By Fredrica Syren:
On weekends, we five go on family hikes. Usually, we go early in the morning or later afternoon so it won’t be too hot for the kids. We hike for about 2-3 miles, but take it very slowly, even stop to explore, climb, play and have snack time. While out, we look at any animals crossing our path (last weekend we found a king snake and a beehive), look at trees and flowers, etc., and learn about them as we hike along. We also gather dead leaves, branches and much more that we can use to create art such as fairy houses. It is like taking a classroom outside. I can’t imagine a better place to learn about physical science, biology and so much more.
Our family hikes are about spending time together, and having tons of fun while learning and exploring as well as getting a great workout, too.
There are so many studies that show the therapeutic effects of nature on children. A study done at the University of Illinois’ Landscape and Human Health Laboratory found that time outdoors reduces symptoms in children with ADHD, and found a link between exposure to nature and increased self-discipline in girls. Furthermore, hiking provides time when we eliminate distractions of technology, toys and all the “must-do” things; instead, we can talk with each other and even enjoy the silence that happens only in nature. Some of my deepest conversations with my children take place while hiking. It is a great way to connect children with nature, and help them fall in love with and respect it.
Here is a YouTube video from one of our family hikes:
To have a successful hike with kids, I recommend these tips:
- Go hiking during the cool part of the day.
- Go on a route you know.
- Dress in layers which are easy to remove as you get warmer.
- Bring sun hats and sunblock for everyone.
- Bring plenty of snacks and water.
- Stop often and take it slowly.
- Let kids explore and have fun.
- Take a hike that’s not too long.
- Bring a first aid kit for cuts or bruises that happen when explorers’ little legs lose their footing.
- Most important, make the hike fun for the whole family, and don’t expect to win any speed records.