Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer Fun!

Summer is by far my favorite season and brings such nostalgia for me and a longing to make wonderful memories for my kids to have as they grow up. The long days of running around the neighborhood with bare feet, climbing trees, building treehouses, swimming until our fingers and toes resembled prunes and chasing down the ice cream truck for a cherry screwball, the cone shaped sherbert with the gumball on the bottom (kids of the 80's know what I'm talking about:) are some of my fondest childhood memories. My family's summer traditions have been built around our interests and most of them include being in nature. Summers outside are the best! Here are our favorite summer activities and some we will be doing for the first time this summer!

Camping is a great way to get outside into nature. Since our primitive camping experience, we have gone camping again at Disney's Fort Wilderness. My kids love it there! From horseback riding to campfire sing alongs and movies under the stars, it is camping at it's finest!
 If you don't want to plan a big camping trip, set up a tent in the backyard and camp. Use a firepit to roast marshmallows and tell stories or sing songs. This is such a great family bonding experience!

Check out a local horse farm to see if they have trail or pony rides. We did a trail ride at Fort Wilderness and my little guy did a pony ride and it was fun to be out in nature with the horses. 

Kayaking is one of our favorite family activities. It brings you so close to all kinds of  plants and animals in a serene environment. We love to hop off our kayaks in the ocean or spring and snorkel around to check out the underwater environment.

Summer is a great time for looking to the sky and the trees around you to check out the bird world. We love to take hikes at our local state parks or the Florida birding trail to see what bird species we can find. If you have trees in your neighborhood, you can just take a walk down the street to find some feathered friends. Sitting on our back porch this morning we saw a woodpecker, a bluejay, a cardinal and a mockingbird in all of five minutes! I always tell my little guy the names of the birds so he can learn them, too, and if we find an unfamiliar bird, we get out our bird handbook and look it up!

If you live near an ocean or will be visiting one this summer, check out the Sea Turtle Conservancy and their programs for sea turtle walks. June through August is when sea turtles make their way to the beach to nest and while on one of these turtle walks there is a great chance for you to watch this amazing occurance.  We are signed up for one in Melbourne for this month and are so excited about it! 

 Fishing with kids is so much fun. It's a great way to interact together and spend time as a family.

Geocaching is a fast growing hobby for many outdoor enthusiasts. It's basically an outdoor treasure hunt where you use GPS as a guide to find a hidden container at specific coordinates. To play, you just register online and pick a location. This is definitely on our summer bucket list!

We are so excited about these activities, but my kids will definitely be outside with their bare feet making fun memories on their own as well!

 Happy Summer!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fishing Fun with Kids

Living in Florida, we spend a lot of time on the lake. Our city alone consists of 16 lakes which are all connected by canals. These lakes make up the southern part of the Chain of Lakes in Central Florida, including Lake Eloise, which used to be the home of Cypress Gardens and is now home to Legoland Florida. My husband is an avid fisherman and has fished these lakes since he was a child. I am so grateful that he has passed his love of fishing on to our children. As a family, we enjoy being out on the lake and fishing together. My little guy has been fishing since he was a year and a half and at three years old, has learned to cast and reel in his own fish!

The great thing about fishing is that it is inexpensive, easy to learn, and can be done anywhere there is a body of water.  Fishing is a great way to connect with and learn about nature. My kiddos have learned to be respectful to the animals we come across, including the fish we catch, through time spent on the water. It builds an appreciation for nature by linking them to the natural world and fosters a caring and responsible attitude towards nature. The environment is calm and relaxed and away from distractions, which can help open up communication with your kids. Fishing also stimulates learning from the opportunities available for problem solving and decision making.

Here are some things I've learned for getting and keeping my kids interested in fishing:

Have Your Equipment Ready To Go
Get your equipment in working order before you leave. Have your rod and reel and your bobber strung up and ready to fish with. This will avoid frustration at the lake and will ensure your kids are able to fish right away.

Gather Your Own Live Bait
If possible, let your kids help you dig for worms in the yard for bait or give them a net to let them catch their own minnows. My little guy loves nothing more than to go in the backyard with his shovel and dig up worms for his fishing trip or jump in the lake and catch minnows with his net. In my experience, live bait is the best bait for catching fish.

Fish On The Shore
We have a boat to fish from, which we do often, but my little guy prefers to fish on the shore. He loves to catch the little bluegill which swarm near the shore in early summer. It gives him the opportunity to run and play and move around while he's fishing. Which brings us to the next tip...

Don't Worry About The Size 
My little guy has caught tilapia, bass, large saltwater fish like redfish and snook, but his favorite thing to catch is bluegill. Don't worry about catching large fish. Just have fun catching whatever is biting, even if it's just bluegill or some other small fish. They are usually more plentiful and easier to catch which makes it fun for kids.

Help Them Learn
It's easy to step in and solve problems for kids, but let them try to work it out first. If the line gets tangled or the hook snags, let them try to figure out how to deal with it. If the fish stop biting, let them decide what should be done to get them biting again. Work with them to figure out a solution. Let them develop skills which will improve their self esteem.

Be Responsible
Educate your children on the importance of a clean environment, which includes not littering. Show children how to properly release a fish and make good use of the fish you keep. Follow all rules and regulations and teach kids to do the same.

Fishing is a great way to spend quality time with your kiddos. Keep an open mind and take cues from them. Small children don't have a lot of patience so limit time to ward off boredom. Make sure to plan another trip. Talk about what they had fun doing and what wasn't so fun so you can plan your next trip accordingly.

Happy Fishing!

Update: Fishing is addictive. Here's my son fishing this past week.
He's gotten pretty good at it!