Contributed by Al Quackenbush, The SoCal Bowhunter
Family is a blessing that many take for granted, myself included. Ever since my daughter was old enough to walk, my wife and I have involved her in outdoor activities and it is amazing to see how much she learns and wants to be a part of. I am going to share some of the things I do as an outdoorsman that you can do with your kids to get them interested in the outdoors, too.
My wife shares wonderful walks at our local parks and the El Dorado Park Nature Center in Long Beach, CA. It is a wonderful way to ‘get away’ and just hike and see nature up close. While I enjoy a good hike with them, I also like to involve my daughter more in the aspects of hunting and fishing and what daddy likes to do. Should she choose to partake is entirely up to her, but so far it’s stuck. Here are some of the things that I like to do that she has grown to enjoy.
Product testing is something I truly enjoy. When I get a product to review, she is inquisitive and wants to see if she can try it out. Most times it’s either too big for her or something not safe for a child. Other items, like binoculars fascinate her and I love seeing her reaction when she first spots something through the eyepieces. Now when I go out in the backyard or even on a hike she asks to bring the binoculars so she can see the birds or animals up close. Before long, she might be by my side as my scouting partner in the national forests.
As a bowhunter, I consistently shoot my bow and arrows. She observes this and also hears me talking about it constantly. Last year I bought my daughter her first bow complete with suction cup arrows. She would shoot it at her plastic target for a few minutes and then grow bored. Now that I have my 3D Rinehart deer target in the backyard she also wants to shoot it. The first time she asked to shoot the deer I was a proud papa! I showed her where to shoot, but also explained that no matter what she did she should have fun. The very first arrow was a well-placed suction cup shot to the vitals. She was ecstatic and I positively showed my excitement as well by giving her a big hug and having her shoot again. She shot a few more times and all missed the target, but I didn’t care. I encouraged her nonetheless and told her how proud I was that she was practicing and having fun. Always encourage your kids when it comes to things like this. Not only do they need it emotionally, but it helps build confidence!
Fishing is the same way, but daddy needs to get moving on this one. With her princess fishing pole in one hand and the backyard or driveway at her disposal, she casts over and over. She casts and pretends to land the rubberized fish on the end of her line. She has been asking me for months to take her fishing and it’s now time for me to put my money where my mouth is. The same park mentioned above has a stocked ‘lake’ (I say it’s a pond) with fish. Whether we catch anything isn’t the point. Spending time with her and seeing her enjoy the sport is what I am after. If she catches something, it’s just a bonus.
Tracking animals is something she picked up on her own. She wanted to go on an adventure and one day, I took her to Bass Pro Shops and immediately she started asking about the tracks. She amazed me by how quickly she caught on and the fact that she remembered what animal each track belonged to. Now when we go hiking or even in our own yard, she’ll eyeball the flower bed and if she spots a track she will follow it.
The best part in all of this is that I get to smile and enjoy my little girl growing up. She has been unknowingly applying all of what she has learned to her learning to read, spell and just have fun, too. My wife taught her how to spell a while ago, but now she is teaching her to read and spot words. She learns them from flashcards and now hunts through her books trying to find the words she has learned. She does a great job and she gets much encouragement from both of us. She is also rewarded for sticking to it and getting through an entire book.
As you can see, spending time with your kids in the outdoors doesn’t have to just be an outdoor activity. You can apply the knowledge and fun to other activities, too. Interacting with my family and watching how we all grow makes me a very proud husband and dad. Now I am going to show this entry to my daughter and see how many words she can spot. Time for us to go scouting… for hidden words that is!