filed under: health and social benefits

Engaging Children in Nature through Trails

Spending time on trails not only helps a child's mental and physical development, it can also help create healthy habits that last a lifetime.

Exposure to the outdoors benefits children in a number of ways, and creating a love for the outdoors in children can help them for life. The National Wildlife Federation released information on exactly why outdoor play is so vital for children, including:


  • Outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies, an
    important strategy in helping the one in three American kids who are obese get fit.
  • Spending time outside raises levels of Vitamin D, helping protect children from
    future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues.
  • Being out there improves distance vision and lowers the chance of


  • Exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing ADHD
  • Schools with environmental education programs score higher on standardized
    tests in math, reading, writing and listening.
  • Exposure to environment-based education significantly increases student
    performance on tests of their critical thinking skills.


  • Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces.
  • Play protects children’s emotional development.
  • Nature makes you nicer, enhancing social interactions, value for community and
    close relationships.

How Trails Can Help

Trail enthusiasts in general show a greater appreciation for outdoor stewardship than average citizens. They are also known to seek out more outdoor opportunities in both everyday life and on special occasions such as vacation. By teaching your children at an early age to appreciate trails you can help create a lifelong bond with nature that will stay with them and help them grow into adults who love the outdoors. Not all children or adults have easy access to an outdoor space such as a yard, but trails are for everyone, and by learning to love trails your child will be able to build a relationship with the outdoors no matter where they live. This is why American Trails has always supported and advocated for having a trail within 15 minutes of every American, so everyone really can access the outdoors.

The American Trails Resource Library has a variety of tools that can help you get kids engaged in the outdoors.

Teaching Kids to be Great Trail Stewards - Trails are an important resource, but sadly we are increasingly seeing trails abused by littering and vandalism. American Trails has created a packet to teach kids to be great trail stewards so the next generation of trail lovers can help lead the way towards better care for our trails.

Reconnecting Children with Nature - Learn about successful strategies from recreation and parks professionals that address the disconnect from nature through facility and land use planning, program development, and community education and partnerships.

Tech on the Trail: Engaging Kids on Hiking Trails Using Technology - This webinar will help empower kids, and their parents and educators alike, to lead the way through engaging strategies when on the trail.

Inspiring Children to Become Lifelong Stewards of our Great Outdoors and Trails - Environmental education inspires lifelong learning.

Getting Kids on the Trails - Fresh ideas that will get more children off couches and into nature.

A Successful Solution to Get Kids in Parks - There is clear evidence that children benefit from spending time in nature.

A Trail to Every Classroom - This session will look at professional development as a means of reaching out to communities and engaging youth in trail activities.

The World is Our Classroom - Cindy's story begins in the Rocky Mountain wilderness on a unique and extraordinary journey: two parents leading their young children 3,100 miles on the backs of llamas.

Students develop Salmon, Idaho’s podcast trail - Local students wrote and narrated short podcasts to educate visitors of the trail about natural and local history.

Published December 2020

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