How to Teach Your Kids to Love the Outdoors
Picture this: you are patiently baiting your child’s fishing pole for what seems like the hundredth time that day, and she is bouncing up and down impatiently waiting to get back to fishing, As you do, you think back to your own childhood and how much you loved to learn how to fish from your own father, as well as your own introduction to nature and camping.
Maybe you were one of the lucky children who were raised with an appreciation and respect for the outdoors. Maybe your family always had a huge garden and maybe raised chickens and cows and pigs for meat, and you were taught to recycle everything you could. Maybe you were taught to always respect the environment. You were taught about the damage done to the forests in the Adirondacks because of unchecked logging, as well as the polluted lakes and streams. From as early as you can remember, you have always been aware of the majesty of the outdoors, but also the fragile balance.
A lot of peoples’ memories are the camping and fishing trips you may have went on as children. If you were lucky, you had a father who always loved fishing and camping and wanted to instill in you the same love. Hopefully, he would spend hours teaching you how to tie a fly, how to cast in all water conditions, even how to descale and clean a fish.
He would also have taken you on camping trips where you learned how to tell what direction you were going by the moss on the tree, how to build a camp fire and how to pitch a tent. He would also teach you how to read tracks, what plants were safe to eat and what animals were present.
Will you ever forget your sense of wonder when walking quietly through the forest on a still summer morning while the fog was still lifting off the water. Or the first time you opened a milk weed pod to discover the milky substance within. Or maybe it was the sight of a trout leaping out of the water on a warm summer evening to snatch an insect hovering too low over the water. Or the eerie call of a loon at night while snuggled in your sleeping bag.
These are all such good memories, but unfortunately life sometimes gets in the way. You grow up, get married and have kids of your own. Although you may have passed on a lot of the things your father taught you to them, you may have not had a chance to put anything into practice.
Although you may have had access to incredible fishing streams and lakes, you probably didn’t spend much time with your kids roaming the back roads and abandoned train tracks in search of bass, trout and northern pikes. But it is never too late to instill in your kids the incredible memories you had growing up and raise another generation of kids who love camping and the outdoors.
So how do you teach your kids to love fishing and the outdoors? It’s very simple: expose them to it. Even before they can walk, you can take them for hikes, carrying them on your back in a carrier. From their perch, they can observe everything around them. That’s not the case in a stroller. Basically a child in a stroller can only see the confines of the stroller itself, not the world around them.
When the kids are old enough to understand and are walking on their own, take them for short walks in the woods. Show them how to identify toad stools and trees. Show them how a pine cone feels, what a frog sounds like. Use a dip net in a pond and help them identify the different tadpoles and damsel fly larvae. The more enthusiasm you have and the more time you spend with them, the more they will want to learn.
But don’t stop there. Teach them how important it is to preserve the environment. Unfortunately, most people don’t respect the environment and throw their trash everywhere, even on pristine trails. Whenever you go out hiking, take along trash bags and teach your children to pick up trash. You can make a game out of it, with the kids competing on who can pick up the most trash. Teach them about how animals can be threatened by careless trash.
The most important thing is to take the children camping as much as you can. Teach them how to pitch a tent, start a campfire, chase fireflies and tell ghost stories while making S’mores. Bring along a telescope and help them see the stars flung like diamonds across the night sky. All of these memories will last a lifetime for them.
Your children will have the time of their lives and will always remember the time you spend with them, how much you love them and how much fun it is to camp and spend time outdoors. Without a doubt, they will pass on that love to their children and your legacy will live on to the next generation.