Mass Audubon and other websites have great tools to help identify birds. Grab some binoculars, find a place with bird blinds (although not necessary), and start looking! This cool interactive chart will help kids identify what they hear/see.
Make a day of it! Pack snacks, but also a fun lunch for everyone. Find yourself a good picnic rock and declare it yours! Thirty years later, my brother and I still use “our” picnic rock at the top of Blue Hills, and now our kids enjoy the spot as well.
The Bridgewater Triangle and the Hockomock Swamp contain lots of local legend. There was even a documentary made about the supernatural activity that has supposedly happened in these parts. Freetown State Park also has a lot of scary stories associated with it, as do the towns of Rehoboth and Dighton. Google away–you’ll find some super cool stories and places to investigate–if you dare.
Climbing up hills and mountains is hard work–but the pay off is great. Around here, Blue Hills is a very rewarding and popular hike. Go early to avoid the crowds, but many small children (as young as 3 years old) can do the hike from the Trailside Museum to the Observatory at the top. The view from high places inspires my kids to walk!
Scat and animal prints are everywhere, and they are especially easy to find in the snow! Print out an easy-to-cary sheet with pictures and bring it with you as you hike. We’ve easily found raccoon, opossum, and deer tracks. Look especially carefully around streams and water sources.
Marking trees were made long ago by Native Americans as trail markers. There are lots of trees out there that look like marking trees, but odds are very few of them are “real”. Still, they are fun to look for, and you’ll find lots of trees with cool shapes in the process.
While on our hikes we love to look for strange things in the woods. Some of our favorites are a flip-flop tree (flip flops have been nailed to the tree in various places), abandoned plastic school chairs, old car parts, hunting platforms, shovel parts (common in Easton, known as Shoveltown because of the shovel factory that used to be here), etc. It’s fun to make up stories about how these out-of-place items got to their place in the woods!
There is a lot more information about how to do this on the Geocaching website. But essentially, get yourself a waterproof container, a small notebook to serve as a log, a few pens, and some small trinkets and you have yourself a Geocache. I’d recommend purchasing a travel bug to plant in it as well. Then go find a spot to hide it, log it with the Geocaching website, and it’s good to go!
Map reading and compass skills are important for everyone to know. Relying on a GPS alone for navigation is not a great idea–for numerous reasons. You could also help your kids draw a map of the trail you hike. Include your landmarks and fun things you discovered and then use it the next time you go there!
Kids always seem to love throwing rocks into water. Teach your kids to skip rocks. One of our favorite activities is throwing rocks across semi-frozen water and listening to the interesting sounds it makes. It’s fun and then you can go home and learn some science–Google why those sounds are made when you throw rocks on ice!