father-and-son-camping

Kyle and Me in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area

How to Get Kids in the Outdoors

In my last article I wrote about the importance of getting kids, women, and non-outdoors people into the wilderness and the joys of fishing, hunting, camping, and other outdoor pursuits.  You can read that article by clicking here.  As I mentioned in that article, it is crucial that we reinvigorate the interest in our wildlife and the places they inhabit, and to me that usually starts with young kids.  Here are some interesting and cute quotes I found from some of our young outdoors kids across the country:

Miley Bradford, 5, Carthage, Ill.  “I love that I get to catch big fish with my daddy, and we get to eat them.  He taught me that if we take care of nature, it will take care of us.”

Addison Curry, 15, West Jefferson, Ohio.  “I love hunting with my dad because he gives me valuable life lessons, which give me an idea of the kind of person I want to be.”

Ian Nickerson, 11, Lakeville, Mass.  “I fish with my dad and grandfather and learn a lot from watching them.  It’s peaceful on the lake; I like it better than watching TV.”

Noah Coyle, 8, Fishers, Ind.  “I enjoy the memories I make on hunts with my dad and Grandpa Terry.  I have a funny one about being ‘gassed’ out of the blind by Grandpa.”

Thankfully there are many more stories and notable quotes from our future sportsmen and women, there are a lot of people out there doing what I am advocating for, which is great!  But I also have a lot of people ask me how to get started, especially with children.  While I have written many articles on this subject, and I have many more to write, my first response is to just involve the kids in your outdoor activities.  Obviously the simple things; like taking them out for short excursions when they are young, telling them stories of your adventures, having them help you pack for a hunting trip, or however you can engage them in the simple things that are not going to be physically challenging at a young age, and things that it will be OK when the child loses interest.  The last thing you want to do is subject a child to an all-day fishing trip before they are ready, or drag them on a cold deer hunt where they might have a bad experience early on and not want to do it again.  You just have to be thoughtful about how to break your child into the outdoor world, you need to do it slowly and at a pace that is comfortable for the child.

Kyle's first fish

Kyle’s first fish

With my youngest son Kyle, I started taking him out to trout streams when he was two, just for an hour or so.  I would find a good place where he could play in the rocks and sand on the shore while I would cast a Rooster Tail spinner into the stream just a few feet away.  When I hooked a fish I would call Kyle over and let him reel it in, with my help.  A year later he was casting a small closed-face spinning rod into beaver ponds and reeling in his own fish.  When Kyle was six I took him on his first horseback trip into the Flat Tops Wilderness Area where I taught him how to fly fish, and he caught brook and cutthroat trout all day long on dry flies.  To me the key to success in this progression of Kyle’s love of fishing was small doses in the beginning, and engaging him in situations with a high chance of achievement.

Camping is also a great way to get young kids interested in the outdoors, but you have to take a bit of a different approach with very young children.  You have to understand that having a young kid on a camping trip changes things from not only what you are used to on a camping trip, but also what they are used to in their daily lives.  I wrote an article on this which you can read by clicking here, and another article by clicking here.  The main thing to remember is to set your expectations of the trip with the focus on the child and not the trip as you would expect it to be before you had a child.  You have to be flexible and well-prepared.  It is imperative that early excursions into the wild are positive experiences for a young child, and as they get older they will be able to understand and deal with the challenges that come with outdoor activities.  As the kids grow, you can expose them to more challenging experiences, and you can expect them to deal with those challenges, like being trapped in the tent all day during a torrential rain.

young-boy-fishing

Kyle with a Brook Trout.

The key ingredients to raise a wild child are to be thoughtful, patient, prepared, and patient.  I know I already said “patient,” but that one is the most important, so I said it twice.  You have to understand the pace at which your child wants to adapt to the things that you love to do, and if you want that child to like those things, you have to have patience.  If your child wants to build his own little campfire next to the big one, let him.  If your daughter wants to play in the mud at the side of a trout stream rather than fish, let her.  Just keep getting them outdoors, and the rest will come naturally.