If your family is anything like mine, your kids drop their Nintendo DS, shut off the TV, grab you by the wrist and drag you out onto the trails at their first opportunity, right? Of course not. One of the struggles of today’s communication and technology society is that it’s harder and harder to successfully unplug and get out into nature. Even parents who feel it’s really important to connect with nature, and make every effort to push families out the door, find it challenging to entertain kids once they are on the trails. There are no screens, no beeping noises and no txtmsgs. So what’s a dedicated, outdoor-loving parent to do to thwart the whining and boredom, or even succeed at motivating our children off of the couch?
Thankfully there are solutions to this dilemma and one of them is Rob Bignell’s latest book. Hikes with Tykes: Games and Activities. This great little guide contains enough ideas to engage even the most stoic, couch-loving tween. Rob spends the first third of the book introducing basic thought for hiking with kids, including safety, first aid, navigation, supplies, food and even a bit about the family dog. For any of us who spend ample time outdoors, this section may seem a bit pedantic, but it did a good job reminding me of the reasons we take our families hiking. Bonding, childhood memories (besides level 22 of their favorite video game) and attitude adjustment. I was also reminded how rule enforcement shifts when we go out into the wilderness. Encouraging your indoor child from trepidation about the outdoors to curiosity on the trail is a very worthwhile experience, but one that often is not a natural shift, especially for parents who are used to corralling their kids in the city.
Bignell’s Games and Activities begins by attacking the hardest parts of hiking with kids. Chapter one is called “Getting Reluctant Kids Excited About the Hike.” It is a good opener! The suggestions range from planning to internet research, to food prep, to word choice: call it “an adventure” or “exploring” rather than “a hike,” and that may take you a long way!
The games section is divided into three parts: Prehike games, hiking games and post-hike games. And each set of games covers a range of ages and interests, from toddler-engaging “I spy,” to teen-worthy photography, and geocaching.
All in all, Hikes with Tykes: Games and Activities is a great resource for parents who need a little (or a lot) of help encouraging their kids on the trail. You might even be surprised by a tug on the wrist one day.