I want my kids to appreciate getting outside, especially since we live in Montana. So, how can you foster a love of the outdoors in your kids when everything from social media to organized sports to academics competes for their time and their priorities? Easy, you lure them with toys, technology, and food. Here’s how you do it.
1. Cheap(ish) Toys
Compared to electronics, outdoor toys are cheap. Take the old rope swing at the lake. That’s usually free when you can find one. If not, do yourself a favor and forgo a new phone this year to buy an inflatable paddleboard. Even if you have just one, the kids can double up on it and entertain themselves for hours while you fish from the bank. When they return in time for lunch, I steal it and paddle to the middle of the lake where they can’t get me. I can always still seem to hear them, though.
Another fun time is an inert can of bear spray to let the kids practice. Please pick up an INERT can and not the real thing. It only lasts around 10 seconds, but it’s fun, and hopefully, they won’t be afraid to use the real stuff if they ever need to. While at the sporting goods store, please pick up some projectile device, whether a BB gun or a slingshot. After the mandatory safety lesson, let the kids loose to plink away.
2. Use Technology
We have lots of public land near our house, and it’s pretty wild. Bears, mountain lions, elk, deer, and plenty of squirrels call it home. A couple of miles from the trailhead, I’ll hang a trail camera with a screen you can view in the field. The only way the kids will see what’s on that screen is if they come on a dog walk with me. Unless the weather is truly miserable, they’re into it.
Kids are savvy with their devices, so download a few navigation apps and let them plan the next outing. I use onX maps for hunting; if I can figure out how to use it, then any kid can. I’ll plot the location of the trail camera on that app and have the kids lead me to it. Along those lines, check out the whacky world of geocaching. Treasure seekers use GPS coordinates to lead them to a geocache site where there is typically a stash of trinkets and a log book in a tree or a pile of rocks. Check out the geocaching.com app and sign up for a list of sites that will lead you to treasure just about anywhere you live.
And finally, what kid’s life would not be complete without their own action camera? I own an ancient Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 that’s waterproof and relatively bombproof. I give it to the kids, and they film everything from fish underwater to weird bark on ponderosa trees. Because there is only one camera and two of them, the competition gets heated…but it’s a life lesson in sharing, right? They haven’t lost it yet, and some of the film they took a few years ago brings back memories.
3. Catch, Cook, and Eat It
For some reason, my son is hellbent on keeping and eating whatever we catch or shoot. Fine by me. We cooked up the first decent-sized trout he caught, and he’s been hooked on fishing for dinner ever since. That same kid, though, was heartbroken when I shot a grouse and yanked the breasts out. He wanted no part of that experience until we breaded and fried the meat, which was delicious. I got two bites out of that bird. He ate the rest.
And then there is deer jerky. We kill and make our own deer jerky, and the kids devour the stuff. It’s so much cheaper than the store-bought stuff, and I know exactly where that meat came from and what’s in the jerky mixture. And if you’re looking for an excellent venison recipe, I have the recipe and how to make it right here.
Get those kids out there by any means necessary. If you have to spend a few bucks, then that’s okay. You’re going to make more than a few memories.