Take a Hike! 5 Easy Ways to Engage Your Grandchild Outdoors


A hike, of whatever distance, allows you to discover what is around you by using all your senses. Taking a hike with your grandchild needn’t mean wandering in the forest or trekking up a mountain; hikes can take place on city streets or in parks, at the beach, and even in a wooded backyard. 

Check out these hiking activities that can give you quiet time to chat with your grandchild as you focus on the environment and take in the awesome sights around you.

Consider sharing with your grandchild the Hebrew term and Jewish value Shomrei Adamah (“keepers of the earth”). Use the term naturally, for example: “Today let’s be Shomrei Adamah — which is Hebrew and means we take care of the earth — as we pick up amazing objects from the ground.” Use the term several more times during your time together. Soon your grandchild may start using it too!

1. Take Turns
Go on a hike with your grandchild where you stop periodically to pick up something natural from the ground—a burnt-orange leaf, shiny seashell, dried-out piece of wood, or smooth stone. Identify the object, hand it to your grandchild, and say what strikes or intrigues you about it. Take turns picking up objects and asking each other questions about it. When you are done, put the object back on the ground, leaving it exactly as you found it for the next person to enjoy. 

2. Meet a Tree
This classic activity is always fun and can even be done in your backyard if you have a lot of trees. Blindfold your grandchild, lead them to a tree (taking a winding path so the location of the tree isn’t obvious). Ask your grandchild to use the sense of touch to “meet the tree.” After several minutes, lead your grandchild back to the starting point, remove the blindfold, and see if they can find their tree. If your grandchild is old enough, switch roles. 

3. Egg-Carton Wows
This is an excellent way to engage young children, whether in your backyard or on a longer hike. Give your grandchild an empty egg carton to carry. Together collect natural items you each find interesting, putting one item in each compartment of the egg carton. At the end of the hike, ask your grandchild to discuss the objects with you.
Alternative: Everybody on the walk can carry an egg carton, and at the end, see how many of you picked up the same kind of item (rocks, leaves, pinecones).

4. Alphabet Hike
This is another good activity for young children. On a sheet of paper, write down all the letters of the alphabet in a column. As you hike, ask your grandchild to find something that starts with each letter of the alphabet. When they find something, you or they can write it on the list next to that letter.

Alternatively, they can search for objects in the shape of letters of the alphabet. Perhaps set a goal to fill ten letters or whatever you consider realistic. If you know the Hebrew alphabet, you can search for objects in the shape of Hebrew letters.

5. Color-Me Hike
Cut different colored pieces of construction paper into small squares. Staple together 5 or 10 colored squares and give the little booklet to your grandchild. As you hike, ask your grandchild to find natural items the same color as their squares. Try to use colors that they are likely to find outdoors (purple, pink, and blue might be hard, for example, unless you’re in a flower garden). When they find an item, they can write the name of the object on the square or draw a little sketch of it.  

Dr. Gabe Goldman enjoys the unique distinction of being the only American educator who earned a doctoral degree in education; did post-graduate studies in a Chassidic yeshiva; and learned ancient, wilderness survival skills from Native Americans. In 1994, Gabe became the first full-time outdoor Jewish educator in North America. Since then, over 100,000 people of all ages have attended his nature programs and workshops. 

Photographs by Stephanie Fink