Orienteering for Families

Why not try something different and come orienteering as a family. If you and your children like being outdoors and doing treasure hunts, you should enjoy orienteering.

So, what is orienteering?

The aim of orienteering is to find your way to different places on a specially drawn orienteering map, and to get to the end as fast as possible. The different places are called controls, and each control is marked with a special orienteering flag. (Can you see the orange and white flags in the photograph above?) You have to find the controls in a set order, choosing your own route. At each orienteering event, there is a choice of courses to suit different levels of ability and fitness. Think of it as a treasure hunt that anybody can do, or a cross-country race where you find your way with a map.

When you first start orienteering as a family, you often choose to go round as a family group. However, as the family become more experienced at orienteering, you may find that the children want to run (or dawdle!) around their own courses competing against friends and comparing their times and routes afterwards.

How do I do I start?

Why not click here to find out about special beginners events put on by local clubs in and around Edinburgh. The start times are usually between 2-3pm (but please re-check with the website) on a Saturday. If it is your first event, it is better to arrive around 2 so that you have time to find out what to do.

What do I need to bring and wear?

Bring along a pen and a base plate type compass if you have one (if you don’t have that type of compass don’t worry as the easiest courses can be done without).

People wear all sorts of clothes to orienteer in. For your first time, just wear something you can get muddy, such as lightweight comfortable tops, tracksuit bottoms with waterproofs if it is cold or rainy. Trainers, walking boots or wellies for little ones are fine for feet.

Do we have to run?

You can if you want to but lots of people walk or jog.

Kirsty Woodgate, in the Primary Times Magazine, describes why she thinks orienteering is particularly good for families (and we agree!).

She says “One of orienteering’s big appeals is that it is a fun outdoor activity in which the whole family can get involved. There is a chance for healthy competition against other families at an event, where working well as a family unit will provide good results.  It can really bring people together and tighten the bond within families. Plus there are boundless benefits to racing around a course in the fresh air and stunning countryside, not to mention the buzz the children get from finding the control flags.

The sport also encourages decision-making, and builds map reading and navigational skills, which may prove useful in other areas of life. Essentially, it is a healthy exercise for the brain as well as body.”



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