10 Ways to Spend the Summer with Children

Rivers are flowing, temperatures are rising, wildlife are returning to higher-elevation ranges, and schools are releasing students.These are signs of summer in Wyoming. For families still deciding what to do this season there is no better way to spend the hot, sunny, summer days than in the great outdoors. Challenge yourself and your family to try a few or all of the following activities for a summer worth remembering. 


Visit public lands

Wyoming has about 18 million acres of public land including state parks, national parks, forests, grasslands and wildlife habitat management areas. The cost of visiting public lands is usually free or a small daily fee, making them an affordable destination. Public lands offer different recreational opportunities for families, including ranger-led programming and public events, hunting, fishing, bird watching or hiking. In addition, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department manages WHMAs to benefit wildlife year-round. There are 44 WHMAs around the state covering approximately 450,000 acres. These areas include access to nearly 225 miles of streams, more than 21,000 lake surface acres and more than 148 miles of road right-of-ways. WHMAs are open all summer, beginning May 15 in most areas. 

Go fishing
The adrenaline rush of reeling in your first fish or the first catch of the day is enough to fall in love with fishing. By learning to fish children will gain a new skill and become comfortable handling worms, learn to identify fish species and make lasting memories. Families may learn spin-casting or fly-fishing, both enjoyable and worthwhile methods with challenging techniques to conquer. Before heading out, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department requires all adults and children over 14 to purchase a fishing license, confirm the regulations for the location they are angling and identify the creel limits for their sought-after fish species. If visiting from out of state, nonresident anglers under 14 do not need a fishing license but must be accompanied by an adult possessing a valid fishing license. 


Hike a trail

Whether for enjoyment or exercise, hiking allows people of all ages to explore new trails and areas within Wyoming. Hikers can decide which trail they want to venture on. Their decision will determine the intensity of their hike. Depending on your child’s abilities, you may travel along a long or short trail, up high elevations or low alongside a creek. Every path has its own characteristics and showcases a unique part of nature. To make the most of your hike, wear comfortable walking shoes like hiking boots or running shoes, bring plenty of water in a large water bottle or hydration pack and secure a navigation device such as your phone or a map and compass. Always anticipate needing more water than usual while hiking and prepare for emergencies by checking the weather forecast and informing others of your departure and arrival times. As you hike, consider taking frequent breaks. You can take photos of the scenery, practice bird identification and smell the budding flowers along the trail. 

Get out on the water
Safely traveling down a river or floating throughout a lake are great ways to exercise, fish or relax. Rent or purchase a canoe, kayak, paddleboard or watercraft you and your children will enjoy learning to maneuver. Make sure everyone who is on the water wears a properly fitted life jacket. Find a nearby public stream or lake to float and explore as a family. Game and Fish manages several areas for public access on waterways. State parks also are excellent places to explore Wyoming’s waters. 

Go camping
Camping allows individuals to unplug, literally and figuratively, from electronics and the hustle of everyday life. Cooking fireside meals, stargazing after sundown, listening to wildlife in the distance or hiking a new trail, campers of all ages will experience the benefits of surrounding themselves with nature, even if it’sonly for a weekend. Public lands, including state parks, national forests and national parks have multiple campgrounds available for the public to stay for a small fee. When you register to stay within available campgrounds and campsites, check the event calendar for their special programming.For more advanced campers, dispersed camping is available on many public lands. This option is best for those who don’t need running water or restrooms. 

Enjoy the quiet
Sometimes it is nice to stop and enjoy the peace of the natural world. It can be sitting in your yard, or atop a mountain. Young children may not have the motor skills for physically demanding outdoor activities, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the outdoors. Fancy equipment and gear are not necessary to spend time outdoors, either. Encourage your children — and yourself — to enjoy being outside by reading a new book, napping in the shade of a tree or listening to the sounds of nature. Reduced stress, promoted mental health and increased vitamin D intake are a few of the many benefits adults and children receive outdoors.


Build A fire

Summer fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. Teach your child how to safely build a fire. Be sure to explain the three necessary components of a fire: heat, fuel and oxygen, and the three types of fuel: tinder, kindling and fuel wood. Layer the kindling on top of the tinder. Start the fire with a lighter or match. Position the fuel wood in a log cabin or teepee fashion to the flames and add logs until the fire has reached the desired size. Once the fire is burning in a contained location like a fire pit, create lasting memories by singing campfire songs, locating constellations in the stars and eating s’mores. When it is time to put the fire out, emphasize the importance of properly dousing the flames to prevent a wildfire from starting. Completely drown the fire with water, mix the ashes and embers with soil, scrape any partially-burned sticks and logs to remove the hot embers and drown the area again to ensure all parts are wet. As the summer progresses, the likelihood of fire bans or legal restrictions on outdoor burning will increase. Be sure to check for information about restrictions in the area you are visiting prior to starting a fire. 

Complete a Bioblitz
A Bioblitz is an event that focuses on identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short time. Families can enjoy the challenge of identifying flora and fauna found in Wyoming, their backyard or a public area. Download helpful apps, including iNaturalist, Merlin Bird ID, PlantNet or Seek to your mobile device. Budding naturalists will find these apps helpful in identifying plant and wildlife species of all shapes and sizes. You may also consider purchasing identification books or pamphlets for Wyoming species. 


Start a garden
Tomatoes, green beans, carrots and lettuce are easier plants to grow in a garden. If you're interested in testing your green thumb, these may be the best plants to try first. Then, depending on your available space, you can establish a garden in your backyard or pots on your porch. Gardening encourages children to question and understand where their food comes from and to eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. With fresh produce readily available, families will save money and gain interest in trying new recipes. You can sit down with your children and ask them what meals they want to use for their freshly grown produce in the future.If you’d rather focus on sprucing up your yard with new landscaping, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department encourages you to design a yard that is both people and wildlife friendly. 


Create a craft
Endless opportunities for creative expression for children can be found in nature. Parents and guardians should encourage children to find patterns, match colors, feel different textures and smell the various scents in their backyard or a public, natural area. By using their senses, children have a greater chance of connecting with the outdoors and creating lasting memories. They can draw, paint or design artwork to replicate their memories. Provide children with materials for crafting, whether by decorating your driveway or sidewalk with chalk, creating leaf rubbings with crayons and paper or drawing your favorite landscape in Wyoming. 

— Frances Schaetz is a contractor conservation education specialist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Photographer Info
Jack Ballard

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