by Allison Burch, @purplemountainmama
Sometimes hiking with children can be difficult. You spend the time re- searching the perfect trail, pack all the snacks, properly dress your kids and travel to your destination just to make it to the trailhead with a cranky kid who is just not interested in adventuring today. Encouraging your kids to push through their less-than-ideal moodiness may not be enjoyable, but it does come with an abundance of benefits!
Okay, this may be the most obvious benefit, but it’s still worth mentioning! Hiking moves little bodies and builds strength. Nourishing the cardio-respiratory & musculoskeletal at an early age is fundamental for healthy bodily growth.
Curiosity and wonder spark creativity and a love of learning. Children who grow up constantly exploring their surroundings learn how to ask questions and seek out answers. Expos- ing children to various types of environments expands this exponentially.
💪 Building Confidence
Confidence can be inspired by the reassurance of loved ones, but it can also be earned through adversity. Kids who fall and pick themselves back up learn that they are resilient and are capable of doing hard things. Watching my son grow from a timid toddler to a self-confident preschooler has been one of the biggest joys of my life—and I mostly attribute this growth to his time spent pushing through on the trails.
📣 Learning to Lead
Anyone can be the first in line, but not all can lead. Leadership involves taking others into account and helping them succeed. When leading a hike, encourage your little one to go at a speed that works for the group, point out items of interest, and assist in difficult passages.
🪱 Discovering Nature
While reading books about wild birds or the five most common plants in the Rocky Mountains is excellent, actually encountering local flora and fauna is so much more exciting. Photos of eagles don’t do justice to experiencing their flight patterns and hunting techniques. Hiking brings these pages to life in ways even videos couldn’t! Allowing your child to use their senses while learning is a wonderful gift to give them.
💚 Connecting to Their Environment and Family
Having time away from screens and toys to focus on where they’re currently standing and who they’re walking beside is something we should all prioritize. Bonding with our children away from all the distractions of home is invaluable and boosts the familial connection. Environmental bonding also encourages the practice of “leave no trace,” a boost to the community and a lesson in responsible living.
🧘 Stress Relief
Aerobic related endorphins pump through their bodies with each step of any given hike. These endorphins are natural stress relievers. Add in a healthy dose of vitamin N(ature), and you’ve got a recipe for a natural mood boost and mental health lift!
💡 Enhances Problem-Solving Abilities
Ever wonder what your kids are thinking when facing situations that require problem solving? Do you think they tackle it from an abstract angle, or a tactile one? Allowing children to encounter problem solving opportunities on the trail gives them concrete memories to pull from in the future. While hiking, children need to figure out how to climb over rocks larger than their leg length. They need to cross streams without getting soaked. They need to maneuver around mud. There are countless encounters that allow your children to practice real-life problem solving while hiking.
In those moments when your kid is grumpy and you wonder why you even bother getting them on the trail, remember these benefits.
Allison is a Denver Metro resident who has committed to facilitating a bond between her kids and nature. She shares that journey with you through her blog (PurpleMountainMama.com) and her Instagram account (@PurpleMountainMama) in the hope that it inspires you to do the same. Children that have a relationship with nature tend to seek the good for their community which benefits the world as a whole.