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Hiking is one of my great joys. Unfortunately for my children, hiking feels like a really long, really slow walk to nowhere. I love when the kids trek up mountains with me, but I don’t love listening to whining or cries of “I’m bored” as we wind our way up the trail. The solution? Hiking BINGO!

Before a hike I head to the Internet and print out blank bingo templates on card stock. Then, I fill in the cards with items we’re sure to encounter on the hike: wildflowers, birds, insects, water features. When the kids were younger, I picked simple items and drew pictures in each square. Now that they’re older, I make the cards more challenging and write out the categories so that the kids fit in a little extra reading practice, too. Bonus!

When we arrive at the trailhead, I hand each kid a BINGO card and a sheet of stickers. Then, I turn them loose! As we make our way along the trail, the kids search for the items on their cards, and when they find a wildflower or a stream or a butterfly, they mark their cards with stickers.

The goal is to get a hiking BINGO blackout (or as close to it as possible). I try to mix up the “prizes” each time we hike. Sometimes the winner gets to be the hike leader (being first is a coveted honor in my house at the moment). Sometimes it’s the chance to choose the post-hike snack. Sometimes the winner picks the location of our next hike. Truthfully, I don’t think the prize matters as much to my kids as does earning the honor of Top Adventurer!  

Hiking BINGO has been such a hit. The kids love searching for items, and I love seeing them engage with their surroundings. The game gives me lots of great opportunities to talk about the wildlife and plant life along the trail, and the kids feel so proud when they mark off “tricky” squares. They’re even asking for weekly hiking dates so that they can play BINGO more often. Yes!

Admittedly, it is a little extra work. I’m already schlepping sunhats and snacks and water bottles, so the thought of preparing one more item is certainly less than appealing. But my kids love the game so much, and it has made our hikes so much fun, that it’s definitely worth the small amount of effort.  

So the next time you’re ready to hit the trails, but you’re not so sure your little hiking buddies are ready to do the same, give Hiking BINGO a go and see if it turns your reluctant trekkers into wilderness explorers! 

Mom of two from Ft. Collins, Kelly has regained her health by living mindfully after contracting sepsis in 2008. Visit her blog The Long Stretch and follow her on Twitter.

Photo: Kelly's kids on the trail with Hiking BINGO cards