November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Ideas for UL Activities When Hiking with Your kids
Display Avatars Sort By:
John Hillyer
(TrNameLucky) - MLife
Ideas for UL Activities When Hiking with Your kids on 11/09/2013 21:05:17 MST Print View

So I wanted to start a thread where we can share our ideas on UL things to do with the kids when you’re out hiking. I can think of three different categories and I’ll start us off with some examples:

Games to play while hiking:
-One person names something they see; the other/next person has to name something that they see that starts with the last letter of the previously named item….and around or back and forth it goes.

Things to do during a break or at camp that doesn't require carrying anything extra with you:
-building cairns to help hikers ID the trail
-playing tic tac toe in the dirt with sticks
-building a campfire and roasting marshmallows
-building a rock castle or a sand castle

Things to do where you have to bring something with you :
-Catching butterflies or other insects in a net
-building an igloo
-playing cards
-travel board games

Your turn. How do you have fun with the kids? Or what are your thoughts?

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Ideas for UL Activities When Hiking with Your kids on 11/09/2013 21:09:38 MST Print View

Letting them carry their video game system and play it in the tent, allowing you to read books? Hehheh....oh, that doesn't count? ;-)

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Activities for kids on 11/09/2013 21:31:29 MST Print View

If there isn't a burn ban fire is great. Start with matches then progress to more advanced options. I bring a bag full of 100 or so cotton balls and a magnesium fire starter. The key is to show the kids how to do it and help them get the hang of it. You'd be surprised how long they can entertain themselves starting and tending a fire.

Small pocket knives are a big hit. Obviously you have to think safety here. For really young kids I use a knife that is pretty dull. I stress safety but if they do slip the chance of them doing permanent damage with the knives I hand out is pretty slim.

A cheap digital camera might be fun to play with.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Ideas for UL Activities When Hiking with Your kids on 11/09/2013 21:39:05 MST Print View

Let them build a small lean-to shelter with downed logs and fallen leaves.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Ideas for UL Activities When Hiking with Your kids on 11/09/2013 21:54:24 MST Print View

Card games, helping to cook meals (somemores!!!), picking berries, skipping stones, fishing, exploring the lake, stream, or beach, macrame projects, singing, telling stories, drawing, reading aloud.

Along the way they should be involved with navigation and trail skills. There is nothing like being in front of a big feature with the map in hand. "See where those lines are all packed together? See that cliff?" When-will-we-be-there is the perfect time to get out the map.

It's the perfect time for geology and other natural sciences. Field guides are heavy but might get mileage.

Coming around the bend in the trail to see a deer or rabbit for the first time with a child is nothing less than an honor.

Oh deer!

Most of all kids need to play, explore, and imagine.

I like the photos idea. Add a magnifying glass or a pocket microscope. AND PLEASE LEAVE THE VIDEO GAMES IN THE CAR.

Edited by dwambaugh on 11/09/2013 22:00:00 MST.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Re: Ideas for UL Activities When Hiking with Your kids on 11/09/2013 22:16:28 MST Print View

I find that if the adults have a combination of love and awe and enjoyment for the natural world (and enough energy) then there are endless opportunities, particularly with the younger ones .
Cards are good at camp; pocket knives and string are nice for making bows and arrows and even if they mostly won't work well the kids still enjoy them. Taking the time to let kids really look at something and touch it, instead of hurrying them along is also good for making the whole thing a better experience. Gathering wood, cones and needles for a fire is good if you can do that.
Video games depends what they are used to do, I guess , but sometimes being "bored" without the constant entertainment can be the best thing that can happen to a kid. After the initial bummer, which will last longer if that is all they do at home, they usually come to enjoy doing something different.
At our house we never had a TV and when the power went out, which happened several times each winter, the neighbor kids ( and adults) that were always plugged in had a rough time and the kids often came over to our house where there was plenty going on .
Unplug is my suggestion there.

Edited by Kat_P on 11/09/2013 22:18:42 MST.

