These are the top 10 things i have noticed my own preschool children learning from hiking.
1. Confidence and Self Esteem
Kids confidence and self esteem increases through challenges: making it to the top of a steep hill, navigating through mud, climbing over steep obstacles. Hearing them saying “I did it”, “I made it without any help”.
Encouraging kids to lead the group when out hiking builds and develops leadership skills and further instills confidence, they love the feeling of being in control. Start off with letting them lead parts of basic tracks and then progress as their confidence improves.
A fun way for kids to build fitness and be active. Start off with short/flat walks and build up to longer, more challenging tracks. Start by choosing tracks that have things to see at the end such as waterfalls to keep them motivated.
4. Problem Solving
This is also linked to leadership. When faced with a muddy track encourage the kids to choose the best path to take, to begin with you can give them options: go through the mud, go to the left of the track or to the right of the track and let them choose and problem solve.
5. A sense of accomplishment
The feeling of achieving something can be built through hiking: making it up the hill without needing help, walking the whole way etc. They will accomplish bigger goals the more they hike, start with simple praise such as “well done, you made it up that steep hill without any help”
6. Appreciating the journey
Encouraging kids to appreciate the journey itself not just reaching the finish line, we all have busy lives and are constantly rushing to be somewhere. Hiking is an opportunity to take your time and appreciate things along the way e.g. birds, different trees
7. Stimulation of the senses
Asking kids what they see and hear along the track and how does it compare to what they see and hear at home – city vs country. Ask them to find things that feel slimy, rough etc or spot 5 different insects.
Getting kids involved in preparation for hiking builds ownership and helps them feel involved. e.g. we will be stopping for a picnic, what do you think we need to pack or what clothes do you want to pack in case it rains?
9. Challenge themselves
Being in situations that are different to everyday activities promotes challenge and develops their ability to evaluate risk. e.g. what might happen if i climb that steep hill and fall down, what might happen if i separate from the rest of the group.
10. Working together
Recognizing different abilities and helping less confident group members. Helping each other over fence lines/through mud etc. Learning to ask group members if they are okay and understanding the importance of staying together.