Therapy in the Woods
Hiking with the family is a great way to relax, exercise, play, learn, and explore new things. From a therapist perspective, this is also a low-stress and fun way to work on your child’s goals, no matter what the discipline. See below for ideas to enhance your hiking experience!
Climb, throw, and jump!
- Balance-Find trails that are uneven or not paved—a perfect opportunity to strengthen ankles, feet, toes and balance reactions!
- Strength- To get up and down those big hills we get use many different muscles. This challenges strength in our legs and our core.
- Natural Obstacle Course- Do you see that big log in the way or next to the path? Use it to balance, climb over, crawl under, or jump off!
- Body Awareness-Walking across the river on slippery rocks is a great way to address balance, body awareness, and motor planning. As always be very cautious around water.
- Throwing-Throwing rocks into the creek is a fun way to work on coordination for throwing. Make it a challenge to add in distance or aiming for an object.
- Jumping- Try jumping over or splashing in some puddles to build up that leg strength!
- There are so many ways to strengthen our bodies when playing outside!
A multi-sensory experience!
- Sounds- Birds singing, trees creaking, or crickets chirping. The various frequencies that children hear allows for improved body orientation and spatial awareness!
- Sight and Smell- Search for flowers, rocks, animal tracks, and pine cones! These can also be great for crafting after the hike to target fine motor skills!
- Touch- Encourage kids to take their shoes off and feel the various textures on their feet—rocks, sand, water, mud or grass!
- Executive Functioning- Following a trail map targets directional skills for older kids.
- For the little explorers– Staying on the trail while scanning the woods is great for visual perceptual skills!
- Nature can be a great way for children to foster imagination and creativity!
Oh, the Things You Can Say!
Early Language/First Words: Keep words simple, “go,” “wet,” “up,” “in,” “splash,”
- Language Comprehension: Follow directions and teach spatial concepts such as “Walk through the tunnel,” “Go up the hill,” “Walk around the tree”
- Vocabulary and Describing: Work on new words and describing what you see, feel or hear. “The mud is sticky and slimy!”, “Can you find a bumpy rock? What else is bumpy?” “The water is cold,” “Do you see the bird way up high in the tree?” “The bridge is wiggling!!
- There is so much to talk about, learn and explore in nature!
Always remember general safety when going on a hike and ask your healthcare provider if you have any concerns. For more generalized tips and tricks for hiking with kids, check out the following resources. Happy hiking!
American Hiking Society https://americanhiking.org/resources/hiking-with-kids/
National Park Service https://www.nps.gov/subjects/trails/hiking-with-kids.htm
For more information, visit https://www.abcpediatrictherapy.com/
Blog and pictures provided by: B. Kerbe Shephard, OTR/L, Michelle L. Huss, M.A. CCC-SLP, Rachel Menkedick, PT, DPT