nature while growing closer together as a family.

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