Family memories are built around the time spent together.
In our high tech savvy and digital world, there are now fewer families who can spend recreational activities together and can go unplugged.
Fact from studies: For families that don’t interact, technology made isolation worse.
Instead of enhancing communication and bonding among families that are having a hard time communicating, the digital world has made isolation worse.
Another fact: The studies on strong families maintain that they spend quality and quantity time together.
Granted, we live in the challenging times. So the question for us, parents, is :
How can I strengthen the bond with my children?
Family members can brainstorm on what they can enjoy doing together. Parents with little children should have the most say on where and what they can do. Parents with young ones should not enhance the emotional bond, but the physical and cognitive development in their children’s formative years as well.
One of the things that families can do to strengthen their bond is hiking together! It’s a family building activity, an exercise, a nature appreciation activity –all rolled into one! It does not only have physical fitness benefits, but cognitive benefits as well. Plus, it is convenient, economical and it requires no special equipment – just minimum gear.
The Perks of Hiking
Hiking has a lot of perks for both adults and kids. It has been proven to improve physical and mental health and develops the children’s cognitive abilities, among many others. The best thing about hiking is the exposure to nature – you reap the benefits of being outdoors as well. Evidence based studies will tell us that going out in nature is essential for healthy growth.
According to the American Hiking Society, walking is one of the lowest impact sports around. Low impact means you walk or hike with a minimum of stress or strain yet you derive all the cardiovascular benefits of other aerobic activities.
Here are the physical health benefits of hiking as a regular physical activity:
- lowers the risk of dying of coronary heart disease
- improves blood pressure levels
- decreases the risk for colon cancer
- decreases the risk of diabetes
- helps to control weight
- contributes to healthy bones, muscles and joints
- helps to relieve the pain of arthritis.
Mental –emotional health benefits of hiking through nature:
- reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression
- decreases stress – especially for children
- helps clear the mind
- increases self esteem and positive outlook
- boosts problem solving skills to 50%
- improves memory and ability to focus, (take note, parents of children with ADHD)
- improves academic scores (Finland studies)
- For toddlers and preschool kids, being outdoors improves their cognitive and literary skill
- offers the chance to socialize and spend time together
- Kids who hike develop an appreciation for the outdoors and grow up to have a greater desire to protect the environment for future generations
Pretty awesome, isn’t it?
Hiking Guidelines for Families With Young Children
Parents should take the child’s age into consideration before planning a hiking trip or any outdoor activity. The idea is for both parents and kids to have a positive and enjoyable experience.
Tips for parents with young children :
- Babies and toddlers obviously cannot hike yet so you will most likely strap the baby in a carrier or backpack designed for hiking.
- Have a checklist of things to bring outdoors. The list includes extra clothes, diaper, food, water, so it’s best to choose the best backpack diaper bag suited for the activity.
- Always check if the weather forecast for that day will be fair.
- Be sure to remain within a reasonable distance from stations where you can get support should you need it.
- For younger kids who can already walk, allow them to walk, hike, run, and explore as much as possible. They learn best through their sensory experiences.
- Always check for danger and possible hazards. Risky trails are for older kids who are more aware, more experienced, and are able to follow safety instructions.
- Orient the children about the family rules for hiking and the plan of what to do if separated from the rest of the family members. Most families instruct their kids to stop where they are and blow their whistle.
- Each child should carry their own portable water canteen, a whistle, and wear clothes specifically for outdoors. Wearing a pair of sturdy, hiking shoes is a must.
- Set a route or a plan of distance and destination. Plan for stops to catch breath, rest, hydrate and eat. A picnic is a great idea.
Hiking with Teens
The preschool and elementary age came breezing by and suddenly you have teens! It was easier to bring the young ones but when they become teens, you will have to compete with own preferences, schedules, and priorities.
Take heart! They need the emotional support of their parents at this crucial time. Here are some tips for hiking if you are a parent of teens:
- Seek for new adventures. Scratch the routine destinations and offer them something new and something extraordinary. Explore trails that feature something different. Make them feel the excitement of a new experience and hopefully, they will be excited with the idea and will spend the time with you.
- Plan the schedule when your teen is on vacation and away from loads of school work, part time job and other things that could be a distraction.
- Allow the teen to plan the hike with you to increase their self sufficiency and to make them feel that their choices matter.
Hiking Together as a Family
Hiking is an intentional, full –of- benefit recreational activity that the whole family can enjoy. It strengthens the bond of parents and children and together and it can be made as a family legacy. Love for nature is also one important thing that can be fostered through this activity and it is something that a family can proudly own and share together.