Getting holiday cabin fever? Escape the stuffy indoors with a family hike! Winter break is the perfect time for visiting relatives to see a different side of local trails. We’ve gathered our top five exploration activities that are sure to inspire a year-round love of hiking. If you haven’t hiked with young kids before, make sure to check out REI’s guide to family hiking. Here are some of our favorite tips:
- Bring plenty of snacks.
- When starting, hike short distances and commit to traveling at a child’s pace.
- Let your kids invite a friend along. (Adults become boring. Peers are cool.)
- Let kids participate in hike planning.
- Emphasize fun: play games, look for treasure, try geocaching.
- Seriously, bring lots of snacks, and stop often to let the kids scarf them down.
Once you’re ready to hit the trail, use these winter-themed activities to help the miles fly by!
Become a Citizen Scientist
Anyone can become a citizen scientist! From December 14 through January 5, you can participate in the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count. Families can register to join a local circle or even count the birds that are visiting their own backyards. The data collected is entered online and then used to learn more about our feathered friends and their winter behaviors.
Let’s Learn About Trees
Winter is a great time of year for going on a nature hike to learn about trees. Kids can see which trees keep their leaves and which ones lose them. Prepare by watching this short PBS video in which trail guide Teresa D’Anna offers parents cool facts about sassafras and why trees love kisses more than hugs.
Pair a Book with a Winter Activity
It’s always good to keep kids reading during school breaks, but sometimes you need to entice them a little. Why not match a book with a fun winter hike? Kids can fill out a nature journal or learn about the outdoors from the Berenstain Bears.
“A” Is for “Alphabet Walk”
Write down each letter of the alphabet on a piece of paper, leaving a blank after each letter. Take a walk along the AMP or along a soft trail. Find an object from nature to match each letter of the alphabet. Write the name of the object next to the letter for hours of family fun.
See What Is Different
The outside world changes each season. Bundle up and head outside to see what’s going on with Mother Nature at this time of year. Ask your kids if they see any animals and get them to think about what the animals are doing. What types of birds are still living here and haven’t migrated? What do the trees look like? Is it rainy or dry? Grab a notebook or journal and record animal activities each day to chart changes over the seasons.