Hiking is one activity that gets the heart pumping, keeps the kids involved for a while, costs almost little to nothing, involves no blue screens and takes one away from the daily hustle and bustle. It is a perfect family activity and yes it is great even for the not-so outdoorsy families and the kids who balk at the simple idea of trail tramping. Hiking can be one of the best ways to spend a lazy Saturday, of course if you know how to do it right. Here we summarize some benefits of a family hike.
Unplugging from the screen
Generally speaking, today’s younger generation tend to suffer from sensory overload and restlessness with little attention span. Some of this is related to excessive screen time. One way to mitigate that is to spend time outdoors. A light hike offers cardiovascular exercise. A trail hike can offer kids the opportunity to traverse through rocks, navigate exposed roots, build balance and agility.
Everyone, even kids, could use a little break from the daily hustle and bustle. A deep breath, listening to the wind blowing, the calmness, and the serenity of nature can go a long way. It will get the kids outside instead of looking at the screen all day long.
Getting physical exercise
Hiking is one of the best forms of exercise. No matter the type of trail one gets onto, hiking is great for a whole-body workout. The unique nature of hiking can result in greater calorie burn than other forms of exercise. In fact, research from the University of Florida concluded that walking on uneven terrain, like that of hiking trails, causes the body to use 28% more energy than walking on flat, even ground due to the subtle shifts in the way leg muscles must lengthen or shorten while hiking.
Hiking helps to build stronger muscles. It also helps in developing a sense of balance, improves heart health while reducing the risk of respiratory problems. Whether one is scrambling through a steep incline or walking through a winding dirt path, hiking is just the perfect opportunity to get a workout.
Boosts mental health
Being in nature can lift the mood and enhance mental health. It can reduce stress and anxiety. A 2015 study from Stanford University found that time spent in nature calms the portion of the brain linked to mental illness and reduces the mind’s tendency toward negative thoughts.
Hiking as a family bonding activity
Hiking can help to strengthen family bonds, create lifelong memories, provide the opportunity to talk and listen and have a shared experience.
Choosing a trial which is easy enough for the younger one in the family while still offering some challenges for the older sibling can lead to cooperation and sibling bonding. Encourage your children to work together to conquer their hiking challenges.
HIking can be educational
Kids are sure to see and get curious about lots of things while hiking. They will be able to hear, smell, see and feel things they didn’t know existed. Hiking can provide exposure to wildlife as trails often allow kids to encounter many birds and insects that your children would otherwise see only in books or online. It is a good opportunity to teach children about good outdoor ethics and how to respect nature.
Tips to make hiking fun and adventurous
Planning ahead can alleviate a lot of angst on the trail. Make sure to know the trail before starting the hike and use an app like Alltrails to help guide you along the way, if cell phone service allows. Make sure to set reasonable goals. But be ready to make changes to well laid out previous plans as needed. Let the youngest one set the pace and get ready to carry them when they are tired. Make sure they have proper footwear and that everyone is well-rested, well-fed and hydrated.
One of the best ways to make hiking fun for the family is to let the kids choose the hiking trail and set some goals. Allow them to lead the way so that they get excited about the little discoveries at each bend.
Kids are explorers in their own ways. They want to touch and pick everything. This is one of the best things about hiking. There is so much in the natural world for the kids to examine and discover. Thus, one has to make sure that they get the time to fulfill their adventure through the wilderness. Choose a trail that includes some features – a lake, stream, waterfall, bridge – something that keeps the interest going, beyond just the walking.
Come up with some fun games along the way. For instance, create a list of the objects and animals to spot and challenge family members to find everything on the list. The winner will get a prize! Something educational would be to give the little one’s their own magnifying glass and let them examine the foliage and little insects along the way.
Kids love to be in charge. Let them take turns leading the group. This will make them feel empowered. Just make sure that the leadership keeps rotating or this will lead to an argument down the trail.
The power of positive reinforcement comes handy on the trail. Tell the kids how well they are doing, how strong they’ve been and how good they are at leading and listening. Kids must hear they are doing an awesome job, especially if it is their first time on the trail. This will encourage them and make the hiking experience fun for all.
Hiking with the family is a great activity. With most of us spending a significant amount of time indoors throughout the week these days, hiking on a weekend is a great way to go out and have fun together. Be it an urban park or a state park trail it is a great activity to boost the body and mind health.