Everybody knows from experience that just a 20-minute walk in nature can go a long way toward restoring your attention and mental rest. But researchers from the University of Illinois found that hiking brings together a near-perfect combination of elements known to relax us, raise our alertness, elevate our self-esteem, and physically prepare us for true rest afterwards. Especially if it's done in the company of family members.
Are you looking at your cell phone all the time or working on your computer, constantly checking out email that just keep popping up? Your family life might ...
“Our research takes into consideration the family unit, and if and how improved attention from being in nature transfers to family outcomes. We theorize that when your attention is restored, it transfers to your family relationships and allows you to get along better with your family members”, said Dina Izenstark, a lead author of University of Ilinois study about effects of hiking on family relations, published in the Journal of Family Theory and Review.
“Everyone only has a finite amount of attention. Especially in today’s society where we are constantly looking at our cell phones or working on our computers and our email keeps popping up; we are constantly fatiguing our directed attention, but we’re not always aware that we’re doing it. It’s so important that we incorporate moments into our everyday lives that we can look into nature and experience soft fascination to restore our attention”, concludes Dina Izenstark.
The best education comes from sharing observations, thoughts, and hypotheses with family members
So, what can you do to make the trip smooth and experience better if you are planning on a short hiking trip after the summer when the bunches of tourists are out of the way and you can enjoy the most.
#1 Plan realistically and don't push it
Most of the adults like to walk fast and keep moving, and with kids, that isn’t always the case. Don’t drag your crew on difficult long walks with a lot of elevation under the scorching sun. Start with a shorter hike, but be prepared for it to take longer than expected because kids are not as fast as adults.
Naturally, you shouldn't let them slow down so you need four hours for a half hour worth of distance. It helps if you set clear goals and when they know that something special awaits when you reach your goal.
#2 Give your kids a chance to lead
When hiking, pick a leader for a part of the trail and keep rotating the person leading. Kids love the feeling of being in charge, so let them try some. It makes them feel empowered, so make sure that they all get the taste of leadership or this could lead to arguments further down the trail. And changing the point-men constantly lets you control the peace. Remember, the pace has to be slow enough so everyone can keep up.
#3 Kids are natural explorers. Let them explore!
When you encourage kids to learn on family hiking, you are creating a bond that will last for years to come.
Kids are natural explorers and want to pick up and touch things along the trail. Hiking with parents, they are learning in a safe, loving environment, while getting their curiosity satisfied.
Nature is a spectacular classroom, and even the savviest hiker will learn something new from observing the insects, animals, plant species, bodies of water, and rock formations seen along on nature hikes. The best education comes from sharing observations, thoughts, and hypotheses with family members.
Bring a guidebook along to identify what you see or take photos to take home - kids love to learn something new, and the chance to share that new information with friends.
It’s never too early to teach kids how to take care of those spectacular wild places
#4 Let your kids talk and listen to them
Most people feel that they don’t talk enough with their kids, and when we say ‘talk’, we really mean listen to them.
Whether they play video games, play sports or watch TV a lot, kids tend to get really fixated on topics that they find interesting. The trick is to ask them a few questions and let them talk. If they see you are listening to what they have to say, they won't even notice how much ground they covered. Life is busy and short, so family hiking is a great opportunity to just let your kid talk and to listen. You might be surprised how interesting is the thing they have to say.
Bring a guidebook along to identify what you see or take photos to take home - kids love learning something new
#5 Pack some snacks
It is always good to pack some snacks for your kids. We’re not talking a seven-course gourmet meal. Simple things like crackers or fruit snacks will do the trick. Don't forget to bring something for yourself too.
#6 Leave no trace of your hike
This is the really important lesson to teach your kids and it’s never too early to teach them how to take care of those spectacular wild places at a young age. Make sure that all of your trash is collected and to further reinforce this idea, you could also take a small garbage bag and have the kids pick up any litter they see around.