My first thoughts on this subject were way off base; I was thinking about a rabbit hunt but really didn’t want to wait until the kids were old enough to use a gun. For me I was thinking of my grandchildren they are 5 to 10 years old. That’s when I remembered taking them to the pond last summer to catch some gills and goldfish. On the 100 yard walk to the pond the kids showed me what they wanted to do for their first hunt.
We had not even got to the end of the driveway before the kids started chasing bugs and asking questions at a mile a minute. If it moved it got the attention of the grandkids and they stayed entertained for as long as we would let them. We did have a blast catching fish but the fishing was constantly being interrupted by anything that moved. As we were out there for the kids we let them take the lead to see what they thought was fun. That’s when I realized the way to get them interested in the great outdoors was not taking them on a 5 mile hike through the swamp or even a 4 hour session of sitting in a deer blind. Starting them out slow doing something that was action packed was going to be much more appropriate. A boring or exhausting trip to the woods will more likely turn a child off from wanting to go back out.
After talking to and watching many kids outside we have found a few activities that most all children will enjoy that can possibly lead them to a lifetime of respect and enjoyment of the out of doors. One of the things that kids love to do and cannot resist has to be chasing lightning bugs. Every time a youngster sees that green glow buzzing around they are compelled to chase them they just can’t help themselves. We can all remember asking mom for a jar to put holes in the top and fill with grass so we could make a firefly lantern. If you get together a group of cousins, siblings, and friends you are likely to be rewarded with giggles and squeals that will warm the heart of any parent that has a love of the outdoor lifestyle. Even the smallest of child can easily have success with this activity and success breeds interest. We would suggest that as soon as the fun of the catching is over the kids are encouraged to release the catch so they don’t have to find dead bugs in the jar later. After all we are the main ones to teach our children to respect nature before someone else teaches them the opposite. We have also found that kids worn out from chasing lightning bugs tend to fall asleep very well and this is a bonus for us parents.
As much fun as it is chasing fireflies and other bugs it can only keep a child’s interest for just so long. There are ways to keep their interest a while longer, remember the butterfly nets we would find in our Easter baskets when we were kids. Hours of fun were had netting a new bug and asking our parents about it. With the internet the older kids can research their finds and even help their younger siblings find out all kinds of information that we never had available when we were young. You might be surprised how much effort kids will put into research for something that they have an interest in because they caught it themselves. This is a skill that can serve them well in the future and they won’t even notice that it is just like homework. Again please encourage gentle handling and live release.
For older kids or kids that are not afraid of a little dirt or slime having them help you gather worms for a trip to the pond can add another fun activity to the mix. Digging worms out of the leaf pile can make them want to go fishing even more than before. Night crawler hunting at night with lights can be a fun activity for the whole family. Though this does take some skill the sense of accomplishment will be greater. Time spent outside with your kids will always be time well spent and you never know you just might be able to create yourself a new hunting buddy for life.