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Published on: Jul. 20, 2011

Last summer, at first light, I parked along a gravel bar on the Castor River for a wading trip for goggle-eye. I had the place to myself. Then, around noon, a family settled along the river, close to where I had parked. A young couple in swimsuits sat in the shallows at river’s edge. A little boy, 2 years old at most, sat on the man’s lap. All smiles, he kicked and splashed in the water. Further out, a boy of about 8 worked at casting a night crawler toward a downed log on the far bank. A short ways upstream, a girl, just a bit older, was catching crawdads with a small dip net.

“Looks like you all are having a fine time,” I said to the couple as I walked toward my truck.

“No better way to spend time with the wife and kids on a warm day,” the man replied.

Amen to that, I thought.

I received my introduction to the outdoors along Missouri’s creeks and streams. So did my wife. We used the same venue for our own three children. If you have a child you would like to introduce to the outdoors, you will find no better setting than Missouri’s creeks. Here are some proven tips to help make a creek outing a memorable adventure for any kid.

Tailor the Trips

Creeks offer a variety of activities that you can adapt to a child’s age and inclinations. Even babies enjoy creek time if you match outings to what they like. Babies love attention from people and, by the time they are 4 or 5 months old, they also enjoy toys that fit in their hands. Spread a blanket in the shade on a gravel bar, bring toys and play with your baby, just like you do at home. Pick a warm day, perfect for water play. In the shallows, just inches deep, sit your baby in your lap and let him splash like he does at home in the bathtub. Laugh and make a big fuss over him. With this kind of introduction, by the time kids are 3 or 4 years old, time spent on creeks will often be one of their favorite activities.

For preschoolers, buckets and shovels to dig in the sand are a must. Include inner tubes and water mattresses to float around in the water with your kids. Bring along dip

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