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A fishing trip to California’s Big Bear Lake last summer marked one of the first outings we took as a family of four. Our sweet baby girl — just three weeks old — slept on my chest while the boys got to work sorting bait and tackle.
In the hubbub of raising little ones, a fishing excursion was just what we needed. Nothing rivals a relaxing day beneath the sunny blue sky with the San Bernardino forest backdrop. We crossed our fingers for a big rainbow trout, but our biggest catch of the day was a pile of freshwater seaweed! (Though if you had seen the look of excitement on my son Hudson’s face, you’d think we caught a 30-pounder.)
With such fond memories, we wanted to recreate the fun in our own backyard — as a special staycation. So we whipped up this DIY fishing game with some sponges and magnets to help teach Hudson the basics. Hopefully we can catch more than weeds the next time around!
DIY Fishing Game
- Kid-friendly fishing poles* (like these from Shakespeare Fishing)
- Plastic storage container
- Light blue acrylic paint (like this from Amazon)
- Paint brush
- Sponges (feel free to use old ones)
- Craft scissors
- Permanent marker (optional)
- Hot glue gun and glue
- Small, round magnets — the stronger the better (like these from Amazon)
- Metal washers (like these from Amazon)
- Fishing line
- Paint the bottom of the container to resemble waves.
- Dampen the sponges, and then cut them into fish shapes. (I freehand cut most; but for a few, I used a marker to create a fish outline for Hudson to practice his scissor skills.)
- Hot glue magnet “eyes” onto the sponges and allow them to dry completely. (Depending on the strength of your magnets, you may want to go with two eyes to make the magnetic pull stronger for attracting the washer.)
- Tie the washer to the fishing line and trim any excess. (Note: magnets and washers can be choking hazards, so keep a watchful eye on little ones.)
- Cast your line and go fishing!
While the goal of our fishing game was to create a fun staycation in our backyard, Hudson did learn quite a bit, like how to tie various fishing knots. Our favorite is the improved clinch knot. It’s used to secure your hook — or in our case the washer — to your fishing line. And it’s simple, strong, and reduces the chance of line breakage.
Hudson’s favorite takeaway? Learning how to cast his line. A sidearm cast is safer for little ones, especially once actual fishing hooks are involved! And to make sure he’s safe for real-deal fishing, Hudson practiced with Hide-A-Hook Bobbers, which cover the hook while casting — so kids “hook fish, not parents.”
Fishing takes loads of patience, so above all I think it’s best to associate it with fun at this age — which is exactly what our DIY did! Hudson felt pretty bummed when we packed up the game for dinnertime. He would have continued long after the sun went down. He’s now itching to hit the open water with his newly acquired expertise!
And since staycationing is now one of our favorite pastimes, we’re planning our next activity. Here’s a list of some of our top picks:
- Scavenger hunt around the neighborhood
- Camping out in the backyard
- Projecting a movie onto the side of the house (and don’t forget the popcorn!)
- Building a fort out of blankets and sleeping inside
- Picnicking in the front yard
*Note: This Spider-Man fishing pole is a great size for Hudson. It’s CPSIA tested and intended for children 4-8 years old with parental supervision.
Take a child fishing with youth fishing combos from Shakespeare featuring their favorite characters, like Moana or Spider-Man.More On