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Have you ever taken a little kid fishing? As much as I love providing my kids with a new experience, to be honest, it kind of sucks the fun out of fishing.
To be fair, fishing isn’t exactly the most exciting activity for younger kids. Heck, it took me 25 years to finally get into fishing, so I get it.
But if you’d like to raise outdoor loving kids, nature enthusiasts, and future anglers, the earlier you start, the better. It’s important to take them out there, even when it doesn’t feel worth it. Even when you only get a few minutes of fishing in, it can still be a successful day fishing with your kiddos.
To be honest, most days, it’s more work than it’s worth (for me at least). But here’s why you should take your 3, 4, or 5-year-old out fishing (or hunting, or camping, or pretty much anything else outdoors), even when you know it won’t be that much fun for you.
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Building Positive Associations, Making Early Memories
When I take my now 5-year old out fishing, I’m likely to get 5 or 10 good minutes of casting. 30 minutes if I’m really lucky. But then he’s onto something else. And if I didn’t land a fish during that time, I’m out of luck.
It can be super frustrating, since it seems like a waste of time to take him fishing. But it’s not.
I’m learning that it’s all about building positive associations and happy memories anytime we go out.
If you take kids out fishing, and insist on doing it your way…
- The only thing we are doing is fishing
- It’s going to be at least a few hours
- No swimming, throwing rocks, playing on the playground, etc
…then what’s going to happen? They’ll associate fishing as a strict, boring activity. Bad association (which happened to me when I went fishing with my friend’s dad as a kid).
Instead, try to make it as fun for them as possible. Afterall, you are taking them fishing for their sake, not yours.
So if you only fish for 5 minutes before skipping rocks, swimming, and playing at the playground, was it a productive day?
Your kid will look back and think, “That was a fun day fishing. Lets go again!” Even though there was hardly any fishing involved.
And as their attention span gets longer, and they get a little older, you can [hopefully] spend more time fishing than on the other activities.
But when your kid is 3, 4, or 5, you can’t expect too much. Start creating enjoyable experiences around fishing that will make for positive associations and pleasant memories.
Make the Day About Them
There are 2 very different ways of taking your kids fishing;
- Planning a fishing outing for you, and then bringing them along
- Planning a fishing outing specifically for your kid(s)
When you plan a day, an afternoon, or an hour, fishing for your child, it will be much more enjoyable for them. It might involve a lot less fishing but will be a lot more fun for them, and much easier for you.
Planning an outing around them considers;
- Length of time
- Other nearby activities
- Method of fishing
Last year, when my son was 4, here’s what I did.
Length of time; only an hour or 2.
A good location means staying close to home. Nothing dampers my son’s spirits like a long drive. Plus, I want to choose a spot that will be easy to catch fish. I won’t have time to find fish. I want a pond or lake with a dock or bank where I’m guaranteed to catch fish. A beautiful, natural setting is a plus, but isn’t mandatory.
I also want a spot that has other fun things my kid can do. I often choose a local pond near our house with a playground and a creek. My son loves donning his rain boots and trudging up the creek. And of course, playing on the playground to his heart’s content.
And lastly, the method of fishing. Because I know my son’s attention span is short, I need to catch fish fast. For me, this usually means using worms.
Sure, this won’t teach a kid patience when it comes to fishing, but it will give them the thrill of catching a fish. We all know that’s how to get anyone hooked on fishing.
PS, don’t forget to pack more snacks than you think you’ll need.
Until That Day
I can’t wait for the day when I’m going fishing at dawn and my son asks to go with me.
But I know that if I want him to get to that point, he needs to first fall in love with fishing. That means understanding the type of person he is, how his brain works, and creating special fishing experiences specifically for him.
And I’ve taken this approach to other activities as well, such as camping, hiking, and paddling. I want him to fall in love with all of these things. As a parent to a naturally cautious kid, I’ve found that it looks different for me.
But hey, maybe this will be the year we move on from catching bluegill to catching trout. Fingers crossed.