Getting Kids Outdoors by Katrina Thennis
The day was chilly and the clouds were low when we all piled out of our vehicles and headed towards the trail head. Pretty soon there were children jumping off of rocks and racing each other around. As we went along we saw a herd of four mule deer does ahead and some of the kids went into stalker mode and began crawling on the ground and sneaking behind the brush to see how close they could get to the deer, with an older boy standing up to take an imaginary shot as he drew close to them. Back behind them, another group of kids had turned over a rock and they were discussing what type of bugs they might have found and why they thought so. We moved on again with the kids climbing the steep side hill next to the trail and then learning they had to figure out how to come back down with out sliding wildly. It began to snow, but nobody seemed to notice as they continued up to our destination…
So this wasn’t the start to an epic hunt or fishing trip, but it was one of my favorite parts of having children, seeing them take an interest in the outdoors and watching their skills expand while they think they are just playing. I know how much I love getting outside and how important it is that the next generation understands the privilege we have of participating in activities like hunting and fishing and I want to see my kids choosing to get out to enjoy these things. Plus, there’s a lot of distractions that will keep them indoors so it’s important to us that we create experiences that move them to get back out there again. Training up our next generation of sportsmen doesn’t have to look like a hunting or fishing experience each time, there are so many ways to build a love for the outdoors.
My friend Amy and I lead a Nature Journaling Club and it’s allowed me to observe other families who put a high priority on acquainting our children with nature. It looks different for each family and I thought I would share how some of these families are incorporating this into their lives.
We recently met a family who moved to our area and their oldest son, Preston, loves fishing. And not just a little, this kid seems to live and breath fishing and he wants to be a fishing guide when he grows up. I asked if he would tell me a little bit about what draws him to this sport and I love the wisdom he had to share:
“My favorite outdoor activities are fishing, hunting and hiking. My dad and I were driving down the road talking about what I wanted to be when I grew up and he told me what a fishing guide was and it sounded just right for me. I love to fish, love the water and if you can find a job you love, it’s not work anymore. To pursue my career I am watching YouTube videos about fly fishing and trying to get on the water any second I can. My advice to kids is to get outdoors and listen to the peace and quiet. No technology, just you and the river.”
Besides hunting and fishing, their family does a lot out-of-doors, they like to be outside, so when the weather is nice they ride their bikes and scooters. As a family they like to go explore new places and after visiting their first ghost town and loving it, they have plans to go visit more this year. They all enjoy hiking and they go fishing every chance they get. Even just walking their dogs to the park so their children can play basketball or play on the playground helps build a love and a habit of being outside.
In our family we have a daughter who is 10 yrs old and this year she can hunt deer in Montana through a mentor program. She’s super excited about it and has started shooting a 22 at rifle club. She learns to enjoy the outdoors through activities like camping, biking, 4H, swimming, riding horses, and playing in the tree house with her friends. In general she likes looking for bugs, playing survival and learning survival skills. I love that some of her favorite books are The Little House series, I Survived: Worst Natural Disasters, Field & Stream’s The Total Outdoorsman Manual, Smithsonian Handbooks: Horses and Usborne’s Starting Riding. Olivia would encourage other kids to get outside and participate in outdoor activities because “being outside is like being the character in a book, but you actually get to do what they do. Rather than just reading about or watching other people do things, I like to get out and do them.” As a family we also do a lot of gardening, we like to go fishing, practice our archery and go hiking, plus my husband and I hunt and we have taken the kids along on some easier hunts. I think just having a mentality of enjoying the outdoors goes a long way.
My friend Amy that I referenced earlier has an interesting view point, she is a writer and used to record sound for wildlife videos and her husband works for FWP. She says; “We are mostly a hiking, camping, fishing family. I like hiking and camping the most while Grant is the fishing guru. The boys love it all. It doesn’t take a whole lot of encouragement to get them outside since they do enjoy it so much. Plus, it’s always been a part of what we do. Early on Grant and I agreed they will not participate in sports because that consumes most evenings and weekends. Being out in nature is more important to our entire family. It’s something we enjoy together, and it builds memories.”
Both her oldest son and my daughter enjoy a mutual interest in insects and it’s fun to see them charge out the door when they get together to go see what they can find in the yard and garden. Her boys also raised some frogs from tadpoles last year and that was a hit. Her son blogs about his scientific findings in nature and that has inspired my children as well. Finding friends that share the same interests you do is a great way to encourage your kids to get out more. It can also inspire you, Amy schedules a lot of hikes and fun events that she invites us to and it has helped me learn this area of Montana more and helps us find new things we enjoy.
So what are you doing to open up the exciting world of hunting, fishing and the great out-of-doors for the next generation of outdoor kids?