Hiking is one of the best family activities, but how to make hiking fun for kids? Are there any fun hiking activities that will keep your child engaged and interested?
It could be sometimes nerve wrecking because you know that any minute kids might start whining, saying that they are bored, they start asking how much longer, they are tired, they want to turn around and go back, they lost interest. And there you are, in the middle of the trail, trying your best to keep them entertained, keeping their spirits up and as a result, when you are done hiking, you don’t feel like you enjoyed the trail and made some memories, instead you feel exhausted and like you need rest from this hike.
This is not a guarantee, but some of these fun hiking activities tips might work for your child. Here are some ideas how to make hiking fun:
1. Time the hike
Most kids are at their best in the morning. And, most often, weather in the morning is much better too. Set a time for your hike, make sure kids are fed and full of energy and this way, you will probably be back by afternoon for a nap, or may be some art or card games.
2. Destination “carrot”
“Hike” is a boring words for kids. Instead, try to find something interesting that trail might have, like a scenic view, or a landmark, or a pond along the way, or something that might interest your kid. Do not say that you are going for a hike, instead, you tell them that you guys are going to check out that hunted cabin in the woods, or go skip rocks in a lake. You may think it is just semantics, but for a child, it is a critical distinction that would set them in a positive mindset.
To a child, the idea of exploring is so much more exciting than just a 3 mile “walk” in the woods.
3. Mind Games
Hiking back is the stretch where you would want to break out your arsenal of thinking games. “Name that tune” could be one of them and get their mind off of their tired legs. If kids are too young to identify tunes, try singing their favorite songs together to pass time. Try changing voices to make it funny or may be even have a little singing competition. You know what works best for your kids to keep their mind off so use every trick you can!
Other thinking games that could work: I spy with my little eyes, Twenty questions, Alphabet game, Never Ending Story.
4. Playing Physical Games
Favorite one is “Floor is Lava” or just “Hot Lava”. I think everybody knows this game. You tell the kids that the trail is hot lava and they need to hop from a rock to a tree root to avoid stepping into lava and melting off the soles of their shoes.
You can have them collect tree leaves, but they need to be different shapes and colors to be “collectable”. Or may be kids would want to play a photo safari, or a simple scavenger hunt for the are’s flora and fauna.
5. Start seeing Things. Imagination Game
You can start with taking a break and looking up, trying to see what clouds are shaped into. Kids have a very good imagination, so I am sure they will have no problem seeing all kids of stuff that is hidden in the clouds.
One caveat – you have to have clouds. If it’s not cloudy, no problem. As you walk, you can try and find different shapes hidden in the tress and bushes. With a little bit of imagination your kids will start seeing dragons hidden in the tress, or a bird head or a dog hidden figures.
You can even take a bit further and if your kids are competitive, you can tell them that whoever finds more shapes wins a small prize when you all get back.
6. Take breaks
Give up the “rush” where you have a goal to get from point A to point B. Instead, stop often, take lots of breaks, let kids set the pace. May be you will stop to look at a new plant your kids noticed, or may be there is a river near by and your kids want to throw rocks in it. Bring a kids book about hiking and stop and read it on one of the breaks. Stop to listen to the nature sounds, smell the pines, listen to the birds sing, let the kids stomp on a decaying log or pick up a pretty leaf or rock they saw. Take the time to admire the nature together.
You may not get very far this way, but your kids will definitely enjoy this little hike and you will have a lot of memories to look back at together. And next time, they would WANT to go remembering all their adventures.
7. Split Up
Even though hiking is about bonding, sometimes splitting up might be a better option. One of the parents could stay back with little ones, while the other could take older kids a bit further to finish the hike. We all know how sometimes nothing could change little one’s mind if they decided not to go any further. This could be the opportunity to take a break, enjoy little games and activities right then and there, while waiting for the other party to complete the hike and meet you on the way back.
8. Topping off the tank
Keep them fed! 🙂 Bring a lot of snacks and stop often for kids to restore their energy levels with water and food. Every kid should have their own water bottle or some kind of hydration system.
9. Bring a Friend
May be you are camping with another family, or may be your kids have cousins that you are able to take on a hike with you (you are a brave soul to do this 🙂 ) You may have a lot more success on a trail! Having a buddy to hike with would help motivate your kids. They often invent their own games along the way – race each other, play with sticks and stones. Kids look up to each other and they seem to whine less in front of their peers.
All of that keeps them occupied.
Bring sweets. M&Ms or any other candy that your child loves and start dispensing them every so often for ground covered. If you have another mile to go back to the camp and your child is dragging their feet, this might be the only way to motivate them.
Yes, it is straight up bribery, but sometimes you have to go with whatever works!
All these tips apply to slightly older kids, and if you are exploring the option of hiking with a toddler, we got some tips and tricks for you as well!