Trail tools help make the nature experiences special, and making them can be a fun time for everyone as well. The tools use simple, easy-to-find household materials. Be creative in substituting what’s on hand and developing and adapting these ideas. For example, cereal and cracker boxes are a good source of cardboard. Reuse things!
The more the kids are involved, the keener they’ll be to use the tools and have fun on the trail. Making the tools can be quality time for everyone!
If you are going to put special effort into any tool, this is the one. It is used on every trail and is a centrepiece to the program. There are several possibilities:
- Have the kids make a cool journal. One option is to cut at least 30 sheets of blank, unlined paper in half. Cut two pieces of cardboard for the covers, possibly out of an old box. Punch three holes on the long, left edge of each page and the covers. Use ribbon, sturdy yarn or soft cord to connect the pages together through each hole.
- Buy a journal but have the kids draw and colour the cover or title page to personalize it.
Whichever option you choose, try to have the journal able to open flat. A binding that flips over on itself is best for doing rubbings on the trail.
Ant Antennae (Uniacke Estate)
Make a headband out of a strip of light cardboard or construction paper by taping or stapling the ends together. You could also use a cloth headband. Tape two pipe cleaners onto the headband. Curl the ends of the pipe cleaners so that they do not poke someone.
Badge (Kearney Lake, C. MacDonald Sportspark)
Use a piece of cardboard, possibly from an old cereal box. Trace a circle using the mouth of a wide drinking glass and cut it out. Write in the title (“Nature Patrol” for Kearney Lake and “Detective” for MacDonald Sportspark) and decorate it. Use a safety pin to attach it.
Butterfly Cutouts (St. Margaret’s Bay)
Draw and cut out butterfly shapes (at least one for each person), each about 10 cm wide. Colour some with bright colours, some with dark colours and some with both.
Cape, Superhero/Ringmaster (Birch Cove)
Safety pin two corners of a colourful pillowcase or small towel to each shoulder of your shirt or jacket. Supplement the costume with face paints if you wish.
Duck Touch Box (Frog Pond, Miner’s Marsh)
Tape or glue a strip of paper over the top of an egg carton and print “Duck Box” on it. Decorate the box and label the inside with crayons, markers or coloured pencils. Write the following touch words in the bottom of the compartments of the carton: wet, dry, rough, smooth, soft, hard, round, flat, dull, sharp, fuzzy, prickly. Put a different word in each compartment.
Flags, Park/Garden (Uniacke Estate, Timberlea)
Find 8 popsicle sticks or 8 small wooden sticks of a similar size. Fold small widths of masking tape over an end of each one to make them into flags. Colour the tape with a bright crayon, marker or coloured pencil.
Frame Tool (Hemlock Ravine, St. Margaret’s Bay, C. MacDonald Sportspark, Lockhart Ryan Park, Kentville Ravine)
Cut a 27 cm x 24 cm rectangle out of cardboard or a cardboard box. Cut a smaller rectangle out of the centre, leaving a frame of 4 cm on the outside.
Gift Box (Timberlea)
Cover a shoebox or similar sized box with a removable top with wrapping paper. Wrap the bottom and cover separately.
Hat, Wizard’s/Magician’s (Woodens River, Martinique Beach)
Make a cone out of 27 x 44 cm (11 x 17 inch) paper or bristol board. Decorate it and attach a string to tie it under the chin.
Leaf Slide (McCurdy Woodlot)
Cut a piece of cardboard about 28 x 14 cm, possibly from a cereal box. Fold it in two to make a square. Cut a square hole in the centre through both sides about 5 cm wide.
Letters (Crowbar Lake)
Cut 14 pieces of cardboard, 4 cm square. Using large print, write each of these letters on a different piece: b c c d e e h i n o r s v y. Scrabble letters could be a ready-made alternative.
Monster Hat (Hemlock Ravine)
Join the short sides of two pieces of construction paper together, taping firmly on both sides. Wrap it around your head like a crown and tape the ends together. Close the top with a bit of tape. Decorate it.
Music Sheet (Crowbar Lake)
On a half sheet of blank paper, draw two rows of music bars, each with five horizontal lines and a treble clef on the left side.
Piece of Clean Sponge (Woodens River)
Cut a 2 x 2 x 2 cm cube from an old clean sponge.
Pirate Flag (Northwest Arm)
Cut a rectangle of at least 27 x 44 cm out of a plain piece of old cloth, towel or pillowcase. Use paint or markers to draw a Nature Pirate symbol on it (make one up). Tie it to your flagpole: a dowel, broomstick or another piece of wood. Another option is to make two holes in the top and bottom corners on the same side, bring some string and rig it on an extra paddle before you start.
Pollution Pellets (Birch Cove)
Take five 8.5 x 11-inch pieces of used paper and ball them up tightly.
Potion Bottle (Woodens River)
Find an empty plastic jar with a lid, such as a peanut butter jar, juice bottle or another food jar. Paint and decorate it.
Raccoon Mask (Shubie Park)
Make a mask out of a long strip of dark fabric. Cut out large eyeholes and tie it around your head like a robber’s mask. Colour or paint it black to look like a raccoon’s face.
Rainbow Chips (Martinique Beach, Crystal Crescent)
The best colours come by cutting out postage stamp shapes from diverse paint colour strips from the hardware store (or using origami paper). Or, use different coloured sheets of construction paper (including blue, green, red, orange, yellow, purple, pink and brown). Place them in a plastic or paper bag.
Rat Costume (Halifax Waterfront)
Make a headband out of a strip of light cardboard or construction paper by taping or stapling the ends together. You could also use a cloth head-band. Cut out and tape or staple two rat ears onto the headband. Draw whiskers on your face with face paints or a washable, non-toxic marker.
Rock Hound Hat (Polly Cove)
Make a headband out of a strip of light cardboard or construction paper by taping or stapling the ends together. You could also use a cloth head-band. Cut out big, floppy ears and tape or glue them on both sides.
Rocks Box (Polly Cove)
Tape a strip of paper over the top of an egg carton and print “Rocks Box” on it. Decorate the box with crayons, markers or coloured pencils.
Scope (Numerous trails)
Find a cardboard tube from inside a roll of toilet paper. Decorate it on the outside using paint, crayons or markers. Punch a hole in the side near one end and loop a string through it so that the tube can be hung from your neck. To protect and strengthen it, wrap clear packing tape around the outside. For a sturdier option, cut a scrap piece of PVC pipe about 15 cm long and decorate it. Drill a hole for the string.
String Tool (Kearney Lake, Timberlea, Uniacke Estate)
Cut a piece of string about 2 m long and tie the two ends together.
Sunlight Bolts (McCurdy Woodlot)
Draw and cut out 3 large sunlight bolts that resemble lightning bolts. Using tape or safety pins, stick one to each sleeve and one to the front of your shirt or jacket.
Underwater Viewer (Timberlea, Cole Harbour, Frog Pond, C. MacDonald Sportspark, Miner’s Marsh)
Remove the top and bottom from an empty, clean apple juice-type can or 2-litre milk carton. Make sure there are no sharp edges on either end. Stretch plastic wrap or a see-through plastic bag over one end and keep it in place using a sturdy rubber band, such as a rubber band used to hold broccoli together.