Tips to help you connect your family to nature!
Nothing like the thrill of catching a big one- even if it is a carp!
Whether you’re a lifelong angler, or you’ve never picked up a rod and reel in your life, fishing can be a great way to spend time with your family and get outside to enjoy nature. What better way to spend a morning, or a whole day, than hanging out by a lake or river with a picnic and your kids, enjoying the chance for quiet and conversation? It can also be great for kids who are learning some life skills like patience, and the rewards thereof. Additionally, fishing is a fantastic way to teach kids about the fish, their habitat, their interaction with other plants and animals in the ecosystem, their life cycle, and so much more. The opportunities for outdoor education are endless!
As far as new outdoor activities go, fishing also has a fairly low barrier to entry. If you’re just starting out you can get a basic fishing rod and reel for about $20, and an adult fishing license for about $46 per year for the first one, and $36 for the second; kids under 16 generally don’t need a fishing license, except under special circumstances (e.g. if they’re planning to use more than one rod at a time, in which case they would need a second-rod stamp). That means that your family could get started with fishing for under $70, which will set you up for almost unlimited days spent by the lake or river. Go to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website (cpw.state.co.us) for a list of locations that sell fishing licenses, or for instructions on how to get your fishing license through the myColorado mobile app.
As you plan your entry to the world of the angler there are some safety considerations when fishing with kids, so plan for these potential issues in advance. Of course the most immediate danger for children is the water itself—make sure your kids are always supervised around the water, and consider having them wear lifejackets even if you aren’t fishing from a boat.
Sun exposure is also a concern, so cover up, use lots of sunscreen, and make sure everyone is staying well-hydrated throughout the day.
Another thing to think about are the fishing hooks—they’re great for catching fish, but they can also catch an unsuspecting bit of skin, or worse, if you’re not careful! There’s a handy device called a Hide-a-Hook Bobber™ that covers up the hook while casting, and it may be a wise investment to prevent any injuries. A sidearm cast is better and safer than an overhead cast for beginners, so if you are going to teach your kids to do their own casting you may want to teach the sidearm technique (there are plenty of YouTube videos available for you to learn, if you’re not sure how). You might also just do the casting yourself, and leave the bobber-watching and fish-reeling up to your kids instead. As long as they have a job, they’ll be happy spending time with you outdoors.
As you get ready for your fishing trip make sure you pack not only the fishing gear you’ll need but also sunscreen, sunglasses and hats, plenty of water, snacks or a full picnic lunch, bug repellant (especially if you’re headed up to the Grand Mesa!), and a first-aid kit. Be prepared for any adverse weather conditions as well, and pack a rain jacket if you’ll be any distance from your vehicle, and warm clothing for the shoulder seasons.
Now the obvious question is, where should you go to find the fish? This is a subject that’s best left to the experts—call or stop in at your local fishing store, and they’ll be more than happy to offer some suggestions well-suited to your kid’s age(s), the kind of fishing you want to do, the time of year, the time of day you plan to fish, and how far you want to drive. The folks at the fishing store have probably been doing it for years and will know your local area the best, and they’ll be excited to help a new generation of anglers get started in the sport. They’ll also be helpful in setting you up with your new fishing gear!
Fishing is an activity that can involve the smallest toddler up through grandma and grandpa, and it’s a great excuse to get everyone outside, enjoying time spent by the water, having a picnic, and getting the whole family chatting. It’s no wonder fishing is one of the most popular activities in the country, and it’s never too late for you and your family to get started. Grab your rod and reel, pack your lunch, and head to the water! It’s guaranteed to be a fun day for the whole family.
Wearing his adventure vest, full of pockets to stow away treasures, this explorer is ready for the A-Z scavenger hunt!
A few weeks ago I was asked to watch my niece and nephew for the afternoon. I was thrilled and had big plans to take them for hikes, jump on the trampoline, order takeout, and other fun things only the “Cool Aunt” could provide. But what I was quickly reminded of was that I would have to compete against the Almighty Screen in order to get to play with my niece and nephew. After a mild effort, I was ready to throw in the towel and just be okay with making spaghetti and watching the kiddos “game” on their virtual devices. Their tablets were pointed at the ceiling broadcasting voices of neighborhood children simultaneously plugged into the game and subsequently checked out of the present moment. Then, a small opportunity presented itself − the tablet-encased voices were shouting, “We have to go and eat dinner!” This meant I might have some leverage to persuade my niece and nephew to play with me, a non-digital entity. I quickly suggested a walk in the sunshine, which was ignored. Then I suggested riding bikes, which got me a “maybe.” When I brought up the idea of a scavenger hunt, I finally got a reaction! My nephew leapt off the couch and, ran upstairs to put on his adventure vest which was full of pockets and made him look like he could have been Steve Irwin’s assistant. My niece, who rarely wears shoes, was off the couch looking for her flip-flops. Although not true adventure wear, I wasn’t going to stop our forward progress into the outdoors.
