You probably know that hiking is one of the best outdoor activities you can engage in, but it makes sense to wonder if your kids would thrive if you decided to take them on a hike. What will you do during the hike to keep them busy, and what do they learn? All valid points, and frankly, I asked myself that a lot before I started hiking with the girls.
Hiking teaches kids resilience, patience, problem-solving, and an appreciation for the environment. Hiking lays a foundation for teenage years and prepares them to thrive as adults.
What seems like a simple trek at 6 years old can translate into self-confidence and independence in the future. Today, letâ€™s look at why you should include your kids when you hike and what they will learn.
- Why Kids Should Go Hiking
- What Will Your Child Learn from Hiking?
Why Kids Should Go Hiking
1. Reduces Screen Time
Research shows that kids spend less than 10 minutes outdoors and over 7 hours on screen time. Sounds crazy, right? My girls are definitely part of these statistics, something Iâ€™m working on changing. My eldest will spend hours watching anime while her sister will dance to nursery tunes or spend her day watching youtube shorts.
Although I include them on hikes, itâ€™s not enough to completely rid them of hours of screen time, but itâ€™s a start. I noticed my youngest enjoys times outside more and may come back covered in dirt which I donâ€™t mind as long as they enjoy themselves and appreciate mother earth.
Although my eldest will still spend her time chatting with friends when we’re at home, she never passes up an opportunity to go on a hike, even if it means no phones are allowed.
2. Improves Physical Fitness
It goes without saying, but hanging out indoors 24/7 does little for your child’s physical health. According to the CDC, children between 2 and 5 years have a 12.7% obesity prevalence, which gets higher between 6 and 11 years, reaching 20.7%. These are worrying numbers for any parent. Luckily, these numbers can be reversed by including kids in outdoor activities.
Hereâ€™s where hiking comes into play. Going on a hike offers the best cardio for kids because all their little muscle groups get to work. As they move along the trail, their heart rate strengthens, they burn calories, and they become stronger. The best part is you can make it fun by highlighting beautiful views and learning points, so it doesn’t feel like a workout.
3. They Develop an Appreciation for Nature
Nature is beautiful, and hiking is the best way to connect with it. Nowadays, my girls look forward to our weekend hikes so they can identify new plants, trees, and insects. They also love tracking down trees they identified on earlier hikes and get excited when they notice how much a plant has grown.
I love seeing their reaction because it shows their special connection with nature. Thatâ€™s now all. Hiking with children is always a great time to educate them on the significance of our surroundings and why taking care of the environment is crucial.
4. Builds Resilience and Endurance
Hiking is all about pushing yourself to conquer the trail. You learn to set new challenges and explore tougher trails, all in a bid for adventure. This builds resilience and endurance, traits that will come in handy when they are adults.
I have witnessed my girls grow into mentally strong kids who push themselves to take one more step even when everything in their bodies is crying for rest. They keep learning even when itâ€™s boring and push themselves to complete hiking games when they would rather turn back.
This alone prepares them for the harsh realities of life, where they will hopefully keep pushing when things get hard. They arenâ€™t always psyched about it, but I know they are learning if they can push 10 or more minutes.
If you notice your kids giving up and want them to keep going, give them an achievable goal, like adding 2 minutes more before your next rest. Donâ€™t be too hard on them, or they will despise hiking and see it as a form of punishment. Instead, be patient and take their cues seriously, only giving them just a little more without stressing them.
5. Provides Quality Bonding Time
Quality family time is important for your child’s development. The more activities you engage in together, the stronger your family bond becomes. Hiking is among the best ways to bond with your child because you have no distractions, which means you can really get to know each other.
We have a no-technology rule in our household, so we are not allowed to bring tech distractions on our hikes. Well, technically, we bring one phone. You know, emergencies and all. But no one really uses it.
The no-tech policy allows us to talk with the girls and ask them about their friends, school, and everything in between. We also spare some time for pictures, videos, and picnics to create lasting memories for them.
6. Improves Performance
As the girls developed resilience, patience, and a sense of curiosity, I noticed improvements in their school performance and other areas. These changes result from being more alert and an increased eagerness to learn new things.
As you encourage your child to go on a hike, you will notice a change in their perspectives and how they approach challenges. Over time, you can expect more solutions and suggestions from your child and fewer tantrums.
What Will Your Child Learn from Hiking?
There are many benefits to tagging your kid along for a hike. But, in the same breath, they also stand a chance to learn many life skills and traits that will impact their adulthood. Over the years, I have seen my kids exude confidence and independence, which is sad because now they donâ€™t rely on me as much.
Anyway, that’s enough mopping from me. Let me highlight some outstanding qualities your kids will develop when establishing a hiking culture.
