Sometimes getting kids to go out into a forest for a hike takes no energy at all, and sometimes it’s hard work. In any case, you need some ideas to keep them walking when they tire and so here are five tips that have worked for us over the years, getting them to do 2 hour walks as toddlers to full day hikes as pre-teens:
1. Make sure they are comfortable – good shoes, cool clothes, good shading from the sun – and have water, nourishment and first aid assist – those are the starting points for great success.
2. Get them on a treasure hunt – ideally you get a list of things to look for in the forest – here a are a couple of great examples you can print from our Pinterest board. If we don’t have a list printed, we just go with things I make up on the spot – such as find five bugs that crawl, then spot five things that can fly, then find five different leaves, then branches, then tree trunks and rocks – lots of things for them to focus on that transforms their walk into a fun adventure. We have even done a walk when they were learning about shapes where they needed to find for me three things that were a circle or a square or a triangle.
3. Give them binoculars and/or a camera – or even a paper towel tube to look through – things always look way more interesting when seen through a tool and you would be very surprised what they choose to capture if given a chance to do photos. It’s also a great way to encourage them to leave nature undisturbed and still be able to create memories that they can access at a later stage. Teach them how to zoom and frame and focus – kids five and older forget time and space enthralled by the new perspectives they discover.
4. Sing songs – kids love the permission to make lots of noise and this is one place where getting them to sing is fun and energy creating. if you need ideas about songs to sing you can even use an app like Campfire Songs – over 200 familiar songs to choose from.
5. Tell stories – I always store up on stories to tell when we walk, from favorite books to when I get stuck – favorite movies or even current events. The “and what happened then, mom?” is a great way to keep them running along without awareness of the distance.
Extra tip: We sometimes ask a friend with a dog to either borrow the dog or have them join us – then none of those tips are necessary as the kids and the dog just egg each other along, and we just need to make sure we can keep up with their energetic stride!
So from things that make them more aware of their surroundings to things that make them so enthralled they forget where they are, here are our top strategies. Would love to hear what are yours. Happy natur-ing 😉
Alexandra T. Greenhill, physician mom CEO myBestHelper