The last mile of a hike with kids is always the longest, hardest mile of the day.
My 3 year old has this innate ability to know when we are exactly one mile from the trailhead. It's at that point when his little legs get tired, his stomach starts to growl and he starts to whine. Sometimes he sits down on the trail protesting any forward movement and tries to do everything in his power to let me know that he's just ready to be done.
If you hike with kids I'm sure this scene is familiar. One minute our children are happily scampering along the trail, the next minute they come to a dead halt.
That's when it's time to pull out a few creative tricks to keep the momentum going. Here are a few games that we use to keep our kid motivated and moving down the trail.
1. Pretend to be a favorite animal
If you're hiking on the trails of Southeastern Wyoming and you hear a few kids 'mooing' like a cow, 'quacking' like a duck or 'howling' like a wolf at the top of their lungs chances are that those children belong to me.
One way to keep kids motivated is to try to take their minds off whatever is bothering them and distract them with something fun. For my kids pretending to be their favorite animal does the trick. Although, this game can backfire when a child really gets into it and starts crawling down the trail instead of walking, because that's what wolf pups do.
2. The detective game
If I can give my preschooler a 'top secret' mission he gets excited and feels important. Some of these missions have been, "Can you find me three pinecones?" or "Where do you think we could find some moss?" You can really get creative with this game. Our favorite version is "Who pooped here?"
3. Pinecone toss
For some reason kids love chasing anything and everything. Throwing a pinecone or a small stick down the trails and chasing after it has the amazing ability to help a child who is too tired to walk suddenly find the energy to run full speed.
4. Look for tracks
We like to look for tracks in the snow or when the trails are wet and try to figure out what animals we share the trails with. You can get creative here, did you know that dinosaur tracks look just like snowshoe tracks?
5. Sing a Song
My kids know the lyrics to "Ice, Ice, Baby" and plenty of Irish drinking songs but a few of our favorite hiking songs are anything with a good cadence like "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain" and "You Are my Sunshine." Singing doesn't just work to turn moody kids into happy kids on a hike, it works for adults too. It's impossible to be cranky while singing "The Bear Went Over the Mountain," give it a try.
6. Count Steps
Counting is a great activity on a hike. Sometimes we count our paces and try to figure out what we'll see 100 steps down the trail. Other times we just see how high we can count. If counting isn't your thing give the alphabet a whirl and match each stride with a new letter.
7. Become a Human Train
Sometimes when our local Mom's hiking group ends up with an entire gaggle of cranky, tired children we look for a few long branches on the side of the trail or grab a pair of trekking poles and form a human train One child can be the engine, one child can be the caboose and the rest of the children can hold onto the branches and pretend to be passengers. Add a few enthusiastic "chugga chugga's" and some "woo woo's" and the train can really pick up speed as it heads toward the station, I mean trailhead.
8. March, Stomp, Hop, Run
On really easy trails it's fun to break up the monotony of walking with a little marching, stomping, hopping or running. If you're really feeling adventurous kids can hop on one foot or stomp out a pretend campfire. This is our go-to activity when kids complain about cold feet on winter hikes.
9. Look & Feel
Exploring different textures is a great summer hike activity. This can be as simple as touching a tree's bark, finding a cattail, a rough granite boulder or a soft chunk of moss. You can venture down the trails in search of a slippery rock, or a sharp pine needle and turn each object into a fun mini science lesson.
For older children or younger children with the help of an adult it can be fun to scamper down the trail ahead of the group a very short distance and pop out of the tree's to "scare" the group as they hike past. This game is always a hit with both kids and adults.
When it comes to hiking with kids a little bit of creativity can really help that last mile turn from terrible to terrific. But, it also doesn't hurt to keep a secret stash of candy or a special treat in the car at the trailhead. Sometimes the thought of a piece of chocolate is enough to motive not just our kids down the trail, but tired parents too.
What games do you play with your tykes to keep them motivated and moving down the trails?
**Please welcome Rebecca Walsh as a new contributor to the Sierra Social Hub. You can expect more post on hiking, exploring Wyoming and raising outdoor kids. Until then, check out her blog: Just Trails.
Also try these 3 Unique Ways to Hike Further with Toddlers.
10 Awesome Games For Little Adventurers
By Rebecca Walsh
November 11, 2014
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