Nothing makes me happier than seeing my children exude self-confidence at home, school, and other social settings. When you see my youngest talking to her friends or asking me interesting questions, you would think sheâ€™s a teenager.
The girlsâ€™ confidence was felled through hiking because they would get so excited whenever they learned something new or completed a challenge. I smile when I see them jumping up and down every time their ideas are successful. So cute!
As your child gets used to the hikes, you will definitely notice a difference in their self-esteem. In fact, studies by ResearchGate show that physical activities like hiking significantly impact a child’s self-esteem.
2. Problem-Solving Skills
Going on a hike will improve your child’s ability to solve problems on the playground, at school, or home. As an adult, when I go for a hike, it sharpens my mind and enhances my problem-solving ability. As a result, it is easier for me to make better decisions from the point of clarity.
So, I figured the same would happen to my girls, and I was right. They are better problem solvers and don’t always resort to tantrums. Sometimes, theyâ€™ll try their best to negotiate and tell me why certain suggestions are better. I find that so impressive, even though sometimes the answer is no.
Additionally, when we encounter challenges on our hike, the girls will quickly share suggestions. How impressive is that? Here’s a tip; when you’re on the trail, ask your kids questions about the surroundings and request suggestions for the minor challenges you encounter.
Hiking definitely improves creativity and allows a child to think outside the box. I always try to enhance my children’s creativity when we’re out on a hike. Sometimes, I will ask them to identify plants, insects, animals, trees, and more. Last week, one of them stopped to explain how the clouds look and what it means. I was so proud.
I will even let them name some of the trails we follow, and on the next hike, those names will be our guides. Through hiking, you will witness your childâ€™s creativity flowing, and this creativity extends to his schoolwork and social life.
Hikes are not always smooth sailing. When you have a goal, sometimes you must push yourself to the trail’s end, even when it seems hard. This builds endurance, which is a very impressive attribute.
During our first hike, I had to encourage my babies a lot because they were over it within the first ten minutes. “Mommy, I wanna go back home.” “Mommy, can you carry me?” That was what I heard for 20 minutes straight before I decided to turn around. But at least we walked for forty minutes, right?
After that, I continued encouraging them, and they built endurance with every hike. Nowadays, there’s no turning back if we set out for a one-hour hike. The girls love walking and jogging on the trail and resting for a few minutes to explore before we complete the hike. They rarely give up and are excited whenever we embark on a new hiking trail.
You will also notice your child’s endurance with continuous practice and encouragement. Hiking teaches kids that you can achieve something when you put your mind to it.
The Leave No Trace principles do an excellent job of teaching our kids about responsibility. The principles encourage you to plan, dispose of waste properly, respect nature and wildlife, and be considerate of other hikers. To this day, I still emphasize the importance of leaving no trace during our hikes.
We will pick up trash along the way, clean up our picnic areas, and leave our path spotless. In addition, the girls know not to destroy plants or the environment when weâ€™re exploring. Weâ€™re yet to start camping, but I have also taught them the importance of putting out campfires and their impact on the environment.
I believe when you go hiking with your child, you have an opportunity to instill responsibility and accountability. In fact, you can research local volunteer clean-up trails where your kid will join his peers in picking up trash and tending to the trails.
Generally, most kids don’t really care about brushing their teeth, showering, or taking time to enjoy the moment. They’re always on the go! But do you know you can nurture self-care through hiking?
Yep! In my case, I began asking my girls to stop and take in the views or we’d sit still by the river bank and enjoy the sounds. After that, I would tell them how taking care of the environment is similar to how we take care of ourselves; cleaning after ourselves and taking care of our bodies.
This wasn’t easy, and I’m still working on it, but at least I can compare brushing his teeth to cleaning our picnic spot. Haha!
As mentioned above, hiking allows your family to enjoy each other’s company. This time develops strong bonds rooted in love. You will tell stories, take photos, and encourage each other.
Additionally, your child will develop a love for nature. During our hikes, my girls will name plants, trees, and trails, which they will rush to identify on our next hike. Seeing them get excited over flowers and insects is amazing because it shows a connection with nature. Moreover, this love spreads to our home, their friends, and themselves.
There are many reasons why hiking with your kid is beneficial. From creating loving bonds to instilling responsibility, you have a chance to lay a solid foundation for your childâ€™s future.
However, I should remind you that starting is not always easy. Set simple goals, and don’t force your child to go on long hikes immediately. Like me, you can start with slow neighborhood walks before you transition to something more intense. Be patient and always encourage them. After all, the goal is to turn hiking into their favorite hobby.
Also, donâ€™t forget to tell me all about your first hike. I want to hear all about it in the comments.