On the trail, children can learn patience, goal setting, self-sufficiency and self-confidence, all while increasing their attention spans, so challenged these days by fast-moving, action-packed television programs and video games. The physical challenge of the journey and of reaching a summit or an incredible destination generates a supreme sense of achievement in adult and child alike.
Hiking encourages creative, imaginative play. The television set and today's video games are largely passive activities - the story is told for you, and you don't have to think much if at all. Being in nature, however, requires you to interact in deeper ways with the world around you.
That's not all, though. Depending on the activities you do together on the trail, children can improve their language and even their math skills without ever doing a worksheet or cracking a textbook. They can learn about man's interplay with the natural world by observing first-hand dams, clear cutting and mining.
Read more about day hiking with children in my guidebook Hikes with Tykes.