Turn an ordinary trail walk into an extraordinary, magical hunt. What makes it magic? Kids notice unusual objects that you have secretly planted ahead of time. Better yet, these objects act as clues to help kids solve a mystery. What mystery, you ask? It’s up to you. We like to say that forest fairies were up to something, but no one knows what it was, and we have to look for clues and figure it out. What were our fairies up to, you ask? Baking magic fairy treats for our explorers to find and enjoy!
There is a window in your child’s life when experiences like this are perfect. The magic of this hunt is made possible because kids between the ages of 3 and 8 (or so) quite readily accept and work within a fantasy context. The idea that forest fairies left clues for us and a mystery to solve does not seem odd at all, but rather quite intriguing. As a result, Mystery Trail Walk leads to powerful learning and is, hands-down, one of the most memorable and beloved activities we do.
This experience heightens kids’ curiosity and forever increases the wonder and potential magic of any trail walk. As they encounter clues and try to solve the mystery, a child will incorporate new information, reflect on his current theory and revise his theory as necessary—rather sophisticated stuff and the very basis for higher level critical thinking skills. Practice with this kind of theorizing and story building will also help to make him a great reader someday. The hunt is a great way to engage kids and help them learn to look carefully and exercise the self control required to notice objects/clues tucked along the trail. The ultimate reward of cookies or muffins along with the note at the end makes for a most sweet payoff too! Kids exercise their imaginations and a sense of joy as they play with a most imaginative scenario. Finally, they practice communicating with one another as they share ideas and listen to the ideas of others.
Note: We must share that we owe this idea to John Blaney, a brilliant man who trains people big and small to learn in forest schools in England and beyond.