From our friends at Muddy Smiles

Finding fun ways to keep kids active sometimes requires thinking outside the backyard. With indoor physical play opportunities limited by COVID-19, why not take advantage of a few hikes on local trails before temperatures turn cooler? A trek through the colorful changing leaves to see some new terrain can be especially beneficial to kids.

If you need a reason to inspire your tribe to take to the trail, how about celebrating National Hiking Day on November 17th? Also called Take a Hike Day, the event is all about helping people of all ages get enthusiastic about hiking and learn more about how to protect and preserve America's beautiful national trail system. It's the perfect prompt to break out your trail guide and backpack, and as it turns out, kids reap more than a great workout from hiking -- there's psychological, cognitive, and social benefits on offer, too.

Four Reasons to Love Hiking

1. Hiking encourages free play

Free play refers to the unstructured, self-led play and exploration kids naturally engage in when left to their own devices. It prompts them to use critical and creative thinking, develop social skills, and refine motor skills, all of which are developmentally beneficial. [Source]

2. Hiking inspires kids to test their limits

Testing boundaries helps children develop both logic and confidence, and it's a normal and important part of growing up When kids hike, they'll have opportunities to test their physical skills and their limits within reasonable boundaries and with adult supervision. [Source]

3. Hiking can boost energy levels

Wondering how to get your sleepy teen's energy levels up a bit? Encourage them to come for a hike, which can boost their levels of alertness, especially if friends are invited along for social time. [Source]

4. Hiking can improve executive function

Executive function describes the skills used to choose priorities, solve problems, make a decision or follow through with a plan. Kids begin to develop these skills in unstructured social situations with others, especially outdoors; hiking can present unique challenges compared to other outdoor play, prompting critical thinking. [Source]

Ready to learn more about hiking's benefits for kids? Check out this visualization from Muddy Smiles.


  • Preservice Teachers Learn to Use Be Active Kids in Limited Spaces

    I really enjoyed our class meeting. It was interesting to discover that you can do just about anything with children in the classroom where there may not be much space to encourage them to be active.  A change that I will make in my own life is to be more active, as well as my daughter. I will share this information with my friends that have children such as yoga animals, or Simon Says.

    Cathy Sesta, Parent & Child Care Provider
  • Early Childhood Physical Activity Institute

    Thank you for inviting me to be part of this year’s Institute. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the experience. You’re doing amazing work and I hope I’ll be able to continue contributing to it a bunch in the future.

    Rae Pica,
  • Plenty of Resources That I Can Use and Share

    This class was informative, and I look forward to being physically active with young children. On Friday, I volunteered at a Parents Night Out through my daughter's school. When I got there the kids were watching a movie. I got them up to play Simon Says and Red Light Green Light, however, after that I was stuck on what to do. I wish I had the knowledge I gained from this class, to have made it more exciting.

    I enjoyed your Land and Lake Activity.

    Venessa Wright, Parent & Child Care Provider
  • Be Active Kids Trainers Rock!

    I loved the training.  I would have loved it more if I had the other teachers from my center there also.  I am really looking forward to taking my kit to work and sharing it with my staff.  I liked Brittney, she reminded me of myself as far as being very active and motivated.  When I am at work with my little ones we stay busy all day.  I feel like singing my instructions and dancing my actions helps them to focus better on what I need for them to do.  Britney was great and I learned a lot from her. I am always trying to find new little ways to get the kids moving.

    Tiffany Daniel, Sandhill Community College

    The Early Childhood Physical Activity Institute was just wonderful!  Thank you again for including me in such an important effort to create and sustain leaders in EC physical activity. I would love to return to NC anytime that you think I can help. I enjoyed meeting the folks who work with you and hearing about all of the great things that are planned. 

    Linda Carson, Choosy Kids
  • Be Active Kids has Much to Offer

    Congratulations to you and everyone who has been promoting PA for young
    children in NC. You have much to be proud of here. Be Active Kids is an excellent source of ideas for promoting active play in unstructured settings. The Be Active Kids website also has resources on promoting unstructured active play. I encourage folks to review these resources. 

    Diane Craft, SUNY Cortland & Active Play Books