Junior Rangers – getting the kids out of the house.

Want a great, easy escape with the kids? How about going on a tracking mission!


Lockdown again. Only level 3 for the moment, but it suddenly dawns on you that you and the kids haven’t actually left the house for a couple of days. Not good enough!

I already had a simple wander activity in mind. My recent chat with Ranger and Tracking Instructor Borris Vos had put the seed into my mind. In fact, we had also been reading an excellent book for kids – wonderfully entitled – “The Clue is in the Poo“. I mean, how can you really go wrong – a book for kids, about Poo. Actually, it’s mainly about animal tracking. And has quickly become my older girls book of choice for bedtime reading. We have been talking about tracking animals and being a ranger, so when I suggested we head outside and see what we could track, I suddenly had two very motivated little girls.

Packing backpacks became the next mission. With both girls deciding they wanted to take their own backpacks, carrying some snack packs made up, water and a jumper each.

I grabbed the 5.11 AMP and hunted down my LandSAR tracking kit. Since I haven’t been active with them for a while, it was buried under a pile of other stuff, but, was pleased to find it was mainly intact, with some magnifying glasses, rulers, markers and other useful kit. Finally, I grabbed the GME radios of the chargers, put one of each of the packs, and we were good to go!

The Radios

GME was nice enough to send out a bit the perfect kid for kids (and adults) recently, and I took this as an opportunity to have the kids carrying their own radios. I have a TX6160XO and two TX667s running at the moment. Essentially the thought being I would carry the big one, and the smaller, lighter and slightly cheaper ones being for the kids. While the TX6160 is 5w and the TX667 are 1 watt (and an article explaining that soon), recent testing up at Balnagown actually surprised us with the range on the little units. They happy ran right over the width of the game estate – with a couple of hills breaking up the line of sight.

The idea is to get the kids used to having the radio on them, and not constantly chattering away on it. Getting the novelty a little worn off. It’s starting to work. Instead of just making noise through it, they are actually using them for comms. And the alert tone is great if they are just out of my sight and I quickly want to know where they are.

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Tracking 101

Essentially, we just started with snacks. Always ensure the little ones are well fed and everything else is easy! Actually, I guess we started on the way there. Simply stopping along the way and pointing out dog prints, heel prints, anything that you would/could consider sign, yes, including some dog poo, got them into the state of mind of looking for things as they were walking down the footpath.

When we got to the park, we found a bench chair that was, slightly randomly, overlooking a person in the pond with a makeshift kayaking training setup. I don’t follow the sport, but it looked like a national/international representative ensuring lockdown didn’t slow down the training sessions.

Will a full stomach, the first order of action was cutting for sign. Basically, the girls headed out looking for anything they could find with a tweezer and plastic bag. It didn’t take long before they were excitedly coming back over the radio exclaiming they had found something.

When they brought something back (sadly, mostly other peoples rubbish) we talked about what it was, and likely what and who had dropped it. There was also an exciting dinosaur bones discovery!

Yes. It is Dinosaur Bones! Surely!

After we basically filled up a bag each with discarded rubbish (and some bird feathers) I broke out the markers and got Claudia to look aware while I walked a few steps away and came back.

Brusing, transfer, shine and some compression. After I pointed out the first couple to her, the little trooper managed to follow my footsteps out and mark out her first track!

We then also had a brief side exercise of creating fire with a magnifying glass! A little bit of smoke goes a long way with young kids! I would hope we understand this principle, but if not – here is a basic idea – the magnifying glass focuses the heat energy of the sun rays down to a very small point. Small enough to cause things to heat up and catch fire.

All in all in was simple, fun and productive morning out. I did end up carrying their backpacks most of the way there and all of the way back, but, they were right on the edge of complaining, and I didn’t want the trip to finish on a bad note. A little roaming on the way back, and it was home for a bit of rest, and another snack!

But why?

Well. For a start, to get the kids out of the house. But in regards to the tracking activities…

I am certainly not expecting my kids to become a ranger or tracker. If they do, good for them, but it’s not a matter of me trying to influence their career choices. Rather, it’s a case of me trying to expose them to new things, especially things that get them out from in front of a screen, into the outdoors.

Additionally, tracking and the related skills all are reliant on observation and concentration, something that we could all do with more of. Situational Awareness is a great skill to have, but it needs to be fostered and developed, and time in front a screen, for all of us, significantly reduces it.

Also – we are cleaning up the local park. I explain to them, that a lot of human traffic actually revolves around finding discarded items – which is the rubbish people sometimes dump without thinking (or even worse, with thinking). We need to take a bigger bag next time, because we actually found a pile of empty alcohol bottles in bush on the edge of the path.

So, I intend to get the kids out a couple more times over the next few weeks, and who knows – it might foster a long-term interest in the subject for them.