I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There’s an easy way to get out of the house with kids without having to spend money or commit to a big activity.

And this magic is called — The Adventure Walk. These treks are particularly good on, say, Mondays when the kids are relentlessly ramped up from the weekend but I’m still clinging to that third cup of coffee.

All you do with this activity is walk around outside and pick up things you find on the ground. Then go back home, lay out your treasure stash and talk about each item.

Three key elements make this walk successful:

  • Baskets for each child.
  • A route along a neighborhood sidewalk, trail or park.
  • Questions to discuss when you get home, such as where the treasure came from and what it was once used for.

The secret fourth step is, when the kids aren’t looking, go into mom stealth mode and throw away the gross/sharp/weird discoveries that are now unapologetically sitting on your kitchen table. (Kid: “Mom, look at this awesome beer bottle thing some random dude had in his mouth! Cool!” Mom: “That’s greeeeeat, honey.” *grimace*).

Shady secret fourth step aside, this activity teaches our littlest adventurers some beautiful lessons, such as to:

  • Be aware of their surroundings.
  • Find value in everyday things like rusty coins, funny shaped rocks and cool looking leaves.
  • Take in all aspects of nature.

You’ll usually find us learning these life lessons on Centennial Trail, a roughly 1 mile stretch of flat, paved pathway from Lana Street to Mohawk Court on the city’s east side. The trail is stroller-friendly and completely off-road. It features a seasonal creek, a canopy of beautiful twisty oaks and spots to see deer. The trail is popular with joggers and dog walkers, but we like to buddy up when venturing anywhere off-road or out of view of others.

I’ve also been known to bring one of those plastic push cars there so my two year old can ride if he peters out. Or, when I convince him that strapped-in car cruising is way cooler than walking to spare me from having to chase him during this crazy daredevil toddling stage. You know, whichever.

Alternative to baskets: Try walking sticks with rubber bands and twist-ties to attach the treasures to. Or, try covering the sticks in duct tape (sticky side out) to attach flower petals, leaves and grasses. That’s the beauty of this activity, you can customize it to work for you. Strapped-in toddler push cars in all.