Understanding the World

Making tracks, outdoors and indoors

“‘Did you know, Granny, we found some footprints! They went in a straight line and around the corner and just stopped – like an L shape!”.

My excited granddaughter Daisy was telling me about her afternoon bike ride with her daddy. During their outing, they had found a track of footprints along the pavement.

A girl follows a trail of white footprints up a residential street

So Daisy and I had a conversation about those footprints (which originated at some nearby roadworks). I asked Daisy if the footprints were bigger or smaller than her feet. They were bigger.

I asked her who she thought might have made the footprints – was it someone smaller or bigger than her? Daisy decided that the footprints were made by a man. Then we had a chat about what the man might have been wearing on his feet to make the footprints.

It’s no surprise that Daisy was able to make confident suggestions about the origin of the footprints she’s found – she’s no stranger to making tracks herself, whether on a smartphone safari or one of her regular bike rides.

Following heavy rain, Daisy is always happy to go out and jump in new puddles, wearing her wellies and leaving a damp track of footprints from puddle to puddle. Now that she’s learning to ride her bike, she also loves to ride through the deepest local puddles – the ones that never seem to go away in the winter – leaving a long wet line behind her.

On those rare occasions that we’re lucky enough to see snowfall, Daisy is always keen to get outside and leave her marks out on the white winter landscape – be it footprints, handwriting, or even a miniature snowman or two!

Detective Daisy on the case

On a recent walk, I took some photographs of some different prints that I spotted in the muddy verges near our house and I’ve sent them to Daisy’s Daddy. I hope he can show them to Daisy to see if she can again play detective and decide what may have made the tracks in the mud.

Curiosity about the world is an important skill to develop in preschool children. A stroll through a local green space (or even just down the road) gives a child the opportunity to make observations of animals and plants around them; they can then start to think about why some things occur, and talk about those changes with a grownup.

Through Autumn and Winter there are always opportunities to make and find tracks near your home.

If there’s a covering of snow in your garden in the coming weeks, you might find that young children will enjoy running around and making their own tracks! You could also look to see if there’s any signs of footprint tracks in the snow, left by wildlife.

You can take your children out for a walk in snow, damp or muddy conditions and do your own tracking, looking for traces left by tyres, bikes or scooters and the soles of different footwear.

Activity: printing tracks at home

A great way to follow up an outing like this at home with a printing activity. All you need is some paper, paint applied to a paint pad and some household items that can be rolled along: bottle tops, empty cotton reels, jar lids, toy cars with plastic wheels, or even string /yarn glued tightly around an empty kitchen roll tube will work for this activity – the more options, the better.

To make a simple paint pad at home, put a couple of pieces of kitchen paper onto a plate or shallow dish; then put the poster paint onto the kitchen paper and allow the paint to soak in. 

A painting activity is shown, using a toy car and an empty cotton reels to make paint tracks on paper
You can make tracks outdoors and at home

Once the paint has soaked into the pad, roll the circular item over the paint pad and then roll it over the paper to make different tracks. And then repeat to see what different patterns can be made – how do they differ in shape, size and saturation of paint? Do any of them look like prints that you’ve seen on your travels together?

Granny Smith says..

  • There are worksheets for animal footprints and tracks available online, suitable for Early Years. Yellow Door also makes a versatile set of Woodland footprints double-sided stones that can be used for young children to use indoors or outdoors, making tracks, impressions in dough or taking rubbings 

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