Play: Games to Play while Hiking with Kids – Celebrate Earth Day!
1. Go on a monster hunt. The boys obviously know we are just pretending, but they still think it’s fun. As we walk along, we look for “monster footprints”, “monster caves”, and things we think a monster might like to eat. On our last hike my husband hid and jumped out to scare us. In fact, he even scared me and we all got a big laugh out of that. Really, I suppose this could be any kind of pretend creature hunt. Maybe “woodland fairies” are more your cup of tea? Go for it!
|Pointing out a good spot for a monster cave.|
2. When my kids are getting tired they will almost always perk up if suddenly we are having a race. Obviously this only works on a fairly easy trail, but yelling, “I bet you can’t catch me” and then taking off, or hollering “I’m gonna get you!” and running up from behind are a sure way to get my boys moving.
3. Have some good movement songs in mind. When the boys are getting tired, especially while walking up hill, we love to sing “The Ants go Marching”. The song keeps them focused on marching instead of complaining, and they think it’s so funny to stop and do whatever the little ant does in the song (never mind what strangers think of my children when they are sucking their thumbs while hiking up a hill). We also like Skip to My Lou, and See the Pony Galloping.
4. This isn’t really a game, but I find that talking about a place you know your kids will enjoy makes getting there easier. For example, on our last hike first we talked about the place where we would throw rocks in the stream. If they started acting tired, I just had to mention it and they would perk right up. When we left the stream I told them we were going to the old barn next and offered to help them peek in the window when we got there. I also find that telling them when you plan to stop for a snack or drink can be helpful.
|Learning to skip rocks from Daddy.|
|Playing by the old barn.|
5. Seek and find. Many ideas could fall under this category. You can make a list in advance (with the the help of your kids if they are old enough) of things you want to find on your hike. Cross items off your list as you find them (pine cones, chestnuts, leaves with a certain number of points, etc..) Or, make each of your children a duct tape bracelet with the sticky side out. Have them collect things of interest as they hike to make unique jewelry. You might keep a list of animals you see while hiking and talk about what you know about them. Bringing along items like binoculars or a magnifying glass will allow your child to see things differently. When hiking on a trail marked with blazes, my boys also enjoy trying to be the first one to spot the next blaze. If your camera isn’t too expensive, you might want to give your child and chance to look for an interesting photo op. Sometimes I let my boys take turns with the camera and it’s fun to see what type of shots they come up with.
|Getting that perfect shot makes the journey more exciting!|
6. Pretend to be animals. Move your little hikers along by pretending to be an animal! Encourage your child to swim down the trail like a fish, or run fast like a jaguar. They could hop like a rabbit or sneak from place to place like a deer. Once on a very very VERY big hill I picked up a bunch of large fall leaves, proclaimed myself to be a bird with big leafy wings, and proceeded to fly up the hill. What would have otherwise been a disaster of epic whiny-ness turned into a flock of happy birds flying back to the car!
|Flying up the hill.|
7. If you have older kids, give geocaching a try. We haven’t done this yet, but I’ve heard great things about it! Providing each child with a copy of the map you are following is another good way to keep their interest high and teach map reading/geography skills at the same time.
I hope that Earth Day and these suggestions for making hiking fun for your kids will motivate you to get out and do some discovering! They may not be ready for a trail that’s 1000 miles long (like these awesome trails), but don’t they say that a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step? Now get outside and enjoy some family bonding while exploring God’s creation!