1 point for the Cool Aunt!
We ran around the front yard looking for clues and quickly putting them in a pocket of the adventure vest. We climbed over bridges, stormed through gates, looked under rocks, and absorbed a good hour’s worth of Vitamin D. For our next go around, my niece suggested a version of a scavenger hunt that would let us all play at the same time and more importantly would expand our adventure beyond the familiarity of the front yard. As we made our way around the block my nephew asked, “Can we go as far as we want?” I gleefully said “Yes,” and the memories of trying to get him off the couch just a few hours earlier quickly faded from all of our minds. Later, I would hear things like, “I like looking closely at the tree bark because it is so interesting,” and, “we may need flashlights because I don’t want to quit!”
Another point for the Cool Aunt.
The Cool Aunt A-Z scavenger hunt:
As Michele Hart – the “cool aunt” discovered with the right enticement, - you too can get those kids off the couch and their screens. From close-to-home forays to summer-long hunts, an outdoor scavenger hunt introduces a healthy dose of competition while giving kids a chance to be free to explore and learn to observe!
There are all kinds of ways to set up a scavenger hunt for younger and older youth. Here are some additional ideas:
Clue and Route-based Teamwork: When you want to take a team-based approach, you can hide a list of clues or riddles, one leading to the next, with a prize waiting at the end. The kids work together to solve the clues; for example, “This tree has strips of bark that peel off and burn easily making it an excellent fire starter. Go here for your next clue!” (Destination: juniper tree.) And the next clue: “Now that you’ve found the juniper, look for the home of earthworms, vegetable scraps, and grass clippings.” (Destination: compost pile.). Tailor your clues to your kids’ age group and interests—and get creative with your prizes: s’more fixings, fishing gear, or just simple bragging rights.
Season-Long Treasure Hunts: These are the granddaddies of all outdoors scavenger hunts: the season-long activity accomplishment checklists! These involve visiting a string of locations and/or accomplishing a certain set of activities within a season (summer vacation, for example) or beyond. Items might include: spend the night out under the stars, catch and release a fish, go canoeing, reach the top of a mountain, build a shelter out of natural materials, spend the night in a canyon, etc. There are over 100 things every kid absolutely has to do before they are 12! For instance, have you peeked under a rock in a creek to see what’s underneath, walked a tight-rope on a log, dug for worms, danced in the rain, waded in a stream or spotted the big dipper? These are just a few of those 100 things. Need the list? You can download it from Generation Wild – The List. Most of these things you can do in a park, or in your backyard. You don’t have to go far to have fun outside - you just need to go!
Start a summer tradition with your family - simple quests for the littles and more complicated hints possibly riddles for the older kids - or have teams composed of multiple age groups for even more comradery. After all, no matter what your age, who doesn’t love a scavenger hunt?
To see the results of the A-Z scavenger hunt visit FOYAN Facebook. For some great hip pocket trail games and links to the backyard bucket list- go to our home page (www.friendsofyouthandnature.org)
Are you scrambling to find engaging activities for your kids this summer? With many summer camps cancelled, families are developing their own set of weeklong activities for smaller groups of children. Some are hiring a neighborhood teen as a camp counselor to bring energy and ideas.
To get started, ask your kids what they most look forward to about camp − then help them figure out which aspects you can re-create at home. That may mean field games like capture the flag or flashlight tag, mini cereal boxes at breakfast, camp songs, arts and craft projects, cooking experiments, trying a new outdoor sport and learning something new about the environment with a nature lesson!
“Summer” and “outside” go hand in hand. Take advantage of the local opportunities! Head to a park in a nearby town that you've never visited and try a hike there. Your kids will be intrigued by the change of scenery. Never gone geocaching before? Then grab your phone, download the app, and give it a try.
