A couple of days ago I desperately needed to get my boys (and myself) out of the house after a rough rainy week, so I was grateful when Lily and Marilyn invited us to go for a hike at a nearby park. My 3 1/2 year old was thrilled to get out and explore with his bestie. He practically ran the entire way up the path, fueled by excitement and fresh air.
It’s no surprise that hiking is hugely beneficial for kids as well as adults. Of course the exercise is good for the body, but the fresh air and time in nature is good for the soul. (I’m heading to the library for this new book, The Nature Fix, which digs into the science behind the restorative effects of nature, arguing it “can make us actually more compassionate and generous”.)
I was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly the little hike went. I think we’re in a sweet spot where my pre-schooler has enough interest and stamina and my one year old is happy to sit in a backpack and look around. Just when the kids started to get antsy or tired, we saw a dog, a horse, or a ladybug, or a “really cool log”. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t all sunshine and butterflies (although we did see some of those): we barely escaped poison oak, the kids had a few tumbles, and Owen had make a pit stop (of course he loves peeing outside). It was all worth it, though, when we finally made it to the top and saw the secret swing overlooking the lush green springtime hills, our entire town, and the bay. You should have seen their faces – pure joy!
It may have been just a short little hike, but experiencing nature is an essential part of raising kids who appreciate and want to protect their natural world (even if they occasionally pee in it).
Here is a great list of local family-friendly hikes here in Marin.
Here are some tips for hiking with kids.