Imagine you are taken to a location that is totally unfamiliar to you, given a compass and a map marked with red flags. Now you are asked to find your way to the markers on the map in a certain order. The first one to find all of the markers wins. This unusual sport is called orienteering.

Unusual yes. However, this is the kind of exercise that most kids would love to engage in because it not only deals with the unknown but the kids have to use a variety of skills to attain the goal. Kids have to be in tune with nature, use critical thinking skills, be able to read a compass, have strength to endure the terrain and complete this task in a competitive fashion.

Whether it is a race to the finish or a non-competitive sport in which one is testing one’s ability to complete the course, it is an outdoor skill that is based on survival skills.

Perhaps you may have seen a TV shown in which each episode a man selects a destination and tries to find his way back to civilization. His instinct to survive not only tests his capability to acquire a meal, find a way out of a hot desert, cross raging rivers, or build a nesting site for sleeping, it requires quick thinking, an understanding of plants and nature, and the strength to go on even though he is tired and hungry.

While orienteering is not this extreme, it does require basic instincts for survival. Criss-crossing totally unfamiliar terrain, watching out for hazards along the way and all the time ensuring you are going in the right direction.

This sport is not only a great exercise for the body but it forces the mind to focus on the task at hand, all the while planning ahead, maneuvering for position, and keeping abreast of nature’s signs along the way.

Currently, there are over 60 orienteering events held every year worldwide. First implemented in Scandinavia in the 19th century, it has gained popularity and has continued to bring more and more kids into competition. In fact, the Junior World Orienteering Championships are held every year for those 20 years of age and under. Check your state and local Orienteering site online. This may be one sport your kids would love to participate in.

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