Family vacations and gatherings took a different turn this summer as they lived with and adapted to Covid-19 issues. Fortunately, it is not only possible, but also recommended, to engage in various fishing and boating activities. This means there are plenty of outdoor family activities for you to enjoy while your family stays safe, healthy, and happy. Let me tell you about how I just spent a week doing outdoor family activities and maybe you can adjust some or all of them to find things to do outside with kids.
For the second summer in a row, my distant daughter and her family were able to spend a week with my wife and me in our coastal home. We focused on fishing and boating with our 5 and 7 year old grandchildren.
- Play a game of nature. I love the idea of doing an activity outside of nature such as a scavenger hunt or filling out an identification list with creatures / birds / fish, especially if there is an educational component. My wife and I developed a game we call Nature Bingo to entertain and raise our grandchildren. It’s a 5×5 box with squares and a list of things to do and / or discover. These range from observing various animals, birds, amphibians, crabs and the like to filleting a caught fish, learning to throw a fishing rod and paddling a kayak. The children are interested in different flora and fauna in the open air and are informed about them. Filling out the entire bingo card is rewarded with an ice cream cake.
- Catch crabs. The kids and their parents went straight to our dock, which is on a tidal stream, as soon as we arrived and in no time we had them working with bait catching blue crabs. Dock fishing for crabs can be done on most accessible piers and is something young and old alike can enjoy when using chicken parts or fish heads as bait. We also set up larger pots of crab, and the combined catch contributed to a seafood feast.
- Collect bait. Children love to collect or catch bait, and once they learn how to do it, they often do so alone and with great pride. This could mean scouring lawns for night crawlers, wading shallow streams for hellgrammites or crabs, baiting and setting various types of traps, etc. I have traps that we bait with pieces of filleted fish and the kids love them each Day to check to see if you’ve caught mummy dogs, spots, and other small fish that we can then use for our fishing efforts.
- Go kayaking. Kayaking can be a great activity even if kids are too young or too small to paddle alone. With a sufficiently large cockpit or sit-on-top kayak, a paddling parent or grandparent can take a teenager as a passenger. Children 6 or 7 years of age who have the will and the physical ability can paddle an appropriately sized kayak on their own in calm and sheltered waters, or sit in front of you in a tandem kayak and help paddle. Kayak rentals are widespread, and renting them is a great way to get your first impression, explore uncharted waters, and paddle without having to transport boats.
- Family fishing. Obviously, fishing is one of the family’s penultimate outdoor activities in summer. We made our grandchildren fish twice, with striped bass, bluefish, and speckled trout on the agenda. The kids had never caught these fish before so it was a whole new and enjoyable experience. They helped clean the fish afterwards and then ate the fresh catch for dinner, which is as good as it gets when it comes to seafood. Whatever you fish for when it comes to young children, keep it simple, relatively short, and at a time and place where you can reasonably expect success. The middle of a toasted midsummer day is usually not a good time to go fishing.
- Go to the beach. Beach walking is also an obvious and popular change for families and can be enjoyed during the hottest part of the day. We went to the beach twice, collecting more clams than we knew how to do and watching wildlife like crabs, turtles, waders, pelicans, terns and the ubiquitous seagulls.
- Hauling pipes. When you have a boat and young children, one of the most fun water-based activities is towing the boys who sit or lie on a tow tube, which comes in a variety of models. I used to have a spherical two-person tow tube that one person lay on or two people sat on, but this year we used a two-person seat tube. Towable tube riding is a hit with almost all kids, and unlike waterskiing (which I did as a teenager and was a lot of fun too) anyone can do it with no learning curve or the need for strength or balance.
Remember that in addition to the driver, you must have an elderly observer on the boat (see local regulations) and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the use of tubing (such as passenger weight and boat speed) and safe boating practices.
Finally, make sure the teens wear their PFDs for all boating activities as this is required and that you have proper fishing permits for anyone who may need them.