If your kids are anything like mine, they don’t respond positively to being told they are going on a nature hike. At least not right away! Once they are out exploring, mine are generally won over; but I would rather avoid the hassle of convincing them to put on a smile for our walk outside. Luckily there are lots of simple tips and tricks to do so! Here are three of the best ways to get kids outside playing in the woods.
1. Let them shop for their own granola bar.
I stumbled upon this trick one day and have adopted it ever since, with much success!
While driving out to the day’s trailhead, we swing by a grocery or convenience store to allow the kids to pick up their own hiking snack… we just show them the wall of granola and let them pick out a new favorite each time. I’ve noticed that when my kids get to choose their own snack, they are excited about trying new brands and flavors… This is a big win for our adventurous eating struggles!
The key here is to always deliver the treat consistently at about the same timeframe during the hike, so that you don’t have very impatient kids asking for a “snack? snack? snack?” every five minutes (sound familiar? 😆) On balmy days we plan on stopping to eat when we are about 2/3 finished with our walk, giving us the shorter leg to finish once little bellies are full. On wintery days we promise the snack at the end of the trip, so that we can picnic in the car while we turn up the heat. They LOVE these “picnics,” especially when I let them pick the music for our meal!
For the record, you don’t need to limit your snack selection to the granola aisle- set limits that you are comfortable with. I also bring oranges for everyone, too. Either way, make sure you bring a much beloved backup food just in case the kids got a little too wild with their choice and aren’t happy with their treat! I may have learned that lesson the hard way…
2. Count something.
Kids love scavenger hunts, but if you bring one on a hike with you, then you are a much better prepared mom than I! For my sanity’s sake we stick to the counting game, which is a bit like the improv mom’s scavenger hunt.
At the beginning of each hike we pick something to look for, that we will be counting for the duration of the hike. We have counted mushrooms, squirrels, acorns, trail markers (be prepared for the kids to race with this one!), clouds in the sky, and more. The last time my kids decided they wanted to count prickly bushes, which was not a very fun one for me. 😄 Use your imagination when picking out your scavenger item, or let your kids choose!
While the kids are looking for our scavenger item of the day, I try to connect with each one of them one on one. We talk about silly things or sing songs together. I think it’s this 1:1 time that really wins my kids over to our hikes. In a family with four kids, every minute matters.
(If your kids are not the fighting kind, try to level up and turn the counting game into a competition! I have no experience with this, though, because I prefer a stress-free hiking experience. Sportsmanship is not their thing, yet. 🤪)
3. Don’t call it a hike!
Truth time here: Kids are fussy little mongrels (Shhhh, I didn’t say that out loud!). Seriously, though; when they can be contrary, they will. If you tell them they’re going hiking, they’ll probably whine and say it’s booorrring. Because, of course, YOU told them they are doing it.
(Sound familiar? 😝)
Here’s what I do:
ME: Hey, kids! Grab your shoes! It’s time to have an adventure!
KIDS: Why? Where are we going? I don’t want to go anywhere.
We are collecting rocks so we can paint them. What do you want to paint on your rock?
We are going to meet a friend at North Park. Which trail do you want to show them?
We are going to explore the Strip District downtown. Do you want me to show you on a map where we are going?
We are going to try to find a bird’s nest. What color do you think birds eggs are?
We are going to feed some ducks. What do you think they’ll want to eat?
Here’s the thing. They probably won’t jump on board right away, but they might be intrigued… and you’ve made the hike more interesting, because you’ve given it purpose. I figure the more I ask my kids questions about this upcoming adventure, the more ownership they take of it. That can only be a win!