Closeup of organic corn field for biomass on cloudy summer evening.
Closeup of organic corn field for biomass on cloudy summer evening - concept of nutrition full vegetables and renewable energy for gas and fuel. Credit: Reinholds Nulle via 123RF

As fall family activities start filling your social calendar, consider one of the most popular—a corn maze! Heading out to the field and having fun navigating the twists and turns is a great way to spend an afternoon with your kids, but did you know that there are benefits beyond just the excitement?

Here are just a few of the reasons why taking your kids to the corn maze can turn your family fun into a real developmental benefit for your children.

Give Your Kids a Chance to Fail—and Then Succeed

Anyone who’s made it through a corn maze knows that the risk of failure along the way is high—you’re bound to take at least one wrong turn! Believe it or not, an activity with built-in chances to fail is a great way to help your kids get comfortable with the idea of failing, trying again, and ultimately succeeding. In an era where many kids aren’t given space to practice being resilient in the face of failure, it’s more important than ever for parents to find opportunities to let their children work through obstacles. Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure, echoes this idea in her description of a fundamental goal for today’s parents:

“What parenting practice can help our children acquire the skills, values and virtues on which a positive sense of self is built? Parenting for autonomy. Parenting for independence and a sense of self, borne out of real competence, not misguided confidence. Parenting for resilience in the face of mistakes and failures.”

When families face failure together, the parents and older children are modeling resilience and persistence for the younger kids. When Mom takes a wrong turn and doesn’t let her disappointment and frustration end the activity, the kids can learn to similarly turn their setbacks into successes. To make the most of this opportunity, let your kids take the lead through the maze. Comment as neutrally as possible when they inevitably take a wrong turn, and join in their sense of accomplishment when they make it to the end!

Yellow ripe corn on stalks for harvest in agriculture. Credit: Jamras Lamyai via 123RF

Improve Spatial Awareness and Directional Skills

We all know adults (maybe even ourselves!) who aren’t good with directions like east and south, but spatial and directional awareness are skills that go far beyond being able to “head north for 5 miles.” Understanding where your body is in relation to the space around it and knowing how to use your muscles to navigate that space are the skills that professionals call spatial awareness and proprioception. These skills are crucial for navigating location, movement, personal space, reading and writing, and mathematics.

The best way to help kids improve their spatial awareness and directional skills is through play! When you head to a corn maze, use the opportunity to let your children meander and explore as they see fit, then pepper in some directional ideas to give them a challenge, such as, “How about we turn left after about two more body lengths?” Plus, the entire corn maze experience is building those spatial skills. So, if your toddler walks headfirst into a corn wall, don’t sweat it; just remember that they’re still practicing their proprioception and spatial awareness!

Make Movement Fun

Physical activity and movement are crucial for kids of all ages, so finding ways to make movement fun and natural is essential. Getting outside and spending family time doing something physical is an excellent way to show your children that moving your body feels good and is a priority for your family. Don’t shy away from being creative as you navigate the corn maze—you can incorporate lots of fun movement play that will help strengthen muscles and bones and provide some aerobic activity. For example, have your kids hop like bunnies down one row and then crab walk up another, or set up a race among older kids to see who can run towards the exit the fastest.

Share Laughter, Success, and Bonding

One of the biggest reasons to spend time in a corn maze together as a family is the shared bond you’ll develop in the process. Laughing at spontaneous jokes, celebrating together as you reach the end, and recounting your journey are all ways to strengthen your family’s bond. That bond, in turn, can help kids learn how to navigate social situations, improve academic performance, and encourage better behavior.

As you head out to a corn maze this season, remember to give your kids an opportunity for strengthening skills in the process. Most of all, relax, have fun, and enjoy the laughter!