We are lucky to have an abundance of beautiful hiking trails that are easily accessible in Oregon. They run through the state’s forests and along rivers, snake up to the high peaks of the Cascades, and weave through the green belts of our cities. If you want to go for a hike with your family, chances are there is a nice trail just a short car ride away.
We have loved exploring Oregon with our children but have learned that hiking with kids can go from fun to challenging in a heartbeat. They can be eager and engaged one second and dragging feet, and complaining the next. That poses a real challenge when you are still a mile out from your car. Here are some fun ideas to keep kids moving and distracted from their tired feet.
Name It– Take turns identifying plants and trees beside the path as you walk. It is okay if you do not know much about this topic yourself. There are guidebooks to help you learn alongside your children, and you will all remember more each time you go. This game might be easiest with older kids but still encourage younger children to name the items they recognize. This is also a good opportunity to point out dangerous plants to avoid like poison ivy and poison oak.
Catch the Shadow- You will need a sunny, flat trail for this game to work safely. Set a pace just ahead of your child’s walking speed and tell them to try and catch your shadow as you walk. Vary your speed to keep them guessing and make it more challenging. Let them lead if you really want them to get moving.
Scavenger Hunt/Nature Bingo- This requires some preparation, as you will need to print copies before leaving, but there are plenty of free options to download, including ones with pictures for children who cannot read. You can also play this as a family, using one sheet and working together to check off items, or you can print individual sheets for each child so that they work independently. Both are fun and will keep kids watching and observant as you walk.
Follow the Leader- Let everyone take turns leading the group differently. You could tip-toe or take giant steps along the path. Dance down the trail or hop like an animal. Making the walk silly will take their mind off sore feet. Some city parks also have paths that branch off from each other. If you are brave and do not have a time limit, allow the leader to pick the trail you take. You might find a part of your park that you have not explored before.
Alphabet Game- This is a family favorite for us on long road trips but works for hikes as well. A person picks a topic, such as “things you see on a hike,” and each person takes turns naming something as you go through the alphabet. For example, the first person says a word that starts with the letter A and then the next person says something that starts with B, and so on. There are endless topics for this game. Little children can also learn the letter sounds as they play.
Navigator– This also requires a little preparation before you leave your house. Print a map of the trail you are planning to take. Have your little hikers help along the way, find landmarks, and keep track of your progress on the map. Add a compass to make things more challenging.
Trail Charades- This is another game that will get kids laughing and moving but is better suited for smooth walking paths rather than steep hikes. The person at the front of the line imitates an animal or a verb like swimming or skiing. Everyone in line guesses until they figure out the correct answer. Then a new leader moves to the front with a new word to act out as they walk. This game is funnier the sillier and more exaggerated people get.
These are just a few ideas to help your family on your next hike. If you get stuck trying to motivate a tired child, remember to add some fun and laughter as you walk. You will make good memories as you do and turn a challenging moment into a memorable family accomplishment.