Among the most important skills kids develop in early childhood is learning when risk-taking is appropriate. As children test their physical abilities and learn about their bodies' limits, they discover if their judgment is sound or hazardous.
Children used to primarily learn this by playing outside in a natural environment, according to a 2008 study by researchers at Macquarie University in Australia. Lack of space, parental fears, time demands, and traffic in recent decades have decreased the amount of time children spend outdoors, however. The researchers argued that incorporating outdoor time in early childhood play was essential to ensure proper development.
Hiking marks a great way to place kids in a natural environment where their ability to make risk-taking decisions can grow. Learning how to walk and run on uneven paths, swing from tree branches, climb boulders, and being exposed to water bodies - all under the careful eye of an accompanying adult - allow children to explore what they can and cannot safely do.
Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.