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The Benefits of Hiking for Kids: Physical and Mental Health Benefits

Disconnect your kids from their screens and reconnect with nature. Hiking with kids brings the whole family on an adventure and positively impacts your children's well-being. 

Hiking allows kids to get more fresh air and Vitamin D. Plus, the trees, rocks, and streams make an excellent playground to nurture their love for the outdoors and a healthy lifestyle.

Here's why hiking is so essential for kids' minds and bodies.

Benefits of Hiking with the Family

Whether trekking with babies in backpack carriers or letting your little explorers run free, hiking helps your kids get excited about nature. Taking your kids for a hike also offers mental and physical health benefits they can carry into adulthood. Some significant benefits of hiking as a kid include: 

  • Social collaboration skills: Natural environments help kids improve social interaction and bonding. Kids who spend more time outdoors learn to collaborate and problem-solve with friends and family.
  • Fine motor skills: Uneven terrain and challenging climbs create a great obstacle course for developing motor skills. Kids who play outside often have more advanced coordination, balance, and agility.
  • Active lifestyles: Taking your kids hiking helps them move their bodies. The more physically active parents are, the more active their kids are. Active kids are more likely to keep up an active lifestyle into adulthood, improving heart health and decreasing their risk of chronic diseases.
  • Brain function and memory: During a hike, the brain constantly thinks and processes that information as it identifies plants and navigates trails. Spending time outdoors is great for developing brains and helps build memory and attention span.
  • Stress reduction: Combining movement with sunshine, fresh air, and natural scenery is an instant recipe for a good mood. As a form of exercise, hiking helps boost feel-good endorphins. Spending time in nature also helps reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Reduce hyperactivity and improve focus: Hiking is not a for cure kids with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, research suggests spending time outdoors has a calming effect that may help reduce ADHD symptoms in children, like hyperactivity and difficulty focusing.

Tips for Hiking with a Toddler 

So, at what age should kids actually start hiking? Whenever they're ready! Even little ones who can't walk can be strapped into a carrier for easy transport on the trail. Starting kids young helps prepare them for a life of outdoor adventures. That said, hiking with a toddler is no easy task—especially if they can outrun you.

Keep these tips in mind to help keep your toddlers engaged and happy on the trails:

  • Start with short hikes: With little legs and short attention spans, aim to keep hikes under 2 miles. You may end up carrying them back to the trailhead. 
  • Be flexible: Hiking is about the journey, not the destination. You may have to cut your hike short if kids get distracted (rocks!) or tired.
  • Let them explore: Young imaginations turn rocks, leaves, and sticks into a lot of fun. Let them take time to explore the new world around them.
  • Make nature a game or playground. Kids love balancing on logs and jumping on stepping stones. You can also play eye-spy with plants and animals, or find storybook trails that let you read pages from a book as you hike.
  • Be prepared: Have extra layers, wipes, snacks, bandaids, sunscreen, and water bottles ready. Your kid who didn't want a snack 5 minutes ago will be hungry, and accidental mud baths happen.

What About Hiking With Teens?

Teenagers may be less enthused about taking in all the flora and fauna on a hike. Still, taking your teens hiking can help improve their well-being. Research shows hiking gives teens concerned with body image a time to relax and reflect. It's also a great time to pry technology out of their hands that may be making them feel more anxious and stressed.

Try incorporating some of your teen's other interests into family hikes if they're not loving it. Or, get a little creative with your hikes by: 

  • Incorporate photography
  • Try geocaching
  • Adding some challenges with boulder scrambling 
  • Compete to see who can climb the hill the fastest
  • Sign them up for a youth outdoor adventure club
  • When in doubt, we're not above bribery—how about ice cream after the hike?

No matter your children's age, hiking is an excellent opportunity to improve their well-being and reconnect with nature. Grab your Tru Flask and get ready for a family adventure in the great outdoors! Shop our collection of water bottles to ensure you stay hydrated on the trail.

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