Let’s face it, not every kid likes to hike. And even the kids who do can get tired, bored or have an off day every now and then.
So how do you keep the whining and complaining on the trail to a minimum? Here are some things that worked for us this summer.
Go with a group.
This is easily the most effective way to keep the kids engaged and having fun. It seems that even at the tender age of 5 ½, kids complain far less when others are around.
Bring tasty snacks and fun water bottles.
The lure of treats is a strong one. When the troops get restless, we take a snack break. Because we take snacks on the trail that we don’t enjoy anywhere else, eating them is extra special. We also designate certain “special” water bottles as hiking bottles. Works like a charm with the little explorer, who drinks a ton because he loves that his bottle looks just like mine.
Explore the surroundings.
It’s not always safe to veer off trail, but if it is, take advantage of the opportunity. While in Yosemite, we went “rock climbing” on boulders on the way to Lower Yosemite Falls, hopped on tree stumps at the Marisposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and chased butterflies alongside the trail to Chilnualna Falls.
Give your kid a camera.
Okay, I admit I haven’t tried this one myself. But the friends we traveled with in Yosemite frequently let their daughters snap away. I love how it got the kids taking a close-up look at everything – from flowers to tree bark to butterflies and acorns. Plus, the pictures that result are pretty entertaining.
The big explorer brings along a whistle and his compass on most of our hikes, along with his favorite hat. To him, these things make our adventures “real.” I’d also highly recommend a good stick and a magnifying glass, cause you never know when you might want to go fishing or get a good look at a cool bug.
Rely on some old standards for entertainment.
You’d be surprised how much fun a game of “I Spy” can be when you’re hiking. Look for cloud shapes, colors, bugs, almost anything works. Or try hide-and-seek with school-age kids who love running ahead of the group to hide, then wait to be discovered or jump out to scare you.
Go on a treasure hunt.
When treasure is at stake, even older kids perk up. Earlier this summer, we tried geocaching, which is a high-tech treasure hunt that requires a GPS and some basic navigational skills (letterboxing is a simplified version I’d also love to try). If you prefer to keep it simple, a nature scavenger hunt can be done anywhere. Create a list of items to look and listen for, smell and touch. Armed with a to-do list, most kids will venture far further than they you might expect.
How about you – how do you keep your kids enjoying hikes when you’re outdoors?