Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall Hike Bingo: A Fun Way to Keep Kids on the Trail

Scavenger hunts turn a simple hike into an adventure. For reluctant kids, especially, they can transform what would otherwise be a long gloomy slog into a fun game.

Give scavenger hunts a new twist, and you have hiking bingo. Using ready-made cards or creating your own, you can head out to the woods or fields with a grid of plants, animals, and other objects to search for, and turn the quest into a friendly competition: Moss on a log, flying bird, a nut, ferns, bird feather—Bingo!

The examples I just used come from Mass Audubon’s Fall Walk Bingo. Available as a free color PDF to print, this bingo set includes four cards, all focused on the natural world in autumn. Items to look for include a basking turtle, a hole in a tree, a spider web, and yellow leaves. The only signs of people on the cards are a trail marker and a stone wall. While most items are visual, the sound of wind and a singing bird require young hikers to listen as well as look. Each square in the grid features a picture as well as words, so this is a great activity even for kids who can’t read yet.

In a similar vein, the National Wildlife Federation offers free Camping Bingo cards. You can choose between a blank bingo card template (a simple five by five grid) or a set of four colorful cards to download. The cards focus more on what you’d see at a campsite than Mass Audubon’s set does: A sleeping bag, hiking boot, and picnic table are included, for example. But plenty of natural elements, such as a mushroom, acorn, and animal track, also appear. Each square includes a drawing as well as words.

You can play hiking bingo the traditional way, in which the first person who marks off all the items in a row or column wins. Or you can extend the game by asking each player to find every object on his or her card. And of course, you can drop the competition altogether and just use one card for your group, or your parent-child team. The point is to have fun, and maybe notice a few things around you that you would have otherwise missed.
 
More Trail Games
For more ideas to keep young hikers happy, see the following:


Photo of Mass Audubon card by Heather Stephenson.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors is an Appalachian Mountain Club blog written by Heather Stephenson.





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