One thing about being a parent is the incredible array of expensive things children can ask to do, such as theme parks, go-carts, movies, glow-in-the-dark mini golf, etc. But there are still plenty of old-fashioned freebies that don’t cost an entry fee plus a round of four-dollar drinks, such as the traditional walk in the wood.
If your child is like my 11-year-old… “Let’s go!”
If your child is like my 9-year old, you might be tempted to give up before starting. After all, what is the fun of walking in the woods to a rendition of “This is boring. Why did we have to go? I told you I didn’t want to. You’re evil.”
However, there are several strategies I have used to make the boring walk in the woods fun enough that my 9-year-old ends up having the most fun of any of us.
- Play “follow the leader”. Start walking backwards. Don’t say anything, just do it. Your kids will ask what you are doing. Just tell them to do the same. “It’s fun, why don’t you try it?” Then switch to sideways. “Can you do this?” Then leap like a frog. Skip. Spin. Before long, the kids are leading and you’ll have to follow.
- Count the leaves. You can tell how many types of trees there are by the different leaves on the trees, or on the ground in the fall (I wrote this before the snow covered up the ground here yesterday). The more they can identify, the better. If there are some they like, but can’t identify, bring them home to look it up. Make it a contest, collecting one of each type of leaf and seeing which child collects the most different leaves.
- In the fall, count the colors. You will surely start off with just yellow, brown, green and maybe red. But some of those reds are almost pink. And some are brownish. Challenge them to discover how many colors they can find.
- Tell ghost stories. What? You think you need a campfire for that? OK, then tell them stories about when you were their age. Kids love to hear about how their parents were when they were young, at least until the teenage years.
- Sing. Ask each child in turn to lead the group in song. Current hits, old classics, sing-along songs. Whatever they like. Advanced tip: compose a song together, about walking through the forest.
- If there are birds around, bring some seeds. We occasionally “walk” in the local bird sanctuary where there are a fair number of chickadees. I put “walk” in quotation marks because what we usually do most of is stand around with outstretched arms and open hands with seeds in them. But apart from the minor cost of the seeds, it is a free activity, in the fresh air with some exercise and interaction with animals. It doesn’t get much better than that.
So there are ways to make even a “boring” walk in the woods an exciting adventure that costs much less than a theme park or a movie.