12 ways to entertain young kids on a hike or outdoor activity

by Laura on July 16, 2012

Teaching the love of the outdoors is an important thing to pass on to our kids.  Most children will start out strong during a family outing, but will fade if they get tired, hot, hungry, or bored.  Here are 11 great ways to keep the happy factor up!



1.  Find walking sticks.  Experiment with every single stick along the road.  Try to find the perfect one.  Even young toddlers LOVE to carry a stick to walk with.  So much fun.


My son loved walking with his HUGE hiking stick.










2.  Make sure you have plenty of snacks and water.  I’ve found my kids fade super fast when they are sure they are “starving” or thirsty.  Push the water, even if they don’t want some.  Offer a snack midway, or at a stopping point in your activity.  Snacks that take a little while to eat also offer some entertainment, like a box of raisins, pistachios they have to shell, or an apple.  We just went to an outdoor music concert for 4th of July and there was a slower part in the middle.  I broke out the pistachios and they helped tremendously for my kids as they happily concentrated on shelling the nuts to eat.  The right snack can guarantee happiness. :)

3.  Sing songs.  Break out the memory of those old hiking songs.  Even if no one else wants to sing, singing takes your mind off the moment and helps with the beat.  One to try– “The Ants go Marching.”  Singing really helps all ages, from the very young to the young at heart.

4.  Make up games.  Thanks to my friend Laurie for a new favorite game of throwing rocks.  The idea is to find a rock, all stand in the same (approximate) spot, and try to hit a designated target.  Targets can be trees, rocks, water, etc.  We would cheer as the thrower hit the target.  Try to increase the difficulty with each throw.  Boys especially take to this activity!  Long after we finished the activity as a family, my son continued to create targets for himself.  I think my son counted up to about 190 for all his successful targets.  After we arrived back at the car, we passed out treats for excellent throwing.

5.  Play the 5 Senses game.  Find interesting things to observe, hear, smell, touch, and taste along the way.  Make sure to take some cool pictures of things you particularly like! Some ideas:

"Spring flowers", photo by my oldest

see: cool rocks, downed trees, beautiful flowers, water, bugs and other animals

hear: birds, insects, other people, animals, planes

smell: flowers, trees, air

touch: leaves, flowers, rocks, water

taste:  yummy snacks!


6.  Have fun with water!  Dip little feet, let hands play in a fountain, throw sticks down a creek, etc.  Who cares if they get a little wet?  Let kids be kids.

7.  Give physical challenges.  Can you walk only on rocks?  How about skipping, turning one time, and jumping 2 times?  These challenges also help kids to practice multi-step directions as well as the fun element.

8.  Follow the leader.  Take turns who is in charge!  No one can pass that person.  Add another variation by following their exact walking path.

9.  Make sure everyone has a map.  I’ve found that no matter what they age, each child loves having their own map!  If you are visiting a place with one, pick up a few extra.  Take the time to show them where you are and let them help decide where to go next or which way to go to find the next spot.

10.  Practice a new skill.  Perfect time to practice skipping on a path, whistling, or skipping rocks on a small pond or lake.

11.  Tell a story.  Use your imagination with your kids as the main characters or retell old classics.  Good classics for the outdoors include: Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Bears, and Hansel and Gretel.  Throw in some curveballs if they know the story well for some variation :)   Ask them to tell you when the story is changed!  Or, you start the story and have each person add a little bit to continue the telling.  Who knows what new story you’ll come up with.

12.  Have fun with pictures.  Find a great spot for a memory of your adventure.









Challenge:  A call out for fun outdoor photos!  Upload them to HLT’s facebook page and add a tip you’ve found for outdoor entertainment.  Or post some of your favorite tips below.


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