As a family, we spend most of our time outdoors and have chosen to make outdoor exploration a priority for our children. On most weekends we can be found hiking, camping, taking a nature walk, playing at the park or canoeing down the river. As a result, our kids often need little motivation to go on a hike. In our family, hiking is a way of life. But as they become older, I worry that it might take some level of motivation to compete with all the new activities and interests that will come into their focus. I have thought about the things we already do to keep hikes fun for the kids, and maybe they will bring you some inspiration as well. If you happen to be a parent to a special needs child, make sure to check out my post on hiking and the special needs child (also applies to all children, really!)
1. Incorporate a goal. We live in the south where Spring is very warm and the Summers are downright hot. That means that for almost half of the year we are able to splash and swim in the water. Consequently, the goal for a lot of our hikes includes reaching a waterfall or nice, cool swimming hole for our water-loving kids. Other times the goal may be to reach a small cave in which to explore or even a nearby playground for an after hike play session. Whatever we do, we try to incorporate an end goal to work towards. I find that having a goal provides enough motivation to keep everyone on the trip happy and it builds a sense of accomplishment as well.
2. Keep them busy. So you’re on the trail hiking and there is a lot of ground to cover….now what?
Try games such as I Spy, Crazy Steps (you call out a funny way to walk or jump and they have to do it), stop to make some rock sculptures, play chase up the trail (our favorite at the moment), stop for a swim if it’s hot enough, and my all time favorite–scavenger hunts! Don’t know where to begin? No worries, I’ve found some free resources to help you out.
Fun and free resources for scavenger hunts:
3. Add some friendly competition to the hike. Use the games and activities mentioned above to create some competition. It seems like everything is a competition with my Little Man as it is, so we might as well use it to our advantage! Kids love the chance to compete and win a prize, so make sure you have some treats on hand to reward the winner and the efforts of all the participants.
4. Bring along some friends. I just recently created a hiking group for some local friends and their families. I am thrilled to lead such a fun group of people on some family-friendly hiking trips. The best part is that the kids will now have lots of new friends to interact with on the trail. It will be turn an ordinary hike into an awesome play adventure.
5. Celebrate the completion. We have always celebrated the end of a long, successful hike with some kind of reward or treat; a meal out at our favorite Mexican restaurant or a trip to the ice cream shop are common ways we’ve rewarded ourselves in the past. My hubby and I used to do this for ourselves even in our pre-kid days and we’ve carried it forward ever since.
No matter what strategies you employ to keep your kids excited about hiking, the main point to remember is to keep it fun and to keep it interesting!
Have some ideas to add to my list? Let me hear them!