Labor Day has come and gone, and as we head into fall, with its cooler weather and gorgeous change of scenery, why not take your family out for a hike?
Yes, you could just hike. Hiking is fun and it’s good exercise.
But why not play a game or do an activity while you’re at it? Here are some ideas to try that just might make your next hike a great family memory.
- Search for and identify (probably when you get home) animal tracks. You can take pictures or draw the tracks in a journal.
- Lose the GPS and sports drinks. Hike like it was 1900 – the year 1900. “Instead of a fanny pack” or back pack, “grab a square of cloth and tie it around a walking stick…Pack some beef jerky, water, and dried fruit,” says TLC Family’s Web site.
- Find a scenic or historical trail and research and then hike it. The Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail between Western Illinois and Utah starts in Sugar Grove, Ill. “Five hundred covered wagons rolled northwestward out of Sugar Creek, Illinois on Sunday, March 1, 1846, heading across Iowa toward the Missouri River…” starts the National Park Service Web site.
- Leave greetings on the trail. “Show kids how to use a sharp stick to carve a comment – their name, a message, a warning about a slippery rock – into the soil. If the dirt is too hard, add a trickle of fresh, clean water…and then carve the hello,” says TLC Family.
- Find colors in nature. Challenge your kids to find at least 10 things that are one color.
- Set up a scavenger hunt. “Create lists of sounds, sights, textures, and smells to watch for on the trail,” says outdoors.org. “Award special prizes for collecting trash. Do not collect plants or other living objects.” Washington Trails Association’s Web site recommends challenging kids to “find things that are fuzzy, small, rough, bumpy, smooth, big, soft, sticky, squishy, lumpy, wet, living, growing, round, triangular, moving, make noise, hard, smelly…”
- Or, look for particular items on your scavenger hunt: fern, insect, birds’ nest, feather, flower, pine cone, hole in a tree, butterfly, spider web, heart-shaped rock, four different shades of green.
- Look for life under fallen logs.
- Play “I spy.” Choose an object and have others guess what you’ve seen using yes or no questions.
- Count the number of tree species you find. (You may want to bring along a tree identification book.)
- Count the number of birds you can hear in a minute.
- Bring a small magnifying glass to explore things close up.
- Play “A, B, C’s.” “Start at the beginning of the alphabet and identify something on the trail that begins with the letter A, then work your way through all the letters in the alphabet,” says Washington Trails Association.
- Play “Nature’s Connections.” “Similar to a scavenger hunt, but deals with inter-related items. For instance the beginning item might be a pine cone. Then…try to find at least five things in nature that are related to a pine cone. A pine tree, pine shat, piece of pine bark, even a squirrel (a pine cone is one of a squirrel’s favorite foods),” says Camping With Kids’ Web site.
- Play Bingo. “Before a hike, have your kids brainstorm things you might find on a hike: an oak tree, a robin, a tent with hikers, a bridge, etc. Turn those ideas into bingo cards…then take them on your hike and play Bingo as you go,” says ecochildsplay.com.
- Play hide-and-seek along the trail.
- Guess how many steps it is between two points.
- Do crazy walks: giant steps, backwards steps, hops, tiny steps…
- Play Balance the Leaf. “Set a leaf on the bare head of each participant. Establish a finish line and see who reaches it with the leaf still on their head,” recommends suite101.com.
- Have a sing-along.
Above all, have fun and enjoy the outdoors!