Looking for another way to get your kids outdoors this winter? Bundle them up and head out to a frozen lake for a day of ice fishing. This is the second year I’ve taken my toddler-age son hardwater fishing and each time we go, we’re able to stay out a little bit longer than before.

Like any outdoor activity you introduce to your child, preparation is key along with setting realistic expectations. Here are four ways to make sure your kids have an enjoyable time while ice fishing.

Ice fishing with kids

A Warm Kid is a Happy Kid

The last thing you want is to call it an early day because your child gets too cold. That means proper layers from head to toe, especially if you’re fishing outside. To stay extra warm, consider renting a permanent fish house from a resort or guide service. The fish house will be heated, holes are likely pre-drilled, and your kids will be much happier. It’s a great option if you’re new to ice fishing too!

Bring Related Entertainment

In the perfect world, my son would be entertained by fishing alone, but that’s usually not the case. I pack a container full of fishing-related entertainment including:

  • 123 Ice Fishing – I wrote a children’s lift-the-flap board book all about ice fishing. It teaches kids how to count while also discovering ice fishing terminology and gear. I dreamed it up after wanting to teach my son about my favorite winter activity during the off-season. He loves pointing at the crappies in the book and then seeing the crappies in real life.
  • Print out coloring pages of different fish and bring colored pencils
  • A fishing log or notebook where we can draw and write notes about the different fish we catch that day
  • Toy fishing rod
  • A ball or a favorite toy

We also bring a sled in case we want to take a break from fishing and play outdoors.

When in Doubt, a Bucket of Minnows

Kids are entertained by the darndest things. I’m not sure what the infatuation is with a bucket of minnows, but every child I’ve taken ice fishing has been so amused by it. It’s kind of like going to a pet store to look at fish. Give a kid a scoop, a bucket of minnows, and see for yourself!

There Are Never Enough Snacks

A busy day on the ice calls for lots of snacks. I like to bring kid-friendly nutritious snacks like:

  • Goldfish crackers
  • Olives
  • Dehydrated fruit
  • Easy-to-grab fruits and veggies like blueberries, snap peas, and cherry tomatoes
  • Cubed hard cheeses
  • Low sugar fish gummies

To make ice fishing a little more special, I use a divided tackle box as a snack container. I’ve heard some people call it a “snackle box.” Just make sure you label the tackle box with the word “SNACKS” or get a fun colored one so your kids don’t mix it up with the actual tackle box.

Download two free coloring pages from Jenny’s book “123 Ice Fishing.”

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