When we go fishing it is usually a family event. Obviously we can’t do much “serious fishing” most of the time (though obviously you can still catch some good fish like those bass!) because our kids are young – ages 6, 4, and 2. So there is a combination of trying to involve them, entertain them, keep an eye on them, and know when they’re “done.” We’ve had quite a bit of trial and error working up to finding out what works for us, and I’d love to share some tips we’ve picked up along the way! If you have some tips of your own – please share!
Tips for kid-friendly fishing:
- Make sure EACH child has a kid-friendly pole. Yes, even the 2 year old. Parents, you know how it goes – if the older siblings have one the youngest MUST have one, too. Otherwise there will be A LOT of fighting and tears and you won’t get to do much fishing at all! Tip for the toddlers – don’t put a hook on it! He casts his bobber in and out of the water over and over again and flings it everywhere, so obviously having a hook on his line would be dangerous because he can’t understand what is OK and not OK. I, unfortunately, can’t recommend a “good age” for when they can transition simply because all 3 of our kids have developmental special needs, so their age of understanding may be very different from children who are developmentally advanced or average. My suggestion: try it without a hook first, and keep working on explaining that they need to leave it in the water and be very careful – treat it as if it does have a hook. When they get to where you know they understand that and are more conscious and careful of their actions give it a shot!
- That being said: accidents can happen! Be very conscious of everything they’re doing when they are casting, reeling in, etc. Again, our kids think and understand differently, and even still they forget or get distracted, etc. Our daughter has cast when her big brother was next to her and the hook got him. Nothing major, no hospital necessary, but I know it hurts!! As parents we know we can’t prevent ALL accidents, and we have to do the best we can. The best you can may mean you should always keep a first aid kit with you!
- Know your terrain. Whenever we go to a new spot we check out the terrain before committing to it. The #1 thing we look for – a gradual slope to the water. Kids are good at not paying attention and tripping (especially ours! haha), so if there is a steep drop-off from the ground to the water it’s not the spot for us. If they can’t just walk into the water (which they definitely have done many times on purpose!) then we generally think twice about it. As much as “familiar” spots get boring to you, if you mix it up too often you again have to learn your surroundings and any potential hazards there may be for the kids, so sometimes sticking to a few familiar spots is better for everyone!
- Have plenty of snacks and other things for the kids to do. As much as we love fishing, our kids sometimes just don’t love it that much or aren’t interested in it at all. Now I’ve been fishing since I was our youngest’s age, but just like all 3 of our kids are very different from each other I can’t expect them to be just like I was! Our oldest, in particular, sometimes just doesn’t care for it AT ALL. We pack some folding chairs, a cooler or picnic tote of snacks and drinks, the iPad, their DS, etc. Worse case scenario – we turn on a movie in the SUV. Yeah, it may have just turned into the “not what I pictured” trip, but they’re happy, and we still get to fish! So, ultimately, that decision is do you want everyone to fish or do you want everyone to be happy and enjoy some time outdoors? Maybe you do prefer no media outdoors – pack some buckets, cups, etc., and find them a few good sticks! Our kids can play for a couple of hours shoveling dirt and sand and drawing in the dirt with sticks! Our latest purchase were fishing nets for them so they can just play with them at the shore!
- Dress them appropriately. Nothing ruins a trip more quickly than realizing they have tennis shoes and jeans and just walked into the water! Sure, I don’t mind the laundry, but they don’t like wearing wet pants or having wet shoes and socks, but they LOVE to wade in the water! So if we go to a spot where that is easy for them to do, we make sure we’re prepared (the spot pictured above is not a spot where they step in the water). Bring a change of clothes and towels if necessary (which I do regardless), and dress them in something comfortable so if they want to step in the water a little they can! Shorts and cheap sandals or water shoes! Plus you always want to make sure they’re comfortable with whatever type of weather you may have – like in Texas it’s hot or hotter! LOL
- Let them help! As frustrating as it can be sometimes when they’re in your face when you’re hooking a worm for them or putting a lure on your line, etc., tell them what you’re doing! It’s a great way for them to learn as well as get that special time with them! Our daughter, in particular, likes to play with the worms (the real worms), so we let her play with the worms! She gets to pick her own worm as well! Actually, she wouldn’t accept otherwise! haha Let them touch the fish you/they catch and explain where it’s not OK to touch them depending on the type of fish. If they’re small enough for them to carry let them put the fish back in the water (if you’re putting it back). They get to interact and get in some natural learning time!
- Be prepared. Besides the first aid kit, change of clothes, towel, snacks, drinks, etc. I also suggest having both sun screen and bug repellent. We, personally use natural products, of course, but regardless of what you use be sure to have both! Even sun that doesn’t seem that strong can really be coming through clouds and reflected by the water! Mosquitoes here seem to be unpredictable. Some nights are worse than other. Even with the natural products I don’t like to put it on if we don’t have to mostly because of our kids not liking the feel of the products in general, but if the mosquitoes are out, they’re getting some on whether they like the way it feels or not! haha Depending on your area you may need to have other tools readily available. My husband always keeps his machete on hand in case there is a snake or something. We also always have a flashlight just because we always have one in the car anyway as well as any tools we may need for cutting line, changing lures, etc.
- Know when it’s time to go. If the kids aren’t having fun chances are you aren’t either. Sometimes your trip gets cut short much sooner than you’d like, but there is no sense in everyone being miserable. Besides, is that what you want them to associate with fishing? If they’re done, they’re done, and so are you, so just pack up and try another time. We try to time our fishing adventures in the evening when it gets cooler and before they are too tired for the night. It may take a few trips out to figure out what’s the best time for everyone in the family, but don’t give up! You’ll get into a nice groove and start enjoying time together and making great memories!