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Engage Kids on Hikes to Keep Them Entertained

by Liz Childers

We have talked before about camping with kids: it’s an entire different experience than camping solo or with just adults. Like any activity, especially those that require a great deal of exertion, camping must be adjusted to a child’s abilities.

Hiking is, of course, a much tougher outdoor activity than camping. It is also a wonderful experience for kids. When introduced to hiking at a young age, it can grow their curiosity, expand their minds, and encourage a love of nature – all great characteristics for a lifetime.

For a successful hike, you must adjust your expectations. You, of course, cannot embark on your favorite five-mile hike with your four year old and expect the trek to go as it normally does. However, you can create ways to keep a young child entertained and energized for a longer hike. This means activities that involve rest and are engaging. Here are some ideas you can try this spring and summer:

Geocaching has become a huge favorite among families who enjoy the outdoors. It’s a fun way to get kids to have fun in nature, whether hiking or not. However, if you start geocaching on a trail, rather than in the city, it becomes a geocaching hike. If you want to look for a cache, search for trails along which multiple have been hidden. Searching for the hidden geocache along the hike makes it an exciting walk It will also peak the children’s curiosity, ensuring they are taking in everything along the path. You could also choose to hide a geocache for others to find. Let your child fill the box and choose the spot!

Scavenger Hunt
Like geocaching, a scavenger hunt is a wonderful way to keep kids excited along the entire hike because they are searching for objects. There are two ways you can do a scavenger hunt. One way to plan is to tell kids to search for objects that are certain adjectives, like wet or round or sticky or purple. This encourages their creativity; if your kids would enjoy this way, give them a list of adjectives in advance so they can check each one off. The other option is to use specific objects like lizard or log. If you go this route, you may want to choose harder to find things, but also provide pictures on the list so they can have a reference.

Even the biggest lovers of nature can sometimes use a moment where they are told to stop and appreciate their surroundings. Bringing art onto the trial is an excellent way to do this. With a notebook and some markers or colored pencils, children can draw their surroundings and capture what they see on the trail. This not only encourages them to use their natural creativity; it also engages more of their senses into the hiking experience. Also, it gives a great chance for the child to rest on the trail and be ready to keep hiking!

Go camping
Camping is an obvious suggestion because it goes hand-in-hand with hiking, but I still felt that it should be mentioned. A short hike to a campsite is great for a child. With a definite destination that will involved food and rest and a little exploration, the hike will carry a great deal of fun and excited expectation.

How do you keep your kids entertained and involved in a hike? Let us know.