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These days it can seem as though you’re fighting against digital technology for your kids attention. With so many distractions it’s becoming increasingly difficult for everyone (not just children) to focus. One great way to unplug and slow down a bit is by exploring the outdoors. Science shows that hiking and exercise release body chemicals, such as serotonin that can result in positive thinking.

If you’re already an active person or nature lover don’t let fears of being a first time parent stop your adventurer spirit. Strap your new baby on your chest and take a hike! When a child’s neck is strong enough to support their head, usually around 15 pounds, it is safe to let them ride in a backpack while you trapeze the outdoors. Getting kids outside and exploring early in life may begin a love affair with the wilderness that can last a lifetime.

There are a multitude of benefits from hiking with your children. Not only is it a great way to unplug together, but it’s also good for everyone’s health. A light hike isn’t only beneficial for cardiovascular reasons. Climbing over roots, fallen trees, and rocks can help to build balance and agility. Furthermore, spending time in remote hiking areas helps to raise children’s problem solving skills and boosts their confidence.

Trail hiking can also provide wonderful opportunities to come in contact with wildlife. It is in a child’s nature to be curious. Exposure to animals, such as birds and insects, is a great way to give your kids insight into the wonders of nature. When your child is old enough to say, “bird!”, take the time to stop and allow them to engage. Bringing along a magnifying glass is a fantastic idea for parents looking to help their children get interested in the outdoors. Allow your kids to stop as you hike and touch, smell, and watch whatever they’d like. 

Within reason you can allow your child to lead your hike, always being mindful of anything dangerous. Point out different rocks and trees, but try to avoid giving speeches or preaching. Many parents know that when a child thinks they’re learning , they often tune out or stop being as interested. Hiking is a wonderful way to allow your kids to absorb everything around them and build connections to nature.

Hiking can also provide an opportunity to teach a few life skills. Children of all ages can learn how to use a compass, predict a storm, and read a map. If a bug bite or a scraped knee occur, use the occasion to teach basic first aid skills. 

 Let them be involved in as much or as little as they’d like to. Encourage older kids to bring along a friend and allow your younger children to help you pick out which snacks to pack. Safety should always be the number one priority. Make sure that you’re protecting your children with sunblock and bug repellent, and always check for ticks after a hike.