by Jim Richman
I love the feeling of the first warm days of early spring. It not only means I can get out myself, but it means the conditions become bearable for me to get my kids out with me.
My outdoor journey began very early in life. In fact, my most fond childhood memories always have something outdoors connected with them. While it’s difficult for me to imagine not being outdoors as a kid, I realize there are so many parents, especially in our fast paced culture, that want to get their kids outside but aren’t quite sure how. Here’s 8 suggestions that will help you break out of the winter blues and into the endless possibilities of the outdoors.
*Be sure to know and abide by your local and state laws regarding each one of these activities. While it’s important for you to teach your kids about laws, you don’t want to be on the wrong side of them unknowingly.
No matter where you are, there’s a possibility that you have access to private or public land that you can spend a day looking for antler sheds. Even if you don’t know much about animals that shed their antlers, looking for sheds will teach your kids lessons about how to be attentive, aware, and if nothing else, give them some great exercise and give you something to remind them of when they “can’t” find their shoes.
Look in areas that show clear sign of animal activity. Sheds can be found in bedding areas, along fence lines, and around prominent food and water sources. Be patient and be ready to cover quite a bit of ground. Keep it fun by packing a lunch and identifying other natural items as you look. As little legs get tired, take a break. Don’t be on a tight time schedule when you’re shed hunting.
For some parents, it’s the dreaded “C” word. It can mean discomfort. It can mean whining kids. But, it gets kids out of their daily routine that’s saturated with media and manufactured input, and that fact alone can make the discomfort completely worth the effort.
Start as local and as primitive as you are comfortable with. Camping for the first time with kids ought to be viewed as a “test run”. While we want to stretch their, and our, comfort zones, it’s not a good idea to press to the breaking point. I recommend beginning with a local state park or campground. Then, if the wonder of camping runs out through a sudden weather change or inexperience, you can head back home quickly and with little loss out of your pocket.
As your experience grows and as your kids become more familiar with the process of camping, make it fun by going farther and to more interesting places. Also remember, that while we adults enjoy sitting around the campfire to relax, your kids want to stay active. Do your research before you embark, so you can head out on a series of adventures while you are enjoying time together.
Youth Turkey Hunting
Many states have specific seasons set aside just for youth hunters to enjoy. Not a hunter yourself? Contacting your state conservation agency might bring to light some options for taking your child. You will also need to check your state requirements concerning hunter’s safety certification.
Personally, I don’t think the bluegill gets enough credit. The worst thing to a kid about fishing is having to sit and wait on a fish to bite. Enter the panfish. Once the weather and the water warms up, panfishing can be as simple as stopping by the bait shop after work for a box of crickets or worms and rigging up a cane-pole. Some companies even sell entire set ups for panfishing from the rod to the tackle.
What’s really cool about panfish? They’re resilient. Don’t want to keep them? They are one of the best fish to catch and release. Want to keep them? A spoon and a sharp knife can make quick work of cleaning them.
If you live in an area that lends well to Morel mushroom hunting, this is an activity that is a little like shed hunting. It’s a great opportunity to educate yourself and your children about some of the natural resources that exist beyond hunting or fishing. If you are not familiar with mushroom species in your area, you will need to purchase a mushroom identification book that is specific to your area. This will help you differentiate between safe and potentially dangerous mushroom species.
Hiking is a great activity for little ones and big ones alike. It can be as simple as a quarter mile walk at the city park, to a week long trip to the mountains of the west. A simple Google search can point you to some great trails that you may not even know exist near you. What’s the point? Unplugging and exploring. It’s so much fun to see your child’s mind run wild as you navigate through some of the beautiful country around you.
Your little ones will love grabbing their own nature journal and collecting outdoor treasures! Go to the store and purchase a .50 notebook and a roll of tape. Let them draw what they see. Collect leaves, grasses, even attach small baggies of soil and mosses from new areas you visit. While they are collecting these things, you can be collecting pictures of them and the world around you. Get those photos processed and include them in the journal entries. Who knows? You might even start a nature journal for yourself!
Want to teach your kid confidence, awareness, responsibility, and respect? Train them well with archery or firearms. No experience with these things? There are programs all over the country that teach firearms safety and proper shooting techniques. Many of them are free to participants. Check out the NSSF website for kid’s shooting opportunities!
When we teach our kids the wonders of the outdoors, we adjust their mindsets from one of consumption to a mind of exploration and creativity. When we teach them that God has a hand in each of these things, we point them to a strong faith and fear of the Lord. Get outside this spring and watch them grow!