The physical benefits of getting children involved in hiking are innumerable. The data shows that children are not getting enough exercise for their young bodies to thrive. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) childhood obesity rates top the scales at over 17% in the Unites States - there is plenty of room for improvement.
Many factors account for the swelling obesity rates, including the lack of available venues for physical activity, easy access to fast food with "super-sized" portions and sedentary indoor activities replacing outdoor play. Getting kids outside and enjoying all that nature has to offer is an excellent way to overcome these challenges.
Start Kids Hiking Early
Like any health regimen, starting early and repeating it creates a pattern for success. The process itself becomes ingrained in their routine and becomes second nature. Young children are at a perfect age to begin hiking with since they are still in early learning and development.
When you help your children develop a love of the outdoors at an early age, you also help guarantee a lifelong respect for nature. This will sustain them on many a family hike and beyond.
Keep Hiking Fun for Kids
Prior to hitting that first trailhead, you should do some research to identify local flora and fauna that may be of interest to your youngster. Enticing them with these natural treasures can help get them interested in your outdoor trek. Finding and discussing them will help entertain your kids out on the trail.
Walking up hills and over rough terrain can get tiring for a youngster, so when you see their energy begin to flag you can challenge them with a bird sighting contest that will reignite their passion. To sweeten the deal you can tell them that the winner gets to decide where the family goes for treats after the hike.
To ensure they keep their energy level up, be sure that your backpack is fully laden with the drinks and snacks that your son or daughter can't be without. A perfectly timed juice box or banana can help avoid a child's energy level from suddenly bottoming out. A snack break is also ideal time to discuss all of the interesting things your family saw so far on the trail.
Hiking is a Family Thing
Kids - especially older ones - like nothing more than to be included in the decision making process. But, engaging kids of all ages in the decision will make them feel like their opinion matters and that they have a personal interest in the hike. Break out the trail maps and make a few suggestions for a local hike based on your family’s skill level and interests. Seek your children’s input, but don’t be afraid to make the final decision - especially if multiple kids have different points of view.
Keep the entire family engaged and fit by teaching them the importance of nature. Once you have planted those seeds and have brought them out into the great outdoors, you may surprised to find yourself hard-pressed to keep them inside the house. Hiking is just one of the many ways you can excite your children's passion about the environment and starting early as a family is a great way to do it.