Thursday

10 Low-Hassle Hiking "Toys"

In general I don't like carting "toys" when hiking as it usually means more work for me before, during and after our hikes. But every now and then my kids need a little something extra on our hikes. Sometimes I can make-up simple activities for exploring nature or I bring a special treat; but other times they need something more substantial, like a toy.
10 Low-Hassle Hiking "Toys"

Half of the "toys" we bring on our hikes are things I came up with and the other half my kids asked for. Which is a lesson in and of itself; involve your kids in planning for your hikes. Some of their ideas sounded awful to me at first but ended up being very little work for me and kept the kids very happy. Bringing their teddy bears is an example.

But before turning to any of these toys I would suggest trying activities. I have had many miles of happy hiking without extra toys. A few of our favorites are exploring the forest using our five senses, playing in the mud or a special treat. I have found that "special treats" don't have to be sweet to be effective. On one of our hikes last fall we bought individual bags of chips, which we NEVER do. It was such a special treat for each kid to CARRY their own bag of chips, it kept them happy for the last leg of our hike.
10 Low-Hassle Hiking "Toys"

One more quick tip about hiking with kids. If you are going on a long hike, hold back an activity or treat for the last mile or two. That is what we did on the potato chip hike. The last mile would have been miserable if we had not had the chips.

Just to be clear, I don't bring all of these on our hikes. I generally pick anywhere from one to three depending on the length of the hike. My kids would be board with the toys if we used them all the time and it is just too much to carry all of these all the time.

  • Whistle - Most people would hate this but it makes my kids so happy I just endure. I don't let them blow it constantly and I have taught them how to blow it softly. If there are a lot of people on the trail I don't bring it out at all. We survived our hike at Palo Duro Canyon State Park because of our whistle. 
    10 Low-Hassle Hiking "Toys"
    My son is still smiling after our hike at Palo Duro Canyon thanks to the whistle.
  • Capes - These are are simple ones made from felt. They are very light weight and stuff easily into my backpack if the kids get tired of them. 
    10 Low-Hassle Hiking "Toys"
  • Teddy Bear - This was totally my kid's idea and it worked great. My only suggestion is to make sure the teddy bear is small. I did end up with them in my backpack once. 
    10 Low-Hassle Hiking "Toys"
  • Butterfly Net - A Kids' Bug Net works the best as they don't take up much room and are light-weight. Trails are some of the best places to find butterfly's and unique bugs. 
    10 Low-Hassle Hiking "Toys"
  • Sword or Gun - We sometimes call our hikes "hunts". Generally my kids like to "hunt" bad guys. Their favorites are Count Dooku and Ventress from Star Wars Clone Wars. 
    10 Low-Hassle Hiking "Toys"
  • Bubbles - Bubbles make everything better. I just place the bottle in a ziploc bag in case it leaks. 
  • Camera - I let my kids use our old point-and-shoot camera but the camera on your old phone will work too. 
    10 Low-Hassle Hiking "Toys"
  • Plastic Produce Bag - Have your kids collect garbage from the trail in these kid-sized bags. Maybe this isn't so much of a toy but it can keep the kids busy. Have a contest to see who can collect the most garbage and offer a special reward for the winner to make it more interesting. 
    10 Low-Hassle Hiking "Toys"
  • Duct Tape - Place a piece around your wrist, sticky side out and add natural materials for a beautiful nature bracelet. 
    10 Low-Hassle Hiking "Toys"
  • Something Unique - My son decided he wanted to wear a head lamp on one of our hikes. I didn't complain because he thought it was great and kept him happy. We don't let them play with our nice flashlights and headlamps so this was a treat for him. Other items that have worked for us are letting the kids carry the Camelbak, wearing my or my husbands' hats, carrying the walking stick, letting them collect and store natural items in my backpack, adult binoculars, looking through the viewfinder of my nice camera, or, on a really bad day, taking pictures with my phone. 
    10 Low-Hassle Hiking "Toys"
Bonus - Keep hard candy in the glove box in your car. Doesn't make a big of a mess if it melts and it lasts much longer than chewy candy on the trail. Our favorites are Werther's Original caramels. The only time we eat them is on the trail or on a road trip.

Your turn. How do you all keep your kids happy when hiking?



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