On Your Hike

Any outdoor experience can be an adventure, whether in a backyard, public park, or lush forest! Here are some pointers that'll help awaken a sense of curiosity and appreciation for the natural world.

One child looks at another child through binoculars

Engage their senses

Discoveries can be found all over the trail. Brush leaves out of the way and look for insects, watch pollinators interact with flowers, touch the bark of various trees, listen to the calls of birds, etc… There is no limit to the amount of things that can be discovered in nature. To help with the exploration, bring a kids guidebook or magnifying glass. Most importantly, let children share their discoveries with you as you share discoveries with them.

Take time to observe

Encounters with nature can be extremely educational and meaningful. Make sure you take time to observe. From watching a centipede cross the trail to learning the names of trees based on the bark, connections to nature can be made through observation.

Be patiently excited

Kids can find an adventure in everything – a stick, a rock, a bird, a bug, etc… Even though they may stop every two seconds to look at the next coolest thing they ever saw, be patient. Being patient and getting excited about what they are excited about will only aid in their desire for more encounters in nature.

Walk a mile in their shoes

While walking a mile or two may not seem that far to adults, to little kids – depending on age and experience – it can be too far. Remember, their little legs don’t cover as much ground per step as ours. Let them set the pace and guide their journey. Make the first hike short in distance, but long in adventure.

Rest before rest is needed

As soon as kids get tired, their experience and joy begins to diminish. To prevent them from getting tired, take rest stops before they are needed; and, compliment them about what a great job they’re doing before they begin to complain about the distance walked or the steepness of a hill.

Hike with a buddy

While it is always a great experience to spend time in nature alone with your children, sometimes bringing one of their friends along will make their trip more fun. Playing with friends, children can take their discovery experience to new levels. Plus, it is a great way to introduce other children to nature.

Check the checklist

Adventures in nature are more fun if it is a game. Develop checklists along the trail to aid in the discovery. Examples would be counting the number of mushrooms you find, the number of birds you hear or the number of different types of trees you see. Or, you could simply pick up a TRACK Trail brochure and use it to guide the exploration.

No time to be bored

Keep kids interested with activities along the trail. Play games, count, touch, listen, smell and taste (if you know what you’re tasting). The more senses you engage, the richer the experience will be for you and your kids.

Have fun!

If you’re not having fun, then your kids won’t be having fun. If you’re not going to enjoy walking one mile, they are not going to enjoy walking one mile. The Kids in Parks staff has been on more than one hike where the parent, teacher or chaperone was less than enthused about the distance of the trail, and that enthusiasm had an extremely negative impact on the children’s experiences. Kids are the masters of reading body language; don’t spoil the fun by sending the wrong signals.