For most of us, snowshoeing and hiking are perfect activities in their own right. They allow us to exercise, and during winter, it provides peace through a snow-covered landscape, among other things. But for kids, especially the younger ones, it might be just a little too peaceful and calm. A little planning, though, can create a fun snowshoe or hiking experience for kids and also satisfy your own needs.
1. Know Your Audience
As with any activity, it helps to know your audience. What do your kids, or the kids who may be joining you enjoy? Are they animal lovers? Are they old enough to search for fine details or to be challenged with species identification?
Do they have experience hiking or on snowshoes already? Or should you be incorporating games and activities to get them used to the activity and using their snowshoes? Below are suggestions for games and activities.
2. Plan Your Route
Although knowing your route is important with any activity, it becomes especially crucial for kids.
Understanding what adventure you might find along the way goes a long way in creating fun. You can build up excitement or stop for a break at a landmark along the way.
Furthermore, knowing how far your return trip is can ensure it is suitable for younger bodies that may not have the stamina that a more extended trip requires. Especially when snowshoeing in winter, shorter trips (half of the distance your child hikes typically during the summer) is more desirable for kids.
Even the best of times can be spoiled by a bad mood, an unexpected incident, or a just-in-case not that you didn’t prepare for on your outing.
For any hiking or snowshoeing outing, snacks and water are essential to keeping energy levels up and dehydration at bay. For kids, snacks and water can also provide a necessary distraction and something to occupy hands and minds. Pack enough water for everyone on the hike and plan for a variety of snacks, including a special treat worth looking forward to once you reach your destination.
Extra Clothing Accessories
When in snow or hiking near water, it’s always a good idea to pack extra clothing items such as mittens and socks. All it takes is one too many tumbles in the snow for mitts to become wet and unwearable. Just one tumble into deep powder can result in a snow-filled mitten that will need time to dry. Furthermore, you don’t want those feet to get wet! You never know when snow might sneak into boots or slips can happen in a stream. Best to be prepared so you’re not marching home with wet socks, which in the winter can be downright dangerous!
Bring a Sled If On Snow
Depending on the ages of the kids, it might be advisable to pull along a sled to carry some of the extra gear and to help make sure everyone makes it out in one piece. Finishing the walk by sledding or taking a break with a sled ride while enjoying a snack may give young ones a break they need, both physically and emotionally, to get through to the other end.
4. Try Walking Games
Try a few games to make the walking part of the activity fun. Questions/ activities like:
- Count how many steps it takes you to reach that tree up ahead.
- Let’s try sidestepping from here until that rock.
- Who can get from here to that bend in the fewest steps?
- Can you make your steps go all in a straight line?
You get the idea. Make walking an adventure with little games, even shorts races scattered here and there, and you’ll keep kids busy and entertained.
5. Plan a Scavenger Hunt
Whether you plan for a prize at the end or leave the joy of discovery to be the prize, kids love scavenger hunts. Know the area you’ll be traveling, and you can pick out some fun finds specific to the area such as a unique tree along the way or a fork in the path you know exists. Even if you haven’t walked the path before, there are some typical winter finds that can keep kids alert and engaged as you walk.
If it’s a sunny day melting icicles on trees, dripping snow, shadows, and wet bark can be easy finds. If the day isn’t sunny, icicles at different heights – up high on trees, at eye level, or even a count of the number of icicles they can find can be entertaining.
Have the kids look for animal tracks and then give extra points for guesses as to what kind of animal it might have been. See if you can spot any furred or feathered creatures themselves. Look for remnants of bird’s nests, signs of berries birds might still be able to eat during the winter, or traces of scat. Come on; you know kids love finding poop.
See if older kids can identify different species of trees or find samples of different kinds of leaves that may be lying on the ground, or dead but still dangling from branches. Look for moss growing on trees, signs of animal dens or holes in trees that could be providing shelter for some winter creature.
How about pine needles, a frozen flower, dried or wet sap on a tree, the biggest rock they can see or two rocks that look alike, frozen water, a living insect…? Just because the world around you seems similarly white, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain dozens of hidden treasures.
Geocaching has been around just since the year 2000. Its history is quite interesting. Mainly it involves the practice of leaving something behind, marking it, and then hoping others can find it. Some caches are traveling caches. Visitors to these caches are encouraged to take an item, leave an item, and then reposition the piece they have taken somewhere else in the world. Others are just for looking – not to be taken – but may have a log within for you to record your name and home.
There was a time that caches were primarily found through GPS locations posted on the web, which you then needed a GPS and excellent mapping skills to find.
Now, advances in technology mean that you can download maps directly to tablets, iPads, and phones. Then, built-in GPS locators will lead you to the spot.
Be aware, especially in winter, that a well-placed cache will be above the snow-cover, so once you reach your destination, you may need to look high, as well as low.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of finding caches, you may even want to leave one of your own and can plan an outing around finding precisely the right location.
Read More: Snowshoe Geocaching: Searching For Booty
Go Snowshoeing Or Hiking With Kids
Whether you are a passionate snowshoer, a beginner, or someone who likes to dabble in several different winter activities, taking kids along for the hike can kindle the same interest in them, and help create a generation of active winter enthusiasts.
What recommendations do you have when snowshoeing with kids? Let us know in the comments below!
Article updated April 2020 with formatting changes and link additions