Sometimes, when our son is dragging his heels on a trail, we turn to games and fun activities to try to help motivate him. The kinds of games we choose depend on his specific mood (“I’m bored” is a different than, oh, say, wanting to get off the trail). If you follow what we do, you know that our sticker maps have long been one kind of activity we’ve been doing (you can read our bio to learn more about how all that started). Here are a few other favorites activities that have also worked pretty well.
Walking/Running like an Animal
This particular game worked really well when he was about 4 or 5, especially if one of us let ourselves go and joined in (never too old to get a little silly right?). Often, on flatter trails, this would involve an animal race (gazelle vs cheetah, go!). Sometimes, he just enjoyed telling us to walk like an elephant…or duck…or penguin and see what happened.
Playing “I Spy”
Okay, I admit that a game of “I spy” can get a little silly when you’re in the middle of the woods and your kid says “I spy something the color green.” But it’s a great way to engage with the environment around you and a great way to empower kids.
Feeling and Smelling Different Evergreen Needles
My husband and S.N.A. co-creator Mike became really interested in exploring the sensory aspects of evergreen trees after reading the book The Hidden Life of Trees and learning about the diversity of scents in the middle of a forest. He’s so into it, in fact, that he’s been trying to make scents and textures a regular feature in the Field Guides we make for the monthly subscription packets.
Studies show that humans tend to prioritize sight over other senses, so this kind of exploration is also a good way stimulate the brain in new ways. If you try this, first make sure you’re not touching an evergreen tree and not something agitating such as a stinging nettle or poison oak. Carefully rub the needles between your fingers to release the scent and then smell.
Of course, in addition to these activities, there's always the old stick-as-wand game (Harry Potter is big in our family right now). Or before that..the stick-as-light saber game. How does nature spark your child's imagination when they're out on the trail? We love hearing other ideas for engaging kids. What are your favorite kinds of activities to support your kids when your out of trail?
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Bryna R. Campbell