Hiking with children can be challenging, especially when they are young. My five-year-old daughter enjoys hiking, but tends to get bored easily and often wants to turn around and head home within about 30 minutes of beginning the hike. At least she is predictable! This is about the time I employ some creative activities to keep her interested.
Keeping kids motivated while on the trail:
1) take a break and talk about what they have seen
2) take a food and water break
3) have them whip out the magnifying glass they packed and direct them to something interesting to investigate
4) tell them it is their turn to be the leader – kids love looking for and following the blaze marks on trees that mark the trail
5) picture time! – take a group picture or pictures the kids find interesting (or better yet, have them bring a camera along)
6) scavenger hunt – before you leave provide a list (with simple sketches) on paper of items your child should look for as you hike. When boredom strikes, have him/her take the paper out and, with a pencil, check the items off the list as they are found.
7) Play “I Spy” colors or letters – as you walk along challenge them to spy something that begins with the letter _____. For example, if you see a huge rock, it would be something that begins with the letter “r.” Do the same with colors, like “green” leaves.
Here are some additional great ideas I found in the book “Nature’s Playgound” by Fiona Danks and Schofield.
1) Play sweetie fairy – This is great for little walkers. An adult sneaks ahead every so often and places sweets on the route, maybe on stump, rock or directly on the path. Toddlers and young children will find it exciting to search for and find the treats and will eagerly walk down path.
2) Collect interesting natural items like leaves, flowers, etc.
3) Play hide-and-seek along the trail
4) Hike with another family so the children get keep each other busy.
Keep in mind that hiking with children isn’t about getting from beginning to end. If you are flexible and focus on enjoying the walk and the time spent on the trail, everyone will have fun whether or not you you make it from point A to B. Just remember to make it an adventure the whole family will remember.