Hiking With Kids: Tips and Games to Keep Them Moving

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The sun is out, the sky is blue, and you’ve decided to take your little ones on a hike. Before you head out the door to your next adventure, discover some new tips that will help make the trip fun and memorable for everyone. 

Leave No Trace

First things first: Be sure to remember what scouting taught us about exploring nature. It is important to respect our environment and leave no trace. This boils down to a few key points when hiking:

  • Plan ahead and prepare

  • Dispose of waste properly

  • Leave what you find

  • Respect wildlife

  • Be considerate of other visitors

Plan Your Route

Next up, determine your route. It’s important to be realistic. A hike with toddlers will look wildly different than a hike with school-age kids. Start small and build up to longer, more difficult hikes. It’s okay to go slow as you find your footing. 

Research Your Hike

Where will your hike take you and what will you see along the way? Are you likely to encounter any wildlife? What precautions should you take? Will you find any unique native plants? Were the plants used medicinally or for food in the past? 

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you guide your little ones to new discoveries throughout your hike. 

Always Pack Extra Snacks

As most know, littles who are hungry can be nearly unbearable and, might I say, un-hikeable. Be sure to pack snacks and water that will last the entire hike. Consider marking the halfway point of the hike with a picnic. 

If your little ones are known to find mustering the energy to continue a hike extremely tough, think about packing “power pellets.” This can be a small candy like jelly beans or Tic Tacs that you dispense when you notice a lag in their step or a whine in their voice. 

Acknowledge the Land 

Begin your hike by acknowledging the land you will be exploring. Native Land is an app and website to help map Indigenous territories, treaties, and languages. When you add an address or mouse around the map, you will see the relevant territories in a location. You can learn more on linked pages specifically about that nation, language, or treaty. 

1Time for Your Close-Up

With the aid of a camera or smartphone, have someone in your group walk a little ways ahead and take a super close-up picture of an object on the trail. It can be anything that’s easily accessible — from a brightly colored pebble, to the rough bark on a tree, to a ladybug sitting on a flower. The close-up should focus on part of the object rather than the whole thing. 

Next, try to find what your hiker photographed. If it’s too tough, have the photographer slowly narrow the field in which to look. The person to correctly identify the object becomes the next photographer. This is a fun way to show the details we often overlook in nature. 

2Get Scavenging

Nature scavenger hunts are a tried-and-true hiking game for a reason — they’re fun and keep little hikers busy. Because of that, a ton of nature scavenger hunts exist already and can be matched to the age of your hiker. A quick search will yield more results than you can shake a stick at (and that stick might just be on our scavenger hunt list). 

3What a Colorful World

Before heading out, make a quick stop at your local hardware store’s paint department. Pick up a few paint swatch chips (the long ones with a gradient of colors). During your hike, have your hikers try matching the colors to what they find in nature. Take a picture of the cards next to the objects and reflect on what they discovered when you return home. 

4This One’s for the Talkers

If you’ve spent time with kids, you know that most love to talk — sometimes nonstop. Eye Spy is a great way to channel that energy during the hike. It’s also a fun way to learn more about what your hiker is noticing. For example, did they consistently “spy” different flowers or plants? Or did they only “spy” items that fly? Eye Spy gives you a glimpse into what they think is important. 

As you begin your next hike, remember that these experiences help children grow a connection and appreciation for our beautiful planet. 

As John Cleal said, “We must teach our children to smell the earth, to taste the rain, to touch the wind, to see things grow, to hear the sun rise and night fall — to care.” 

With each hike and experience in nature, you’re doing just that. You’re teaching the next generation to care.

Tags: Activities for Kids, nature, parenting

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Written By

Stephanie May

Stephanie is a communications consultant by day, writer by night and a mom always. See Full Bio

CircleAround will make financial distributions to benefit current Girl Scouts: the next generation of trailblazers who will CircleAround after us. So CircleAround for inspiration, and CircleAround the leaders of tomorrow. CircleAround is owned by One GS Media, a subsidiary of Girl Scouts of the USA.

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