Hoot Filsinger
(filsinger) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Ideas for UL Activities When Hiking with Your kids on 11/09/2013 22:24:05 MST Print View

Many valuable activities already mentioned but here is a few more:

Seton Watching
Fire building contest (first to burn an overhead string)
Make a photo essay
Knot tying skills
Nature or trip journal
Treasure hunt using map and compass
Life bird, conifer, flower, etc. list

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Teach them on 11/09/2013 22:34:36 MST Print View

I'm all for "unplugging" but kids that are used to constant stimulation need to be taught how to enjoy the woods. That is why I like things like knives and fire, most kids can't resist them.

Other ideas would be

-Bow and arrow
-BB guns
-Slingshot (check rules with any "weapons" you don't want to run afoul of hunting regulations)
-Worm eating
-Snake catching (with supervision!)
-Binoculars for watching animals

Cooking is another big thing. With kids you'll be spending a lot of time in camp. Build a fire and let the kids cook marshmellows, hot dogs or summer sausage. Unless they are really little every kid should cook their own food. It entertains them and gives them a sense of accomplishment.

Building shelters is fun, if ticks aren't a big concern I'd let them sleep in them.

Sooner or later kids have to "go" in the woods. I had a "How to go in the woods" lesson that was kinda infamous at summer camp. We made light of the whole thing so kids weren't as scared or embarrassed.

Jon Fong
(jonfong) - F

Re: Ideas for UL Activities When Hiking with Your kids on 11/10/2013 09:42:22 MST Print View

1) Charades
2) Rock Darts make 2 sets of concentric circles (3 rings each with the largest being about 10 feet in diameter) about 15 feet apart. Standing at one circle , throw rock at the other circle. 10 points for inner circle, 3 points for middle 1 point for outer. Rocks on the line, the lowest value.

Have fun

Joe Lynch
(rushfan) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
geocaching on 11/10/2013 10:19:35 MST Print View

Before hitting the trail, get the coordinates for some geocaches.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Games and sticks on 11/10/2013 12:25:53 MST Print View

Here's two books that have ideas for kids - we've used the stick book with our grandkids. Most of those things need string in addition to sticks - not too much weight to carry. I haven't seen the games one yet, just noticed it, but it looks interesting, especially if you have more than one kid! The third books is just a bunch of "nature and survival(!)" things to do outdoors. Can't promise they're all LNT, but with supervision you can keep them from getting too big.

Finally, if you overnight near a stream or pond, that alone will give your kids hours of entertainment. Just watch them for drowning, etc.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Geocaching +1 on 11/11/2013 19:52:49 MST Print View

Geocaching is a fun activity I always enjoy my kids. Nice combination of hiking, working with a GPS, and some detective work. Also teaches the kids to read the terrain where they learn that a straight line is not always the quickest route to a destination.

Took the kids out earlier today:


Edited by IDBLOOM on 11/11/2013 20:40:16 MST.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Ideas for UL Activities When Hiking with Your kids on 11/11/2013 21:02:15 MST Print View


Leaving ANY electronic in a car at a TH is a dumb idea. Be it a phone, computer, game system, etc. All it does is reward thieves.

Anyhow, I frankly never felt any guilt letting Ford carry his system when he was a kid. He hiked everywhere with me, even though often it wasn't something he wanted to do. So I may joke, but in all seriousness, I let the boy have his down time in camp. If he could hike 10+ miles a day, then he deserved a little decompression.

The thing about kids is no kid is alike. Where my middle son can find anything in nature to play with, my oldest didn't. My oldest is a highly-functioning Aspy...sitting around a campfire singing songs is just boring to him. So was looking for frogs as a child. But wow, could he hike. I picked battles worth my time.

But also, I realize my oldest is more like me than I think at times. I am happy to lay in bed, in my tent and read on my smartphone till I drift off. It soothes my mind. So why would I tell my kid he can't do the same? ;-)

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Re: Ideas for UL Activities When Hiking with Your kids on 11/11/2013 21:13:48 MST Print View

"Leaving ANY electronic in a car at a TH is a dumb idea. Be it a phone, computer, game system, etc. All it does is reward thieves."

I leave my phone and whatever other device in my car at the trailhead. I hide them out of sight. My car is not one thieves are usually drawn to and I don't leave anything too valuable there. Any kids game isn't something I would worry about losing too much. I don't think it is a dumb idea.

Also, I think Dale did not necessarily mean leave them in the car; more like leave electronics behind once you enter the wilderness, be it in the car or better yet, at home.
He will probably address that himself ....

