Raising the next generation: All facets of nature are great for kids

Peterson re-learned recently that getting kids interested in nature often requires nothing more than a catch-and-release mission with crayfish, frogs, or other interesting little critters. (Photo by Tony Peterson)

As a hunter and fisherman, I’m always seeking ways to get my little girls interested in the outdoors. But I find myself considering their participation in terms of, well, hunting and fishing. That will continue as they get older, but I also find myself repeatedly learning a simple lesson with the girls: It’s really all about nature as a whole.

They don’t need to catch smallmouth or watch a turkey strut into the decoys to fall in love with being outside. Two events this month reminded me of that truth.

The first happened while we were up north. I wanted to fish, but the girls wanted to go on a critter-catching mission. So we netted a few crayfish and checked them out. It went pretty well, so well in fact, that they wanted to catch some frogs. We’ve got some solid frog-catching routes sussed out at the lake, so we headed down to the bulrushes to locate some leopard frogs.

The youngsters were out, and we had a few in the bucket when one of my daughters shouted that she saw a skink. It was, in fact, a baby garter snake, and you’d have thought we found a suitcase stuffed full of cash. They took turns holding the snake until it was time to set it, and its amphibious cell-mates, free.

When we returned from the lake, I sensed that my better half wouldn’t mind if I kept entertaining the girls. So we went outside on a skink-seeking mission. There are a few spots in our yard where we see skinks all summer, but catching them isn’t easy.

We checked the first spot and flushed one out, but it took a few close calls before we pinned him up against the house foundation and got him into a bucket. In the process, the tip of his tail fell off and started wiggling. The girls looked at it like it was a magic trick, which isn’t a terrible way to describe it.

Both catch-and-release critter hunts reminded me that kids just want to be outside and see cool stuff. They want to participate in nature and question the reasons for everything, and it’s a great way for family time. It’s also an important reminder that not every success in the outdoors hinges on pursuing fish and game.

Categories: Tony Peterson

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