Why Roads and Trails Are Good for Children

Sid, in grade 5, was told by his teacher to learn answers to twenty five question; he was quizzed on eight. Sid answered seven correctly and scored 87.50% marks. Sid was a happy child. Well, at least for the initial part of his life. For the rest, he was a disillusioned adult, who found it difficult to cope with life’s twists and turns because there was no readymade syllabus this time.

Ria, also in grade 5, accompanied her traveller mother on a road trip. She watched her mother double check essentials before the trip. Ria also witnessed her mother duck-walking the motorcycle to a height before gliding down the road when it ran out of fuel – despite the double checking, all the while enjoying her journey. Ria grew up to be an adult who would prepare in advance, not be flustered by life’s contingencies, find a viable solution to her problems, all the while enjoying this journey of life.

The difference in Sid and Ria’s perception is evident. The school system churns out Sids in large numbers, it’s the Rias which are few.

How Outdoor Life can help build more Rias

Three Important Benefits of Camping and Trekking for Children

1. Makes them Independent and Responsible

Small tasks such as creating a list of items to be carried, rucksack packing, being responsible for carrying their bags should be insisted upon. Children should leave the camping area as clean as it was before. Assigning individual roles of navigators, leaders, photographers, map readers, bonfire starters, tent pitchers will help instil a sense of self and accountability.

2. Improves Problem Solving and Decision Making Skills

The glitches during travel help a child think on their toes. I particularly remember one short trek I took with Bivouac Adventures. The camping and trekking company was also taking a group of young people with intellectual disabilities for a trek, the first in their lives. Midway, we reached a bridge too narrow for two hikers with Spastic Cerebral Palsy to cross, forcing us to turn back. Cerebral Palsy can best be defined as a disobedient body in an obedient mind; making coordinated motor movements difficult. So you can now imagine the difficulty faced by these two young people. On way back one of the trekkers spotted a river bed – the same river that we were to cross from the bridge and came up with the idea to cross over. The water was shallow, so stones were placed for stepping over. The route had not been used in some time hence, the branches were held by the team as each crossed over. What we saw that day was dazzling, as this group of intellectually disabled youngsters found a solution to their problem, acted on it and managed to reach the summit.

3. Builds trust in themselves and others

Climbing mountains, crossing rivers, crawling through caves, snowshoeing all require grit, stamina, determination and teamwork. When children, in the absence of home and family, are exposed to adventure activities where team work is required they learn to rely on themselves and their teammates. A simple activity such as climbing with a belay partner – where one person manages the rope for the other partner, requires young people to trust their partner’s ability. It is this trust, both in themselves and in others, that reflects in better social adaptability per se relationships and life in general.

So parents, go and open the door. Somewhere outside is a road or a trail or a stream just waiting to be your child’s teacher!

Sabah Saeed is a special educator and disability professional who likes to travel. This blog brings together her two loves ~ teaching and travelling.
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