It’s been a tough time for the world of late. And we’ve all had to make some serious changes to the way we usually live.
But in all the hardships, loss and struggle we’ve noticed an OUTDOOR MOVEMENT.
Families flocking to the woods with their little ones to get some exercise, fresh air outside the home, peacefulness away from the monotonous yet necessary screen time. And it’s been a real joy to see!
But what are you actually doing for your kids when you take them on a walk in nature?
Be it a gentle 10 minute stroll or a half day trail loop, what you’re doing for your kids is so much more than you might imagine.
In our three years of hiking and camping with Acacia we’ve noticed a multitude of benefits from our taking her on long walks each week. Though it didn’t come easy (read how to get started on hiking with kids here) we’re seeing how it’s shaped her, pushed her and matured her in ways we never imagined!
While you might know some of the obvious ones like exercise, education, connectedness and quality family time….here’s the other FIVE you NEVER thought of:
How does it feel to be told that you’re in charge, to lead the way or get better and better at something each and every time you do it?
The trail belongs to children. It’s their playground of discovery and if you can get them to (and if it’s safe) have them lead the way!
And it’s not just that you’ve entrusted them to take the lead (where in most of their life they follow instructions) it’s that they begin to TRUST IN THEMSELVES.
They are doing as you do! They don’t have less to do and it’s no simpler for them. They are on your level now; imagine how amazing that must feel for them.
And once they see themselves getting stronger and walking even further than their previous mark, that sense of conquering will slowly trickle into every other aspect of their lives.
Two months ago Acacia and I were hiking in the bush towards the end of summer. She was in front of me leading the way, until she froze dead in her tracks, with her arms splayed out to her sides to stop me from walking around her.
In front of us slithered a baby eastern brown snake, right across the track. (For those of you who aren’t familiar, eastern brown snakes are the second most venomous snake in the world).
In that moment Acacia’s sense of responsibility, not just for herself but for me, rose to a level most three year olds would never think to have any need for in the home or at school.
She knows that the world on the trail places her at equal stature to us as adults; where no animal, cliff drop, river crossing or natural disaster will make any exceptions for her, just because she’s a kid.
And it’s not just the responsibility for themselves or even their parents safety that kids will grow to develop, but a much deeper understanding of their responsibility towards the Earth.
Picking up rubbish as we find it, noticing regenerated areas and questioning why trees are chopped down are some of the many ways Acacia has automatically found herself ‘environmentally engaged’.
So I don’t know about your kids but mine is non-stop.
If it’s not a constant slew of chatter it’s a need to run around touching things and making loud noises and generally creating chaos. We love them to pieces, but it can be a living nightmare sometimes am I right?
Want to know the answer to get it to stop for at least ten minutes, without guilt?
Is there such a thing I hear you say? Not really, we kind of made it up as a way to get Acacia to stop talking for more than two minutes, just so we could hear the trickle of the stream, the birds, the rustling of leaves or just the voice in our own head.
But believe it or not it worked! We got her to practice short distances of no talking just so she could plugin to her senses and experience things outside of herself.
It’s not all that revolutionary as a concept, but as a practice for a toddler who just won’t stop, walking in nature and listening to it’s sounds for almost 2 km a few weeks ago, was no short of a miracle for us.
But more importantly, it rejuvenated Acacia in a way we’ve never seen before. She was calmer, happier in herself, peaceful and softer in demeanor.
She would never know it herself, but at age 3 Acacia had successfully meditated for 20 minutes!
Just imagine it parents.
4. PERSERVERENCE & DETERMINATION
Just like anything, if you make it a sport there are goals to be set and mental strengthening to be done.
Whether your kids are 2 or 22 they’ll need the same practice of perseverance to continue to the next kilometer as well as determination to actually get them there. Both take patience and learning, but the skills they quickly develop from hiking will take them far in life.
We’ve now arrived at the stage with Acacia where she’s begun to ask us how many kilometers she’s hit so far and how many we are planning to do. Enter into the conversation a bit of simple maths and she’s got a good idea of how much longer she has left until she’s conquered the entire day’s set goal.
All of a sudden the concept of goals and challenge (and a sense of resolve in it all) has finally come into play!
5. MOTOR SKILLS
Talking and eating, eating and talking, stone stepping, rock climbing, eye-mapping, stair climbing, bridge running, even bush peeing all demands a mass amount of gross and fine motor skills for a young kid.
Though it’s all bound to be wobbly and uncertain in the beginning, no matter what age you are, the fine muscle memory, strength and flexibility one’s body builds over time is paramount.
The coordination it takes for a young kid to eat a banana while carefully climbing down a flight of steep, rocky stairs all whilst telling yet another story about Anna and Elsa is pretty impressive.
I’m sure any Preschool/Kindergarten teacher will tell you that getting these motor skills tuned early will do wonders for them in every aspect of their lives for the future.
So there you have it. A few EXTRA reasons you may not have thought of for getting your kids outside and on a trail.
And if you fancy a bit more on this subject, author Richard Louv has a great starting off point with his book ‘Last Child in the Woods‘.
Join the conversation by commenting below!