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Hiking is one of my favorite activities. From a little girl, I loved to walk in the woods. My husband and I even spent our honeymoon hiking!
I’ve tried to pass that love of nature trails and time in the woods onto my kids. Not only does it make me happy, hiking is great for kids.
Hiking Gets Kids Outside
Growing up, my brother and I weren’t allowed in the house for several hours a day…and neither were most of our friends. Out mothers knew the benefits of being outside. It was healthy for the kids, and I’m sure gave moms a break they needed!
Times have changed. In a study published in 2010 by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average American child 8-18 spends 7.5 hours a day on electronics of some kind. That’s computers, smartphone, videogames, tablets, or other device. That doesn’t allow for much outside time. In fact, the average US kid spends only 30 minutes per day in outdoor, unstructured play.
This spike in electronic use has coincided with a rise in childhood obesity, decreases in children’s attention spans, and decreases in interpersonal skills.
Science is now showing that our moms were right. Outside play is good for kids. Playing outside actually gives kids better attention spans, reduced ADHD symptoms, better distance vision, higher levels of vitamin D, and it builds creativity and social skills.
Hiking Gives Kids Time
Hiking is more than walking in the woods. It’s not a timed event. Hiking allows you to immerse yourself in a new environment, to spend time there. You have to choice but to take your time, explore and wonder.
Let kids know that it is ok to sit and listen for sounds or to stop and look at an interesting plant or slug on the trail. Don’t rush. This will build their observation skills and make them curious about what they are taking in. There is a whole new world to explore out there.
Hiking Gives Quality Family Time
In this world of jam-packed schedules and structured activities, there is not always an opening for quality family time. Hiking gives you that opportunity.
Hitting the trails as a family allows for unstructured, stress free time together. There is something about spending time exploring and discovering with your family that builds bonds and memories. Kids need strong families and with family time on a sharp decline in our society, we need to find ways to build our families up.
Hiking Is Great Exercise
It used to be that only adults needed extra exercise, but with the increase in technology use among our kids and the decrease in outside playtime, kids are needing exercise, too!
Hiking is a great exercise for the entire family. I like it because it doesn’t even seem like exercise. Even those who are really out of shape can find a flat, easy walking trail to start out on and can build from there. And, hiking is free!! No membership required!
Hiking Gives An Appreciation Of Nature
Have your kids ever stopped and just stared at a butterfly or baby rabbit in the backyard with awe? Have they ever had a chance to explore a stream? Have your kids ever experienced a rapid weather change?
Hiking gives appreciation of nature, it’s beauty, and how it all fits together. You can read books about nature. You can do an online nature simulation. Nothing compares to being in nature and experiencing it first hand. That experience can change the way kids look at the entire world and their place in it.
So, are you ready to take your kids hiking?
Check out your local park or conservation district to find trails near you. Sites like AllTrails.com and EveryTrail.com are helpful, as well. Amazon has a great selection of hiking trail maps for many state and national parks.
Have fun on the trails!