Whatever Sometimes pushing the kids to deal with boredom or loneliness is not a bad thing. Learning to be ok without so much external stimulus is something that may serve all of us well.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Ideas for UL Activities When Hiking with Your kids on 11/11/2013 21:17:41 MST Print View

+1 Sarah.

I could care less about my kids having electronics on a trip.
I also don't see how it's really any different from me being distracted by a book on a trip.

On our trip this weekend my son charged ahead with his iPod on, listening to music. A quarter mile later I catch him and start to take a picture of him resting on a log. He asks if he should take his earbud out (he only had one in). I said I didn't care. He said he thought I'd be mad at him for listening to music. "Why would you think that?" I asked. "I don't know, you're into nature and all and I thought you'd say it makes you disconnected or something."
I told him I know a lot of people that like music while they hike.
This really perked him up, validating him.
I told him that I didn't think there should be rules, that backpacking is something we do to be free to do whatever we want to do.

He already knows how to sit and look and listen, as does my daughter, I see it all the time. If they want to play a video game or listen to some tunes, who cares? They also play chess and read books and fish and draw and enjoy our hikes with or without electronics.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re on 11/11/2013 21:29:37 MST Print View

I agree that nature does not mean having to do without electronics.
I think there is a point to kids having some time in their lives when they are "disconnected", be it at home or on the trail. While backpacking just seems like a time when it could make sense.

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Re: Re: Re: Ideas for UL Activities When Hiking with Your kids on 11/11/2013 21:36:38 MST Print View

Tea parties. lol.

My daughter loves it if I let her "cook".

Adventures in Stoving

Edited by hikin_jim on 11/11/2013 21:38:44 MST.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
The difference? on 11/11/2013 21:59:34 MST Print View

I'm not at all trying to be argumentative...

For the sake of discussion, in the end, is there a big difference between the distraction/disconnection from one's surroundings that comes from reading vs. the distraction that comes from a video game or listening to music? Granted, the act of reading has it's benefits...but if we're only talking about being disconnected from one's surroundings, I don't see much difference. Reading is simply more romantic in most people's minds. I contrast games with reading because most adults wouldn't mind kids being distracted by one, but not the other.

I read Frank Herbert's Dune on my last Sierra trip, staying up in my tent at night. On a Nook, no less! Pretty distracting. More distracting than playing the Legend of Zelda on a handheld device? Probably about the same. Better for me than playing video games in my tent at night? That depends upon whether you think Frank Herbert can write. Conquering Hyrule in a video game is better than reading anything by Michael Crichton (in my humble opinion). Sometimes I like distractions. I have also enjoyed sitting in the same 3 meter square in the desert for 24 hours without any distractions.

It all depends.


I've written WAY too much on BPL tonight.

Edited by xnomanx on 11/11/2013 22:02:08 MST.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: The difference? on 11/11/2013 22:37:03 MST Print View

"I'm not at all trying to be argumentative..."

Yes you are,but that's ok, you are not alone :)

You have a point for sure. I think most parents would be happy to see their kids read at all these days.
In a way there is no difference at all, books are distractions and entertain us all the same.
Taking reading away from backpacking and comparing it with a video game though...they are very different.

Some people are always plugged in, always. Some kids have never known a week without all the stimulus provided by their electronics; they do not even ride in the car without a movie on, starting from babyhood.
I am not condemning our devices and I see great benefit from them. At the same time I don't see anything wrong with holding the opinion that some time unplugged could be beneficial.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Ideas for UL Activities When Hiking with Your kids on 11/12/2013 00:11:32 MST Print View

Finding objects that start with A, B, C, etc.

Seeing how many edible plants you can ID.

Mental tic-tac-toe, checkers, chess - depending on the child's age and skill level.

Various "treasure hunts" go over well - that could gold panning, looking for shells or agates on a beach, etc. Rules: you have to carry all your own treasures and you only get to bring X of them home.

"Set" is an unusually age-indepedent and mind-bending card game. Simple rules, but it makes me think in new ways.

Great tip for playing Scrabble (presumably a travel-version) with kids: handicap them by allowing them more than 7 tiles. Adjust the amount until they are competitive.

Mostly, I have wide-ranging philosophical discussions with my kids. And do algebra, geometry and calculus problems.