Although many national and state parks and museums are not offering their usual summer youth and family activities, there are still plenty of opportunities to learn about nature from the experts.
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is offering evening programs each night (except Monday) at 7:30 pm on various nature topics such as clouds, soundscapes, night skies, unloved birds and more. Spaces are limited because of social distancing so call ahead to make a reservation (970) 249-1914 x423. Gather a picnic dinner, arrive at the South Rim Visitor Center by 5:30-6:00 pm to pick up a junior ranger booklet and badge. You will have plenty of time to drive to one of the overlooks for a picnic, a short hike and arrive at the amphitheater by 7:30 pm for the 45 minute interpretive talk. Follow up with activities from the booklet. The Park also offers a one hour geology talk every day at 9:00 am− meet at the South Rim Visitor Center (reservations required).
In addition to the Junior Ranger program offered year-round, Colorado National Monument will be offering a self-guided family program at the visitor center that incorporates, wildlife, STEM experiments and paper crafts. Due to COVID-19, programs may adjust with little notice. Call ahead to learn more - 970-858-3617 x360
Ridgway State Park is an Agents of Discovery Mission Site with three trails offering nature-based challenge questions. It is a mobile educational gaming platform similar to “Pokémon Go” creatively using augmented reality to encourage youth and their families to explore the park in a fun, new way. The park also provides age specific junior ranger booklets that offer a more traditional way for kids to explore. Stop off at the visitor center for more information.
Family naturalist hikes are being offered by The Nature Connection to various local spots. Learn about flowers, fungi and flying friends along the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa National Forest on August 1. Another family naturalist hike to Flowing Park, Grand Mesa National Forest is scheduled for August 15. Call ahead to make reservations at (970) 872-5910.
Can you imagine what might have lived here during the ice age? Museums of the West offer some amazing resources for parents to engage their children in the curiosities of the past. The teacher resources on their website (https://museumofwesternco.com/visit/) are great for parents too. You can find online tours, interpretative videos, and trail guides to several dinosaur trails filled with fossils and tracks. Each museum has downloadable activities to extend the experience like scavenger hunts, and designing your own pottery.
Nature often can bring out the inner artist in your child. There are plenty of ideas for nature inspired arts and crafts. Splurge on some supplies! “Your True Nature” provides unique art and writing ideas inspired by the natural world such as creating a nature guide, camera-less photos, “A,B,C What do I see?”, leaf drawings, and more.
Summer is also a great time to teach your child basic outdoor survival skills. Turn a day hike or a camping trip into a teachable moment. There are several websites describing the outdoor survival skills such as how to find clean water, how to build a shelter, how to build a fire (with a flint) and properly extinguish it, how to dress for weather and the environment, how to find your way, and most importantly to “hug a tree” if you get lost (nasar.org).
Bird nests and baby birds are sure to grab your young ones attention during the summer. Now is a great time to encourage broader observations of birds and even learn the basics of birding. Start by identifying nine local birds. Friends of Youth and Nature is sponsoring a “Birds of a feather contest” for ages 5-19. Download and complete the bird ID worksheet, and send it in! The contest ends August 8 and winners are awarded binoculars! More information at https://www.friendsofyouthandnature.org/
Every kid under 12 needs to make sure they are checking off activities on The List! It’s the list of 100 things every kid absolutely has to do before they are 12. No doubt there are a few things that can be checked off this summer such as making a worm hotel, or a sock garden, baking some tasty s’mores in a sun oven or making a soda bottle sprinkler. Need The List? You can download it from generationwild.com. Also, get video instructions on some pretty cool backyard hacks.
Here on the Western Slope of Colorado, we have the best “backyard” in the world. You don’t have to go far for some great outdoor adventures. Check our website at www.friendsofyouthandnature.org under “providers” and “resources for teachers and parents” for more ideas. With a bit of planning and preparation, an activity filled DIY camp for kids is as easy as a walk in a park!
Blogs for spring!
Simple Ways to get your Kids Gardening (3/2021)
Ethnobotany with Kids
Northside Elementary Learning Garden a Winner (05/2021)
Kids in the Garden-Oh Yeah! (8/2020)
DIY Summer Camps for Kids (7/2020)
Birds of a Feather (6/2020)
Hiking with Children 101 (8/2019)
Kids, Dogs, & Hikes: A winning combination (11/2020)