So often we think of walking as simply a way of going from one place to the next; however, the walk can be the goal. If you get outside with your kids, walking is a great way for the family to sneak in some exercise while giving everyone a chance to talk to one another in a stress-free environment. Make it the rule that everyone (kids and adults) turns off phones and other electronic devices.
Playing these walking games for kids gets everyone interacting with their fellow walkers as well as the environment they are in. Use the games as a way in entering into conversations. Older kids (ages 10-13) may play the games more willingly if they can lead younger children (or each other).
Look for Just One Color – Select a single color to look for on the walk, even if the color isn’t noticeable in the area. This is great for building observational skills.
Count the times everyone sees the color within a five or ten minute limit. Yes, if the color is one of many colors in an object that still counts.
Texture Trail – All too often we tell kids to not touch things. However, in nature, kids can touch things. Feeling items gives kids a more immediate way of connecting with their surroundings while developing their vocabulary as they describe different textures.
Feel the different textures of leaves growing on different plants. Compare green leaves growing on a tree to the decaying leaves beneath the tree. Touch the plastic of a bench and find something natural that shares the texture.
Sounds Off and On – Everyone becomes more aware of the sounds around them with this activity. Tell your kids that they’ll start off by covering their ears as they walk to block out sounds. When you raise your hand, they will cup their hands behind their ears, which will help funnel sounds into their ears to magnify them. Have your kids practice cupping their hands behind their ears so they are expanding and not blocking their hearing.
During this activity, no one should talk. Limit both parts of the activity to 20-30 seconds. Afterwards, ask your kids what it was like to walk blocking out sounds and then magnifying them.
Word Pictures – Kids will be better at this than the adults! Pretend that the items around you don’t have names (maybe you are alien explorers on a new world). What would you call a tree or a bench based on its appearance? For example, a bench could be named a “bend and rest.”
Different Angles – By encouraging kids to view an object from more than one angle you are inspiring them to test their creativity and to look for more than one way to see anything (a person, an object, a situation) instead of settling on their first impression.
Pick up an object or stand next to something too large to hold. Describe the item from one angle. Hand the object to the next person who much describe it from a different viewpoint. Continue passing the object around (or back and forth). When you think you’ve hit a point where the item has been described from every possible angle, give it a few more tries. Chances are that everyone will struggle for a moment and then come up with creative ways of viewing the object from different angles.
If you are standing next to a large object, walk around it, squat, stand on your toes, and even see if there is a higher point where you can view the item.
Coin Flip Walk – Each time you reach a branching trail, flip a coin to decide which path you will follow. Take this walk only if you are familiar with the area where you are walking, so that you don’t get lost. You can reserve the right to take a path that keeps you in a familiar area or saves you from following a trail that will send you far away. The magic of chance determining where you are going can really excite some kids.
Preposition Positions – Prepositions are short words that describe location. This active game gets your kids (and you!) moving their bodies while learning more about these words. Prepositions include the words: across, below, down, off, on, over, and under. You can ask your kids to “Walk under that branch,” “Hop on one foot,” “March behind me,” etc.
The “Go There” Walking Game – Chances are that if you are walking with more than one child, everyone will want to walk at their own pace. One way of dealing with this is to give the more energetic kids a way of focusing and burning some of that energy.
Avoid playing this game if a lot of people are around so you don’t bother anyone. Basically, you look ahead on the trail and tell the kids to run to a clear landmark, a bench, signpost, tree with an identifiable feature, and then stop there and wait for you. You want to keep your kids in view and you don’t want to give them a landmark so far off that they get antsy waiting for you to catch up.
Rock & Root Walk – Chances are you won’t even have to introduce this as a game to your kids. If you come across a trail with protruding tree roots and rocks, allow your kids to give in to their instinct to balance on these objects as they walk from rock-to-tree root without touching the ground. This activity introduces a bit of problem solving as they figure out how to travel quickly without touching dirt.
Hi-Lo – Explain to your kids that when you call out, “Hi-lo” that they should first look up for a count of five and then squat down for a count of five before standing up. Do this with your kids. After looking up and then squatting and looking low, have everyone name two things that they noticed that they wouldn’t have seen if they kept walking along looking ahead of them.
Remember these aren’t just walking games for kids – you should play along. They’ll enjoy the experience more because you are sharing it with them.
McCarthy, Susan Caplan. Games on the Go: Nature Games for You and Your Kids. (2012). SRCM Books.
Cornell, Joseph. Sharing Nature with Children: 20th Anniversary Edition. (1998). Dawn Publications.
Cornell, Joseph B. Sharing Nature with Children II. (1999). Dawn Publications.© Copyright 2013 Susan McCarthy, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Parenting