I am a huge advocate for getting kids outdoors. With warmer weather now upon us, many of our kids are home for the summer. Too many pre-teens and teenagers find themselves inside on a beautiful day, either on the Internet or playing video games. Depending on their ages, there are a lot of outdoorsy ideas that can help get your kids outside this summer. It’s not only fun, it’s good for them!
A guest post written by Annette Doerr.
One of the initial reasons I joined my sportsmen’s club was because it listed a “Junior Rifle Club” on its website. Great, I thought, a way to get my girls involved and possibly into competitive shooting! I was so disappointed to find out after I joined, that the junior rifle club had not been running for several years—no leaders, no kids, no club.
Fast-forward several monthly meetings, and multiple inquiries later, and I was able to find a member who had his NRA Rifle Instructor Certification and was willing to help! Between the two of us, we were able to assemble a small team of knowledgeable and qualified volunteers. As it turned out, a few other members of my club had children they wanted involved. We opened membership to kids between the ages of 12 and 18, who had an NRA Junior Membership. Parents did not need to be members of our club; we were ready, willing and able to teach anyone interested (with parental permission of course). To top things off, we made it free! All parents who were not club members were required to stay for the safety lesson. We wanted them to know what we would be teaching and why. This also helped a few of our more nervous parents gain trust that we did indeed know what we were doing!
Sometimes when you see a need that is not being met, you have to roll up your sleeves, jump on in and figure out a way to make it happen. The junior club had been stagnant for years, yet seemingly, we had several members interested in getting their kids involved and plenty of well-qualified, competent volunteers. The simple fact of the matter was nobody had taken the reins in order to get things rolling again. Sadly, the kids were missing a wonderful opportunity.
If you’re not a member of a shooting club or don’t have access to a Junior Club in your area, don’t despair! There are plenty of ways you can get your kids to the range with you. You know your kids best; depending on their ages and maturity level, you might want to start with an Airsoft rifle. If you’re into the classics, every kid should have their own Red Ryder BB gun, just don’t shoot your eye out! Readily available across the country, bb guns and pellet guns can help you teach your children firearm safety and have some fun while you’re doing it. Always treat these types of firearms as real firearms. While some may consider them as “toys,” they are still a firearm.
Anytime you’re working with kids, you have to keep it fun! If you want them on the range with you, there are varieties of ways to keep things fresh, fun and interesting! Reactive targets are a great way to make things fun. Another way is to take a little notebook from the dollar store and turn it into a passport of sorts. Write some progressive goals on each page, and a reward on the reverse page. As an example, maybe the first few pages look like this:
- Hit a paper plate at 10 feet. Reward: Gold star.
- Hit a paper plate at 20 feet. Reward: Gold star and ice cream cone.
Keep the progression simple and get your kids excited about progressing with their shooting. The cost of an ice cream cone is well worth spending quality time with your kids outdoors on the range. Find a fun stamp to stamp their “passports” with as they achieve their goals.
I’m a big fan of the NRA Winchester Marksmanship Program. The program is self-guided and makes a great way to work with your kids in a structured, fun program. Working individually, you and your kids can work your way up the various rankings. Rockers, patches, certificates and pins can all be ordered through the NRA Program Materials Center. Once your child has earned a ranking, you can reward them with some swag. The program works on a step-by-step basis with increasing difficulty as you progress. There are marksmanship programs for air gun rifles, air gun pistols, pistols, rifles and shotguns, so everyone in the family can gain competency while having fun.
Teaching our youth to safely and responsibly handle firearms should be a must for preparing for adulthood. If you’re not a certified instructor, or just don’t want to be the one teaching your kids to shoot, there are some great organizations out there that can help.
- Boy Scouts of America —(Boys only) BSA has been teaching outdoor skills including shooting sports since its incorporation in February of 1910. Frequently Asked Questions about its shooting program can be found here.
- 4-H —(Boys and girls) 4-H also has a wonderful program for kids. Included is a great shooting program. Click here for more information and to find a chapter near you.
- Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation —Interested in clays? SSSF has you covered. SSSF is a leader in youth development shooting sports programs.
While these are just a few examples, there are many resources available for youths interested in shooting sports. A great general resource is the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Information on many of the available youth programs can be found on its site.
Our children are our future, and if we don’t make the time to get them involved in the things that matter, no one will. It is our responsibility as parents to help them gain the skills necessary to be well-rounded adults. There are plenty of ways today’s kids can be led astray and get into trouble. Giving them a great foundation and education in shooting sports is one way to combat that. Let’s get our kids off the Internet and outdoors. The lifelong skills they learn now, will serve them well into the future!
How do you get your children interested in the shooting sports? Share your ideas and strategies with others in the comment section.
Annette Doerr is a freelance writer, self-employed businesswoman, wife, mother, equestrian, and is active in Greyhound rescue. She and her husband Bob are avid shooters and are both NRA Certified Pistol Instructors and NRA Certified Range Safety Officers. You can read more of her writing on her blog, weshoot2.