Have you ever been on a hike with little explorers and heard the familiar - "I'm bored." or "I'm tired."? Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, mentors -- these fun games are for you! The games also work for the walk around the block, which occasionally needs a little spice too.
1. Finding Treasure
How to play:
Bring along items to hide on the trail. Depending on the age of your littles, you may not have to really hide the items. I’ve used painted rocks and fall squash. If the items are natural or biodegradable, I am less concerned if they aren’t found. Call the items treasure, and the search intensifies.
This is a great game for an out and back hike. Hide the treasure so that there is something to look for and look forward to on the way back. It encourages children to practice observation skills and use their “looking eyes.” The first time I organized this game was at a Tyke Hike Birthday Party. I expected to get the painted rocks back at the end of the party. Ha! Every child wanted to keep their treasure!
2. Wildlife Freeze Game
How to play:
Start by stating an animal and their movement. For example, say, “waddle like a penguin.” After a few moments, say “freeze.” The idea is for the child to stop immediately in that wildlife pose. Next suggest “fly like a bird.” Continue saying “freeze” between various animal movements. Try “slither like a snake, jump like a frog, hop like a bunny, crawl like a bear, crawl like a crab, stand like a flamingo, stalk like a tiger, etc.”
This game is seriously fun and encourages listening, gross motor development and imaginative play. Walking outdoors on uneven terrain is already good for gross motor development – moving in a variety of ways adds additional motor skills complexity. Research shows that imaginative play is a way for children to form a stronger bond to animals and nature.
3. Growing from a Seed to a Tree
How to play:
Scrunch your knees down to form a seed on the ground. Use dialogue to explain how a seed sprouts and grows into a tree. Here is how I describe it: The sun comes out and the rain falls down. The seed slowly starts to sprout (extend your arms up). Then it grows a little taller (slowly stand up). It extends it
branches toward the sky (reach towards the sky). And grows leaves (extend fingers). In a stiff breeze it sways (wave your arms back and forth). Drop down to a seed again and start over.
This activity is fun and relaxing for children and adults alike. It includes a full body stretch! And imaginative play enables children to form a stronger bond to nature.
4. I Spy
How to play:
There are a couple of variations to this game, but they all include spotting
various objects. Start by saying, “I spy with my little eye, something blue.” The child or adult that identifies the blue object that you spotted goes next. They choose an object and say, “I spy with my little eye, something [color].” You can also play by identifying specific objects in nature, such as rocks, bugs, spider webs, rocks, wildlife, etc.
This game encourages children to be creative, practice observation skills and use their “looking eyes.”
5. Bridge Toss How to play: This may not sound like a game, but bridges provide loads of entertainment. Find and collect items along your hike to throw off a bridge – pebbles, pinecones, leaves, etc. Make tossing the items into an experiment by making a hypothesis (educated guess) as to whether the items will make a sound or a splash. Why: This is a fantastic STEAM activity. Making a hypothesis (educated guess) is a fun and easy way to introduce scientific principles to your little explorers. Noting the sounds and impact also practice observation skills.