A couple weekends ago we went for a little family hike up to Horsetooth Falls. It was our 3rd hike of the season and the kids were still undecided if they really like hiking or not. On our first hike they were excited to “go hiking” but 10 minutes on the trail and they were over it. On the second hike, let’s just say there were plenty of bribes (and maybe a couple threats) to get them to finish our 1.5 mile easy hike. I knew we needed a plan if we were going to be a hiking family. The solution: make it fun–for kids.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but I realized kids enjoy hiking for different reasons adults do. Adults want to unplug, be out in nature, get some exercise, and be challenged. Kids don’t care about any of this stuff. Kids want to explore, throw rocks, collect sticks, find bugs, and most importantly, have fun with mom and dad. Since most of a kid’s week is sitting behind a desk, following rules, and “being good”, they crave the opportunity to let loose. And what better environment to do this than out in nature.
If having fun while hiking was the goal, we were failing. I knew our approach needed to change. So I jumped online and started searching for ideas on “how to make hiking fun for kids”. I found a couple articles on keeping it easy and positive reinforcement but it was an idea about making a game of hiking that stood out to me. After a quick search on Pinterest and 5 minutes in Photoshop, I created the phone-friendly Nature Scavenger Hunt below (just save the image on your phone to use on your next hike).
Our hike to Horsetooth Falls was our best yet. The kids loved the scavenger hunt! We brought them each a brown paper bag to collect their scavenger hunt items and let them loose on the trail. Starting our hike off with a fun game helped them engage with nature right away. I’ll warn you, you’ll only go 100 yards in the first 15 minutes of your hike/scavenger hunt. This drove me crazy until I reminded myself that how far we hiked wasn’t the goal.
Our scavenger hunt lasted about 25 minutes and after that the kids where happy, engaged and enjoying the hike. We hiked for over 2 hours and the boys crushed it. They were pointing out colorful flowers, birds, and shiny rocks along the trail. We laughed, joked around, and had a great time as a family. It was a huge success.
When we got back to the car my 6 yr old said “Dad, we should try to hike a little farther each time so that we can hike really far by the end of the summer”. #win
So, what are ways you’ve made hiking fun for kids? Share your ideas in the comments below.
Save this Nature Scavenger Hunt image on your phone to use on your next hike.