One of the BEST summer enrichment activities you can do with your children

brain benefits of hiking sherriseligson.com We all feel it. The pressure to make sure our children are meeting all the educational standards so they will be prepared for college and beyond. We make sure they have solid curriculum, engaging enrichment activities, and a good understanding of all things technological.

If we see what we might think is an educational gap, we are tempted to find yet another online course to help fill it.

Well, all those things are good. Of course we should work to make sure our children are given a solid education. But if we let ourselves worry too much over this, we might be missing one of the best opportunities to build our children’s brains.

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Go take a hike.

No, I really mean it. There are plenty of new studies that show how hiking in the outdoors builds our brains. Time outside is good for education. In fact, just taking a walk outside can affect our brain physiologically, which benefits our mental health and our ability to process information.

That might be common sense to many of us, but researchers are looking into this connection because children are spending less time playing outdoors and more time working (and playing) indoors.

One study has shown that the average child in the U.S. spends half as much time outside as compared to 20 years ago. Screen time has grown on average to almost 8 hours a day, which includes television, video games, computer, tablets, and phone use.

All of us, for that matter, are spending more of our time inside. And it isn’t good for us.

Walking outside reduces stress.

Just walking in a park or even in your neighborhood for 90 minutes will benefit your state of mind. A study showed that being outside in natural environments lowers stress levels and worry, but walking in a city environment didn’t have the same impact. In fact, brain scans showed that those who walked in a natural environment had less blood flow to a specific area of their prefrontal cortex that is associated with bad moods. So a nature walk basically deactivates your brain from sadness, worry, and depression.

And you don’t have to hike for very long to reap the benefits. A 2010 study in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology showed that even a five-minute walk boosts your emotional well-being. You just feel better about things.

Walking outside builds problem-solving skills and creativity.

In a 2012 study, participants who took a four-day wilderness hike scored 50% higher on a creative assessment test. That means taking technology breaks and going outside helps build creativity. This makes sense. When the brain is constantly being filled with digital stimuli, it doesn’t need to work on creative thinking. Colors, music, and other details are already present in a video, TV show, or computer game, so we don’t have to come up with our own ideas.

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Walking outside can build focus.

Being active outdoors has been shown to reduce symptoms of ADHD. You see, the brain has to focus on what the body needs it to do as it is hiking on a path. It is busy, then, working on maintaining physical balance, watching the trail ahead, and listening to surrounding sounds as the muscles of the body have to navigate the requirements of motion.

Walking outside boosts your memory.

As you go on a hike, your body burns extra calories. This aerobic exercise increases blood flow, bringing more oxygen to the brain which builds neuron pathways. The more a neuron pathway is traveled, the easier it is for the brain to take that pathway again. So it is easier to remember things.

So as you plan your summer activities, consider boosting your child’s education by taking them outside on a nature walk. It will reduce stress, build creativity, improve memory and focus, exercise the body, and help their overall countenance! I can’t think of any computer game that can do all that!