Passing the Time on the Trail with Kids

Passing The Miles

We enjoy hiking with our boys and dogs.  Most of our local hikes are under 5 miles and not super strenuous.  The boys usually talk about their video games, sometimes we have some deep science and life conversations, other times just pointing out interesting things on the hike does the trick.  

When we began overnight backpacking and longer, strenuous day hikes in the Adirondacks.  I found that increasing the stress of the hike, either by carrying a pack or by the length and elevation change, would cause the mood to drastically decline as the kids got tired. 

One trick I have learned from some of my longer treks is that when someone in the group is tired and on their last legs, begin distracting them with conversation about work, family, vacations, really anything positive to get them talking and not thinking about their fatigue.

I wanted to find a way to do the same with my kids on those longer, more strenuous hikes.  Holding a long conversation about their family is not really an option.  I remembered a riddle used on a Boy Scout trip when I was 12.  Someone told the riddle and everyone in the group could only ask “Yes” or “No” questions to arrive at the answer.  This particular riddle lasted several hours over the course of two days.

The boys completely forgot about the 15lbs they were carrying on their back and never asked “How many more miles?”

Kids Loved Riddles

I tried the same riddle on my boys.  They immediately perked up and took turns asking questions.  C was rapid fire.  J was quiet, I could tell he was really thinking hard, trying to formulate questions.  Before we knew it, we were at camp.  The boys completely forgot about the 15lbs they were carrying on their back and never asked “How many more miles?”  Our first riddle was:

  • Riddle: A man is driving in his car.  The radio stops playing.  He gets out of the car and kills himself.  Why?
  • Answer: The man was a DJ at a radio station.  He pre-recorded his shift and then went home and killed his wife.  On his way back, the recording ran out and he knew his alibi was destroyed.

This is a pretty challenging riddle.  And if you do not cave or give hints, is pretty hard with just “Yes” and “No” questions, especially for 12 and 13 year olds.  They eventually got it!  On the trek home, I could only remember a few more riddles thanks to the Cosby Show.

  • Riddle: A plane crashes on the boarder of the US and Mexico, where do you bury the survivors?
  • Answer: You do not bury survivors.
  • Riddle: Two coins equal 30 cents, but one is not a nickel.
  • Answer: A quarter and a nickel, the quarter is not a nickel.
  • Riddle: A rooster lays an egg at the top of a house, which way does the egg fall?
  • Answer: Roosters don’t lay eggs!

I was on to something.  It passed the time and stopped the “Are we there yet?” questions.  And I actually think it made them hike faster.  On our next backpacking trip, the boys had a job.  They needed to find 3 riddles each.  The scoured the Internet.

If you don’t have them put the answer down, they WILL forget!

I had the kids copy the riddle on to index cards, low tech we will be in the middle of nowhere.  They put the riddle on one side and the answer on the other.  I want to emphasize: put the answer on the other side. If you don’t have them put the answer down, they WILL forget (lessoned learned).  I had Stephanie review the riddles to avoid duplicates.  We took turns asking the riddles.  It was a fun way to pass the time and now the boys look forward to riddles and work hard to find the one that stumps the group.

Favorite Riddles

Here is a list of our top riddles.

  • Riddle: A man is found murdered on a Sunday morning. His wife calls the police, who question the wife and the staff, and are given the following alibis: the wife says she was sleeping, the butler was cleaning the closet, the gardener was picking vegetables, the maid was getting the mail, and the cook was preparing breakfast. Immediately, the police arrest the murderer. Who did it and how did the police know?
  • Answer: The maid because the mail doesn’t come on Sunday
  • Riddle: You are in the intersection of two roads, there is a troll in the beginning of each road. One of them is liar (always lies), and one of them always tells the truth. One of the roads, ends to your destination and one of them ends to death.The trolls know which way is the right one and which one ends to death. How can you find the way if you can ask only one question? It’s your choice who to ask and you don’t know who tells the truth and who lies.
  • Answer: Ask one of the troll “Which road would the other troll tell me to go to for this destination?” Then take the opposite road.
  • Riddle: Two men walk into a bar.  They both order the same exact drink.  One man drinks it fast and one man drinks it slow.  The one that drinks it slow dies.  How did he die?
  • Answer: The poison is in the ice cubes.
  • Riddle: A man with a knapsack is found dead in a desert.  How did he die?
  • Answer: His knapsack was a parachute that malfunctioned.

Remember: Only yes or no questions can be asked.

The hardest part is not caving in or giving hints

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