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.