November 17 is “National Hiking Day,” also known as “Take a Hike Day.” The holiday was established to celebrate the beauty of the U.S. trail system.
The National Trail System Act of 1968 authorized the completion of major trails such as The Appalachian Trail and The Pacific Crest Trail.
There are over 60,000 miles of trails in the National Trails System. It won’t be hard to find a trail near you!
We might take our kids on the trails more than the average family, but there are so many good reasons to take kids hiking!
1. Family Bonding Experience
Spending time with your kids is imperative to developing a strong and healthy relationship. Hiking is a good way to have that time together, without all the distractions.
2. Unplug From Screens
We’re living in a digital world these days, whether we like it or not. But there are a lot of parents who are realizing the importance of getting their kids outdoors. It’s a key element in the “whole child development”.
If you have a child that is adverse to the words “let’s go on a hike!”, make sure you read 6 Ways to Make Hiking Fun For Kids.
3. Physical Exercise
Obviously, one of the reasons to take kids hiking is because it promotes physical exercise. Making a habit of it can reduce the risk of obesity.
Going on a hike promotes muscle growth, supports healthy heart and lungs, and stimulates digestion.
Hiking doesn’t have to be a huge physical undertaking. You don’t have to climb a mountain with your kids. Just taking a walk down a nature trail or along a creek or river is still exercise.
Read Also: The Best Hiking Carriers for 3-Year-Olds
4. Mental Health
Getting outdoors is scientifically proven to improve moods, reduce anxiety, and promote positivity. Taking a walk is a good way to relax your mind.
Making it a regular activity can increase self-esteem and reduce the risk of developing depression. In a world where depression is on the rise in children, that’s reason enough for me to take my kids hiking!
5. Build Skills
Taking your kids hiking can help them build important skills. Developing motor skills is one of the big ones. I swear that my kids have improved balance and coordination because they started hiking as soon as they could walk.
Problem-solving is another skill that can be built on the trail. Which direction should we go? Why? Also, navigating over fallen obstacles, crossing water, and climbing all give kids a chance to use their problem-solving skills, as well as developing motor skills.
6. Test Limits
An important part of childhood development is being able to test limits. Can they climb up this slope? Can they balance on this log?
You may have heard of “risky play” being beneficial, and hiking naturally offers that. As a parent, instead of saying “be careful!” over and over, you can help by saying “Think about where you should put your foot next!” or “What happens if that rock is too slippery?” Let them use their mind to test their own limits!
And although you should remain within arms reach of young children during risky play, don’t worry too much- most kids naturally know their own body’s limits.
7. See Through Their Eyes
Taking your kids hiking can give parents a chance to see the world in a different way. As an adult, you might be thinking the point of this hike is to get to some spectacular view. But generally, kids don’t care much about the view.
Watch them as they notice the tiniest things that you might not have. My kids sit and observe bugs, find rocks and leaves that are shaped like hearts, imagine that sticks are swords, etc.
8. Environmental Education
One of the most important reasons to take kids hiking is for environmental education. Conservation is a learned behavior. The more kids are out in nature, the more they will appreciate it and want to protect it.
Sometimes, we bring a bag on our hikes just to pick up trash along the way. Explain to kids the importance of clean air and water. Instill in them an appreciation of wildlife so that they will want to protect animals and their environment.
9. Inexpensive Hobby
Lastly, going on a hike is an inexpensive hobby! There are no admission fees, no gift shops (well, unless there is inside the visitor center!) You don’t need expensive gear to take a hike with kids.
Now you have several reasons to take kids hiking!
The National Wildlife Federation says “Our kids are out of shape, tuned out, and stressed out because they’re missing something essential to their health and development: connection to the natural world.” Be a part of the solution and get your kids out on a trail!
Next, be sure to check out these relevant posts:
- 6 Ways to Make Hiking More Fun for Kids
- The Best Hiking Carriers for 3-Year-Olds
- America the Beautiful National Parks Pass Guide 2023