Photo: Caitlin Eddolls.

Creative ways to get your kids outside

Apr 06, 2023 by Nadia Kelem
Three ways to engage your whole family for a more enjoyable hiking experience!

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As the days start to lengthen and get warmer again, you might be thinking it’s time to get the family out of the house and back into nature! If you’re hesitant about taking the family hiking, or want to find new ways to avoid questions like “Are we there yet?”, here are three fun ways to engage your whole family in hikes!

1. Let the kiddos be the experts! Encourage them to be the hike leaders by including them in everything from snack picking to route setting. Help them explore trail maps even before leaving the house and decide the route they want to try. You can also include them in trail safety planning like putting together emergency supply kits and talking about what to do if you encounter wild animals on the trail. Make hiking feel like a special activity by letting your kiddo design a personal trail mix at the grocery store! Buy ingredients like nuts, candies, chocolate, dried fruit and let them make their own unique mix for the trail!

2. Get the cameras out! During your hike make fun nature videos together! Film some shorts for your imaginary Animal Planet channel, and get your kids to narrate different parts of their hiking experience. You can prompt them with questions like: What are they doing? What are they seeing and observing? What are they thinking? Can they identify that tree next to the trail? What animals may have been there before? Bonus points if they do it in a silly voice! (This is also a helpful activity if you’re like me and mean to look up different curiosities and questions when you get off the trail.. And then can’t remember what you were curious about. Record it!)

3. Incorporate activities that engage the senses! These ideas take prep but are a blast to incorporate into your hikes. One of my favorite kid-focused activities is paint chip scavenger hunts. Before your hike, pick up a variety of paper paint samples (found in hardware stores) and see how closely you can match things on the trail with the samples! Extra fun: make up new names for the paint colors based on what you found on the trail!

Another great trail activity for engaging the senses at the start of your hike is called deer ears, owl eyes, and fox walks. To make deer ears, cup your hands up around your ears to take in even the most subtle of sounds in nature! For owl eyes, make binoculars with your hands to focus more deeply on a shorter visual range. For fox walks, use your feet to explore the environment—take slow, short steps rolling through your whole foot—while looking ahead like a fox stalking its prey. Add in a freeze mid-step like a fox might if it saw a rabbit hop by or heard a stick break. You can call out any of these at different times during the hike to engage with the outdoors more deeply.

Happy hiking!

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