When you’re planning a hike with kids, remember they have shorter legs, a faster metabolism and tire out quicker than grown-ups. Plan hikes that are fun, are not too long and make sure you don’t forget the snacks. This way, everyone will have a better hike, and happy kids make for happy adults. Here are some fun, easy games for the kids to play on the trail to keep them entertained.
Think of all the different things you might spot while out hiking – birds, insects, little creatures, rocks, leaves, fungi and more. Make a check-off sheet of the things you want your little explorers to keep an eye out for. You can laminate them or put them in a clear plastic bag for safe keeping against the elements and rigors of the trail. Set a time limit, though, to say, 30 minutes. This way, the hunt won’t go on endlessly and the kids won’t become bored with the game.
You can do this one with a smartphone. Sure, handheld GPS units are better overall, but if you’re hiking in an area with cell service, you can easily have plenty of fun geocaching with no extra investment on your part. Before you head out on your hike, visit www.geocaching.com to see what’s hiding out in your area. The site also includes information about hiking difficulty ratings, so be sure to choose caches within a reasonable hiking distance for kids. Once you find the cache, take your prize, but also replace it with another object. Keep a log of what you take and leave, and when you return home, upload your data to the website. Let the kids keep the record and let them submit the online data. That’s part of the fun!
The Alphabet Game
This game requires zero technology. Begin with the letter “A” and identify something on the trail that begins with “A” then work your way through the alphabet, passing through each person in the group sequentially, so everyone is engaged and constantly looking for the next thing.
Engage the Senses
Here’s a mindful game that you can do when you’re taking a rest. Stop and listen. How many different sounds do you hear in 60 seconds? Bring paper and writing utensils and have your kids jot down the different things they hear in that minute. If they are little, you can have them say what they hear as they hear it.
Speaking of pen and paper, a journal is an excellent way to encourage your kids’ creativity while spending time in nature. Give your children time to document their experience through drawing or writing. They can also collect things in their journal like leaves or tracings.
The “Unending” Story
Here’s a game that will keep everyone going all day long. One person begins to tell a story then passes it to the next person to continue the narrative. It’s like 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall without the beer or the headache of listening to that song all day long. On second thought, it might be a good idea to put a time limit on this one also.
Hide and Seek: Trail Edition
In this version of the classic, have the hiders run 10 or 20 feet ahead of the group and have the seeker count to 50. Then, the seeker can find the hiders, and everyone can regroup and rotate, because rotation is a great way to keep kids from becoming disinterested or restless about going further along the trail.
In addition to having a well-planned route, a host of games and plenty of snacks, bring along some layers and extra socks. If you and your kids aren’t comfortable, it’s going to be a miserable hike, no matter how many games you play. You can find some great value in quality children’s goods from a trusted outfitter like Carhartt.