How To: Entertain Kids While Hiking & Backpacking

Want to make sure your kids have a blast while backpacking? Here are some tips for the next time your family heads into the backcountry.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
October 10, 2020

Backpacking with kids is an exciting and eye-opening experience for both parents and children. Sharing the love of nature, exploration, and adventure is special, but not always the easiest thing to get kids exited about. These activity ideas will help you have a great time the next time you head into the backcountry with kids.

Pack Binoculars/Magnifying Glass

Bring binoculars or a magnifying glass to help your little naturalist (and yourself) see more in a new way. Both on the trail and at camp, binoculars can be an illuminating tool for exploration. Keep them handy on the trail to help liven up snack breaks and keep energy up on the trail. 

Encourage Berry Picking

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Picking berries may be the most immediately rewarding part of a backpacking trip. If you're on trail during berry season, pack an extra water bottle, and make sure it's full before you hit camp or make it back to the car.

Bring Cardgames/travel games

Gin rummy or cribbage might not be your child’s favorite thing to do at home, but card or travel games can be just right at camp. And playing games together bonds you as a family, and teaches transferrable life skills. A variety of games are sold in travel form so they're easy to add to your packing list. 

Spend Time Drawing/Journaling

Pack a lightweight notebook, and crayons or colored pencils, or even just a pen, and encourage your kids to spend time documenting their day on paper. Easy to pack, and fit for any adventure, drawing landscapes or writing about your travels alongside your children is a great way to enjoy and appreciate nature together. New to a nature journal, learn about how to start one.

Get Up for Stargazing

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After the sun goes down, break out a star map and try and to identify the brightest constellations. Can’t spot Ursa Major? Get creative and come up with new constellations that are special to your family (and document them in your nature journal). If you want to get the stars right, constellation apps are available for all types of smart phones.

Create a Scavenger Hunt

Build your own scavenger hunt with things you might find in the wilderness. Give your kids a list, and have them tick things off. Berries, tracks, flowers, plants, or types of rocks work great. Be sure not to pick any of the flowers or move the rocks. Scavenger hunts are a great way to add excitement around camp or on the trail.

Have a Camera at the ready

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Cameras can be a gateway to exploration for kids in the outdoors. It'll help them look closer, and get excited about things they haven’t noticed before. Let them borrow your phone for its camera or give the kids their own camera to pack. By the time you get home, you might be surprised by what they've captured, often something you didn't even notice yourself.  The shift in perspective will be valuable for the whole family. 

Come prepared with Riddles

Need to pass time on the trail? Riddles are a great way to keep your kids confused, questioning, and interested on the hike up or down. Classics like the green glass door can keep you busy for hours.

Want more?

Looking for more information on adventuring with your kids? Check out these tips for raising adventurous little ones. And don't miss this guide to the best hikes with kids. 

lead photo courtesy of Kevin Ouyoumjian.


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