Scouting and Special Needs Children: Camping–Packing #2

In the last article, I started breaking down all the skills involved in packing and showed some ways to teach following a list.  While you are working on getting them to follow a list, you can also start on a second skill, the mechanics of getting things into a suitcase or pack.  There are both manual dexterity issues involved here as well as spatial reasoning, which may cause challenges for your kids.  You may be tempted to just have their parents pack for them before each trip.  That really doesn’t work, however, because they will still have to get things back in the suitcase for the trip home.  Nothing is more frustrating for a troop leader than having to pack up 10 kids’ suitcases on Sunday morning when you just want to get home.  In order to teach this skill successfully, start with easy packing and move to harder.  I don’t recommend starting with clothes and a suitcase.

Here is a way to make learning packing easier that will fit in with your other scouting goals.  Scouts are regularly involved in helping those in need and one of the more common projects is making CARE packages.  These packages may be of emergency supplies for people hit by a hurricane or other natural disaster, for soldiers serving overseas, for the poor at Christmas and lots of other good causes.  Use plastic or cardboard shoe boxes for packing and set up an assembly line with the supplies.  For example, have the toothbrushes first, then the toothpaste, then the mini-shampoo bottles, then the washcloths, then the combs, and so forth of whatever you are doing.  Have all the children go through the line placing one of each item in their box.  They should then take their box to a table and work on getting it all to fit.  When they’re done, they need to be able to close the lid.  Make this activity as challenging as it needs to be for the age and ability level of your scouts.  To make it easier, use less items and have room to spare.  To make it harder, have more items that perhaps will only fit with careful arrangement.

Here’s another way to teach the mechanics of packing that will fit in with your regular meetings.  Have the children pack up your supplies after each meeting as one of their kapers or chores.  To make this work as a packing exercise, use hard containers like plastic boxes with lids or cardboard boxes.  Plastic and paper bags don’t hold their shape as well, which is what you need.  You want them to have to contend with a container that has a fixed size and shape, and needs to close.  They will have to make irregular objects fit into a regular shape, which is the essence of packing for a trip.  Since you will probably be doing all sorts of activities using supplies at your meetings, there should be no shortage of opportunities for scouts to practice this skill.

When you have practiced packing supplies or CARE packages a great deal, you may advance to using clothes and a suitcase.  I’ll go over some of the steps to teaching that skill in the next installment of Scouting and Special Needs Children:  Camping–Packing.



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