Exploring the Kabouterpad Bentwoud in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands
Getting outside and exploring nature is one of the things Jeff and I prioritize in our attempt to educate our children. There is so much to be learned outdoors. Luckily the Dutch share this perspective and all around the Netherlands you can find themed hikes for children.
Kabouters are the Dutch equivalent of a Gnome or Leprechaun. The Dutch are positively obsessed with them and it is not hard to see why. These tiny people don red hats, the tops of which are often seen dashing across open fields. The males have long white beards. They historically lived underground, however more recently they have relocated into lovely little mushroom houses that dot the forest. Kabouters are known to be helpful, but quite shy. All over the country you can find Kabouterpads, or little hikes dedicated to peeking into the world of the Kabouter.
The Kabouterpad Bentwoud runs through the forest of the Bentwoud, a long the cycling path. The Kabouterpad is free to use, although for the full experience you can reserve a Kabouterpack from the the golf course restaurant, ROEST. An online reservation is required and it can be made here. If you’re doing this last-minute, just call ROEST and ask if you can reserve over the phone. The walk is geared toward ages 3-6. The cost is €5 per child and a €15 deposit for the bag.
You need to pick up your bags in the golf course restaurant. There are no signs so just enter through the main doors and go right. Check in at the bar where you will be given your bags. We got everyone out of the car and dressed to go into the restaurant only to be directed to get back into the car and drive to the trailhead.
The adult bag contains the booklet that tells the Kabouter’s story in Dutch and all the supplies you need for the 6 activities. We used Google translate to help us. It was helpful to have read through everything before we started the walk. You’ll need to pick the correct season in your Kabouter story book or the activities won’t make any sense. Each season has six stops.
The children’s bags each have a Kabouter hat, a snack and juice box and a Kabouter pin. The kids get to keep everything except the bags.
We drove a few minutes down the road to the trailhead. You can’t miss it as the trail is marked with these Kabouter markers. The larger Kabouters are numbered so you know what activity to do at each stop.
The first stop is right outside the forest. This is where you put on your Kabouter hat and use the face paint from the bag to give the children red cheeks. Our kids strongly dislike face paint so we couldn’t get anyone to paint on cheeks. Now that you are all disguised like Kabouters you can head into the forest.
Once on the Kabouter trail we helped Kabouters find their summer houses and gather a bit of wood for the winter.
We looked for the Kabouters’ insect friends living in the forest. We found several dead birds, a dead mole and mouse, lots of butterflies, spiders and little frogs.
We hopped on Kabouter logs wherever we found them on the trail.
We stopped for our snack when we left the woods as the gravel road provided a good place to sit. (No one wanted to sit on the grass after finding all the dead animals!)
We used the bag of Kabouter stones to match colors on the trail. We were blessed with lots of blooming flowers.
This is one of our favorite hiking games. I’ve typically used a painted egg carton or a fabric square, but these stones are much more compact. I’ll be using this little trick in the future.
The boys found so many fun things, even when they drew the blue stone and I was worried they wouldn’t find anything. They found a blue stone and the color of the sky!
When the path moved back into the forest we set to work building a Kabouter hut we could fit in. This is a common find in the Dutch woods and an activity my boys adore. They gathered lots of sticks of all sizes to help build this teepee house. Jeff did have to use a stick to beat back the stinging nettles (brandnetels) that grew all around. Once the area was clear though we all had a good time collecting sticks and going in and out of the house.
The next stop was my favorite – nature art. There was string in our bag to hang between two trees and then we decorated it with materials we could find in nature. The Big Little created his own while Jeff and I worked with the Middle and Little who wanted to do only flowers on their string. I loved the outcome and will certainly repeat this activity again.
The last stop was the Kabouter party. Here everyone sits in a circle and you take turns singing songs in the middle. We had so much fun here and there were lots of laughs as we forgot song lyrics and made up our own.
When you are all done you do have to run the bags back to the restaurant in order to get your deposit back. Jeff ran in as the Little Little fell asleep almost instantly once we were in the car.
There are other Kabouterpads around the Netherlands, so if you’re visiting you are sure to find one nearby. (There is one in the Amsterdam Bos we checked out last summer and the Monkey Bos is one of our absolute favorites.)