You’ve finally done it. You have managed to close the tablets, take away the video game controllers, turn off the TV, and throw the phones into your bag. “We are going to spend time as a family!” You declare this with the same manic enthusiasm as Chevy Chase in all of his wacky family adventure movies. You head to the woods. You will HIKE! Connect with nature! Sing kumbayah! Become a better-bonded family! You get there, unload, forge the trail, and feel like you have this parenting thing down pat…..at first.
Soon, you begin to think, “What do we do?” “How do we engage?” Oh no, here come the eye rolls, the sighs, the whining and complaining! Now you are stuck in the woods with monster children. Suddenly, you are the plot of a bad b-movie with nowhere to run. How in the world do you make hiking fun?! Don’t worry, Mama, I gotcha covered for all ages and stages of kiddos!
1. Make it an Adventure
This sounds like a no-brainer because hiking is the adventure, right? It is, but take it a step further and prep your child’s imagination before the trip. Framing is everything. “Let’s go hiking” sounds fun, but “We are going to go on a forest adventure!” sounds freakin’ incredible! Read a book about the forest and plan an “adventurer” project before you go. An easy one is decorating
toilet paper tubes Adventure Binoculars. You can use one tube or tape two together. If you’re feeling extra fancy, hole punch each side, tie some yarn, and voila! you have one less thing to carry (note: you will still wind up carrying it at some point because Momming).
2. Make A Scavenger Hunt / Bingo Card
Again, depending on your level of crafty commitment, you can make this as easy or as Pinteresty as you’d like. The gist of it is, you are giving your kids a list of things to look out for. If they are young, keep it simple: rock, tree, flower, water. Kids don’t read? That’s okay! Pull out your best Dora the Explorer skills and draw your list! For older kids, make it a bit more in depth, name a type of tree to look for (Or have them list X amount of trees), a type of bird, look for poison ivy (because then you know that they are being extra on the look out for the stuff!). If you’re reading this and thinking, “My older kids will eyeroll so hard and hail the lamest mom in all of the land” 1) that’s okay, embrace your lame. 2) whatever. You are enriching your kids even though you *could* be napping, Netflixing, wining, reading, etc and 3) Positive reinforcement. That’s right, pull out the old if/then statement: “If you all finish your scavenger hunts, then we will have a movie night/ stop for ice cream/ ignore chores for the evening. You see where I’m going with this.
3. Rock It!
I don’t know how this started or why, but the pet rocks of the 70’s have grown up and become the Painted Rocks
of the world. In short, you paint rocks, you hide them, people find them, and rehide them. Some rocks are just painted pretty, others have inspirational quotes on them, and *many* have hashtags and Facebook groups. Before your trip, you can try searching for “painted rocks (location)”. A lot of times, groups will list what areas they have “rocked”. You can also join local groups in your area, paint some of your own, and get in on the action.
Kids and adults alike LOVE geocaching. It’s like going on your own mini treasure hunt. First, you will need to get on a geocaching site of your choice. I have found that they are very popular in state and national parks, but really, geocaches are all over the place. You can get coordinates and sometimes hints to where the cache is. Many times, they are rated from beginner to expert, so don’t feel like you have to juggle two toddlers AND climb a mountain. When you find your “treasure” there will be a box. The rule of thumb is that you take a trinket and leave a trinket. Typically, there is also a pen and paper in there for you to write the date you found it, where you are from, and any comments you may have. Once, I found the same one my brother did a year before – family bonding!
What do you like to do when you hike? Share your tips and tricks and we’ll see you on the trails!