Warning: Time For Daddy To Do A Little Bragging

I want to share a cute little story with you that involves my daughter, Elsie.   Elsie is about 26 months old now but at times I swear her intellect is pushing that of a teenager.   While many kids her age might have a vocabulary of a few dozen words…Elsie’s command of the English language is more like 3–400 words.   Seriously, I’m not joking when I say the kid is wise well beyond the short life she has already lived.

As you can imagine any child of mine is going to grow up with a heavy influence of the outdoors pervading their life, and Elsie has certainly been no exception.   When given the opportunity I spend time teaching her to identify animals such as — deer, bear, raccoons, pheasants, moose, etc.   But when the topic involves fish, well…that can be a whole different ball game.   To many kids her age I would think a fish is just a fish.   Boy, did I learn a big lesson and that is DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE ABILITY OF A CHILD TO LEARN.   No matter what age they happen to be.

My wife and I agree that one of the big reasons Elsie appears to be advanced on her developmental charts is because from day one we talked to her like a regular person — “baby talk,” so to speak, was not allowed.   She can recite most of her alphabet with minimal assistance, she can occasionally count to ten, she knows all of her colors in a box of Crayola 24s…and I could go on like any proud father would.ElsieFishing

But this summer she truly amazed me after a certain family fishing experience in Northern Minnesota.   Her attention span for fishing was so short (about 30 seconds) we really didn’t do anything to the extent where she reeled in her first fish.   Oh, that day is still coming someday soon.   But she did “help” other family members as we brought an occasional walleye into the boat.   She quickly developed her version of “walleye fever” as she patiently sat near the livewell watching the fish swim and swim.

She was “hooked,” figuratively speaking.   During the rest of our vacation she became so fixated on walleye.   We didn’t just go fishing…nope, we were fishing for walleye.

Minnesota-dnrFishesofMinnesotaOkay, this is all fine and dandy, but as I was paying the bill at the resort office Elsie was tugging on my leg so I looked down.   Lo and behold was a poster showing the Fishes of Minnesota produced my the Minnesota DNR.   It was taped under the office counter and directly at Elsie’s eye level.

Elsie was trying to get my attention because she had picked out on the poster (I’ve circled in red) the fish species that happens to be a walleye.   To my amazement was this barely two-year old girl correctly identifying a fish species on a poster containing over 50 uniquely different fish.

At first I disregarded it as a lucky guess on her part.   But several weeks have passed since this incident and it still amazes me how out of all those fish she was pointing at the correct one for what she was telling me.   I would have just assumed that a child her age would call any one of those fish a walleye…or a bass, etc.

I guess the point I want to most emphasize by all of this is not that my child is developing into an amazing intellect.   That’s not it at all.   Instead, I point this out because her father (me) has learned some important lessons from the outdoor teaching experience, namely:

  1. Never underestimate the ability of a child to comprehend what you have to teach them about the outdoors.
  2. Be persistent in your teaching (if I’m looking at a magazine with a fish or game animal I ask her to identify it for me—she thinks it’s a fun game and it affords me a never-ending teaching opportunity).
  3. Start early developing the child’s interest in the outdoors.
  4. Be patient and allow them to learn at their own speed.  Don’t try to push or force their progress.
  5. Shower them with kudos when they get things correct.  It fosters a deeper desire to continue learning.

You know with all the success I’ve had with young Elsie this summer…next year I’ve been thinking of introducing her to musky fishing, but my wife thinks this might be a bit premature for a 3–year old.   Perhaps my wife is right, I’m just not so sure her Barbie Doll fishing pole could withstand the rigors of landing such a sharp-toothed giant, anyway.   We’ll see.

©2010 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction without Prior Permission.