A hike can be a great adventure and a lot of fun for youth when they are challenged to think about their surroundings and given some guidance to explore. Take a look through WTA's Fun Handouts for Kids on the Trail or try the activities below the next time you are out hiking with kids.
Games on Trail
If the wonder of the outdoors isn't continuously captivating your youngsters' attention, pass the time on trail by playing one of these games on your way to the destination.
Challenge kids to find things that are fuzzy, small, rough, bumpy, smooth, big, soft, sticky, squishy, lumpy, wet, living, growing, round, triangular, moving, make noise, hard, smelly, etc.
Start at the beginning of the alphabet and identify something on trail that begins with "A" then work your way through all the letters in the alphabet.
The Never Ending Story
One person begins to tell a story and then passes it along to another person to continue the plot and so on....This is a great way to keep groups of kids hiking together, laughing, and being creative.
Think of a noun (person, place, or thing). Then the other hikers ask yes or no questions to figure out what the noun is. The hiker who guesses correctly gets to pick the next noun.
Try to identify things along the trail by the colors of the rainbow. Once you start looking closely for each color you and your kids will be amazed at how many colors are in nature.
Think of a topic, such as professional baseball team mascots, countries that begin with the letter C, U.S. state capitals, etc. Each hiker takes a turn to identify something in the category. This continues to rotate through the group until a hiker cannot think of something or they repeat something that has already been said, then that person is out.
Brain teasers are fun and entertaining for hikers of all ages. There are several resources on the web to find kid friendly riddles. Here are just a couple examples:Q. What happens once in a minute, twice in a moment, but never in a thousand years?
A. The letter "m"
Q. What is round on both ends and hi in the middle?
Q. What travels around the world, but stays in a corner?
A. A postage stamp
Similar to riddles, minute mysteries can keep a group entertained for quite a while on trail. Search the internet for minute mysteries to find numerous short mysteries to solve. Minute mysteries may be more appropriate for older children.
Q. A man leaves home, takes three left turns and returns home to find two people in masks waiting for him. Who are the people in masks?
A. It's a baseball game, the two people in masks are the catcher and umpire
Q. A cowboy rides into camp on Tuesday, stays three days and leaves on Tuesday. How is this possible?
A. The cowboys horse is named Tuesday
Q. A woman pushes a car up to a hotel and realizes she is bankrupt. How can this be?
A. The woman is playing Monopoly
Tips for Hiking Together
Engage the Senses
Stop and listen...how many birds do you hear in 60 seconds? Encourage kids to use their hands to explore the textures of nature... Rub your hand on the bark of a Western Red Cedar and compare it to the feel of Douglas fir bark.
Let children get their hands dirty on a soft and squishy nurse log or feel the hard bumpiness of barnacles and clam shells. Smell crushed pine needles.
In the summer, encourage kids to taste red huckleberries and wild blueberries as nature offers a tasty treat along the trail. (Be sure to only taste test berries you can clearly identify).
Support the Arts and Imagination
Bring along a small notebook and some markers, colored pencils, or watercolor paints. Take a few minutes to sit and observe the natural world. Youth have a very different perspective than adults and notice many things that adults simply pass by while hiking. Allow your children time to document their experience through drawing, painting, or written word. These will be meaningful memories they can take home with them and leave natural objects behind for the next hikers to enjoy.
Get up Close
A small hand lens is lightweight and very handy for kids to take a closer look at critters on a stump or see the vein patterns in leaves. This is a great tool to take out when kids are showing signs of tiredness and may need to take a rest stop before continuing down the trail.