How to put together an Explorer Kit
It’s that time of year again, when everyone is on the lookout for gift ideas. We have two November birthdays to throw in to the mix too, to complicate matters. Keen to avoid mindlessly adding to the ever-growing stash of toys, I’m always on the lookout for alternative gift ideas, and one of my favourite ones to date is the ‘Explorer Kit’ I put together for my eldest a couple of years ago. This year, my youngest requested one too – and of course he wanted his to be bigger and better than his brother’s! So I set out to put together the ‘Ultimate Explorer’s Kit’.
He actually received this for his 5th birthday last week, but it would also make an excellent Christmas present. Another great thing about putting together something like this is that you can get other relatives to chip in with bits for it too – this was a joint gift from us and my parents, meaning I could put together a really great kit without breaking the bank (and also answered the conundrum of what others could get him). We were also kindly gifted one item free of charge – as indicated – to feature in this gift guide. All other items were paid for and provided by ourselves.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s in the kit!
First of all, there are a couple of items that had specifically been requested, which are essential for an intrepid explorer:
- A compass, though the one in the picture is actually my husband’s, as both the boys’ ones had gone walkabout when I was taking the photos! It’s from a shop in Berlin, but you can find a similar style of compass online. The ‘Optic Wonder‘ multitool is another great alternative, and is what I had actually included in this latest kit – it has a compass, signal mirror, magnifying glass and mini binoculars.
- A torch (or flashlight, to my US readers). My boy had specifically asked for a head torch – because it leaves your hands free for exploring – but you could e.g. include a small pocket torch instead. I think I got the head torch for this kit at Tesco here in Edinburgh, but you can find similar ones on Amazon.
- A pocket knife. Now, this depends a little on the age of your child and also how much you trust them with sharp implements. This specific pocket knife is from the German brand Scout, which I purchased when we were in Germany this summer. My older boy has the same one. We found that Germany has a much more relaxed attitude to giving young kids sharp tools to use. I discovered a couple of alternative pocket knives for the UK, e.g. this ‘First Pocket Knife‘ from Victorinox which is very basic, and another one by the same brand which is also listed as a ‘First’ but includes a saw, which I thought was a bit too dangerous for a 5 year old.
Next, we have a couple of items for studying wildlife close up:
- A small bug viewer, for examining all manner of creepy crawlies, with a built-in magnifying glass and plenty of ventilation holes. When making the first kit for my eldest , I got him a bigger bug viewer with a strap to carry it, but this time I went for a smaller one you can pop in your backpack.
- A pair of tweezers for (very carefully!) picking up bugs or other finds.
- A jumbo magnifying glass, for examining plants etc up close.
As an explorer though, you don’t always want to examine things up close, sometimes you want to see what’s ahead of you, so a good pair of binoculars is essential. We were kindly sent a free pair of Geosafari Jr. Kidnoculars Extreme from Learning Resources to include in this gift guide, which fit the bill perfectly.
These colourful, child-friendly binoculars are easy for kids to handle. They come with 3x magnification and don’t require any fiddling about with dials to adjust. They are lightweight, and have a breakaway strap for safety. A special feature, is the built in audio amplification with lets kids hear sounds around them – such as birds singing – more clearly, and encourages them to use both sight and sound to explore the world around them. It requires two AAA batteries (not included) and there is a little dial to turn the volume on and off, and adjust it.
Learning Resources also sell lots of other great STEM related toys, including our jumbo magnifying glass above (which I bought elsewhere) and the 5-in-1 Measure Mate which we reviewed earlier this year and which would also make a great addition to take with you when out exploring.
When you are out exploring you’ve got to record your findings, so some notebooks and pencils are essential for an Explorer Kit. My youngest started school this year and is just learning to read and write, and he LOVES filling up notebooks. The ‘Adventure Log’ notebooks I picked up in Berlin, because they sounded perfect, but really any blank notebook would do. The ‘Small Adventures Journal – A Little Field Guide for Big Discoveries in Nature‘ is a fantastic little book that takes things a little further. It contains check lists for things like what outdoor gear you need for an excursion or what to put in your first aid kit; picture reference guides for map symbols, various plants, birds, star constellations, mores code, knots and much more; instructions on how to make a sling shot, smudge stick, spore print or time capsule; and plenty of space to record your exploration findings such as cloud watching, texture rubbings, tree spotting, and other observations. I actually bought this for my eldest the first time I put together a kit, so I didn’t get another one this time as they can just share. It currently only seems to be available from third party sellers, but if you can get hold of it, it’ a little gem of a book.
I included a little drawstring cotton bag to keep all the bits and pieces in (see photos at the beginning), but I also wanted something to collect all those leaves and rocks and pinecones in, that little kids pick up when they go exploring. This is something that was seriously missing from the first kit, and I finally found the perfect thing in the Ollie Ella Mini Chari Bag. It’s called a bag, but it’s actually a little basket with a lid. It’s perfect for holding little nature treasures.
You can either carry it by the shoulder strap, or it also has two additional straps to fasten it to the handlebars of a stroller or bicycle. I am under no illusion that I will probably end up carrying this half way through our next nature walk, but at least it will hopefully save my coat pockets ending up full of dirt!
Finally, I also included a couple of things that you wouldn’t necessarily take with you when out exploring, but that would prove useful to little explorers back home. First of all, there is this beautiful Match a Leaf Tree Memory Game. Not only does it have beautiful illustrations, but unlike other memory games where you need to match up pairs of identical pictures, here you need to match up the tree to it’s corresponding leaves. An excellent game for developing observational skills AND learning your trees (I think I’m really going to benefit from this too, as I am rubbish at identifying trees…)
And last but not least, my little one really wanted his own flower (and leaf) press. I made one for his big brother when I put together the first Explorer Kit, and I shared a tutorial back then on how to make your own. Of course, you could also just buy a ready-made flower press, but I’m really in love with the personalised ones I have made for my boys.
So that’s our new Explorer Kit! I’m sure you can think of other things to include too – please feel free to share your suggestions in the comments.
Disclosure: We were kindly gifted a GeoSafari Jr. Kidnoculars Extreme free of charge to feature in this gift guide. However, all views and opinions are our own. All other items were paid for and provided by ourselves. Please also note that all links in this post (except for the Kidnoculars) are Amazon affiliate links. That means if you buy any items via these links, I receive a small percentage – at no extra cost to you! – which helps to keep this blog running. Thank you.