Games to Introduce Navigation & Orienteering to your Kids

Looking for a fun outdoor activity to do with your family? We have the perfect outdoor activity for you to try on your next family adventure! Getting your child interested in orienteering gives them an appreciation for being outdoors and better understanding their surroundings. Knowing how to use a compass and read maps is an important lifesaving skill that can be taught with play.

Items from inside Kit No. 3 Lead The Way


Many hikers today, for example, rely on their phones for navigation, but when you get into a wild environment that cell signal usually fades away or batteries fail. Phones do not always provide reliable trail maps. 

People heading out on a trail without enough information is a main reasonpeople need rescued. Knowing how to read a map and use a compass can keep you from getting lost. 

Activity card found in Wild Life Outdoor Adventures Kit No. 3 - Lead The Way


Orienteering can bring a deeper appreciation for nature and strengthen problem solving abilities. Since it is also done in small groups, orienteering builds teamwork and communication skills. This is a great option for a fun outdoor activity.

Kidventerous writes a great post on Orienteering for Kids and learning all about the basics of navigating outdoor family adventures. 

But what is orienteering and how do you introduce it in a fun way?

Orienteering is considered an outdoor adventure sport. If you have ever seen a reality show like The Great Race, you can see how large this sport can be. 

But we are more interested in having fun on a much smaller scale. 

The basic rules are to navigate a set course using a map and a compass to find control points along the way. Working in pairs, participants navigate through the course as fast as they can. 

Here is a sampling of games that introduce orienteering skills in a fun way with your family, and don't forget to pack items like your compass and waterproof map bag from Wild Life Outdoor Adventures Kit No. 3 Lead The Way, and Weather-Defender: Neck & Head wrap

Scavenger Hunt for Middle and High School Aged Children

Two to four can be in each team. Start by hiding things in an outdoor area.  This might be a local park, your back yard, or a large natural setting. 

Each team has a compass and set of instructions. For example, the instructions might be to take 6 steps at 300 degrees, then 5 steps at 50 degrees, and 9 steps at 180 degrees. 

Once they reach the spot you can have something for them to collect or have them write down what they found. It might even be a clue to reveal the final task.

You can get creative with this one.

Using Compass and Field Notes Journal from Wild Life Outdoor Adventures Kit No. 1 - Bear Essentials & Kit No. 3 - Lead The Way
Using Compass and Field Notes Journal from Wild Life Outdoor Adventures Kit No. 1 - Bear Essentials & Kit No. 3 - Lead The Way

Directional Partners

This is a good outdoor family activity for elementary age children to learn directions and improve communication skills. 

Working in pairs, one partner stands in a designated spot and gives directions to the other who has the compass. 

For example, the direction might be to move three steps to the north, then jump 5 times to the east.  This can go on for as many steps as you feel is appropriate. 

The final direction leads to something that they pick up and run back to the partner giving directions. 

At this point you can switch the partners around and have a new set of instructions. 

Compass found in Wild Life Outdoor Adventures Kit No. 3 Lead The Way

Egg Hunt - Reimagined

This outdoor family activity is a different take on the Easter Egg Hunt and can be adjusted for any age. You don’t need to wait for Easter to do this activity. How about for a Halloween or birthday party?

The other examples were more of a race, while this is motivated by the award at the end. Everyone gets a reward. 

You can have multiple options for direction so you can have prizes in different locations or have everyone end up at the same place. 

Get a map of an area. If you are using a city park or your backyard, you can use Google Maps to create your course. Other places may have maps already created on their website that you can use. 

It is a good idea to create a course that is at least a quarter of a mile long and multiple checkpoints. 

At each checkpoint you can have a riddle, a clue, or a small prize.  The idea is to show that they indeed made it to each checkpoint. The larger prize is at the final location. 

Since each of our pace is different, it can be helpful to lay out a marker that shows a range in feet.  For example, place a rock, or string, or whatever you have, at a measured distance of 20 feet.  

Have your child walk between the two markers to see how many paces (steps) it is to go 20 feet. Now, they will know how many paces it takes to go the number of feet shown on your directions. Practice this a couple of times. 

Adjust this to what make sense to your course and age of children. 

All these activities can be fun for the whole family! You can begin to see how versatile orienteering can be and how important it is to learn this skill. Get creative and have some fun!

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