I've not taught a huge number of children to shoot, but I do have experience with a variety of ages, starting with my own. I've taken Deejo's and Junior's kids shooting and have the pleasure of most recently shooting with Itty Bit.
Since they were very young (Monster was about 2 years old, Ashinator 4, and Digger 6) when we were "hunted", I had a small gun on me at all times. I even showered with the gun within arms' reach. Our house rule at the time was, "if you have questions about the gun, or want to touch it, you have to ask me first." I didn't even own a gun safe, because the gun was literally on me at all times and was never out of my sight.
I never hesitated when they wanted to look at it - I took every opportunity to start pounding safety rules into their heads - I stopped what I was doing, unholstered, unloaded, and answered any questions they had. In no time, it became a non-issue. They never even noticed I had it on most of the time.
I started taking them shooting when Monster was about 8. I tried to keep our shooting sessions safe and fun.
One mom and three children at the range - it could have been a disaster, but because they had years of hearing the safety rules and of observing how I handled my gun, they had a good basis. When we started, we focused simply on safe manipulation of the gun. Older kids and adults can focus on multiple things: safety, trigger control, sight picture, stance, etc. However, whenever I take young kids to the range, the only thing I focus on is safety.
As long as their finger is off of the trigger and the muzzle is pointed downrange at all times, I don't worry too much about if they hit the target or not. We work on how to manipulate the gun, which can be tricky with their smaller hands, while keeping their finger off the trigger and the muzzle pointed downrange.
Only when I am comfortable with their safe gun handling skills do we add in other skills.
Last October, the Once Upon family came to visit and I had the pleasure of shooting with Itty Bit.
Itty Bit has lots of family members who are hunters and LEOs, in addition to his parents being shooters, so he has the opportunity to come across guns in his every day life. He's got a good knowledge base, as Mr. Daddy and Rachel have taken him shooting in the past. Though it wasn't discussed, I partnered up with Itty Bit so that Mr. Daddy could play with the big boys.
|Itty Bit was at all times respectful of the firing line.
|Very young shooters often don't have the strength to hold the gun,
so I always keep on hand on it for support.
This serves double duty; I can also take control of the gun if necessary.
|The first time he shot the revolver, I manipulated the hammer.
The second time, he managed to do it and remembered (most of the time)
to take his finger off the trigger as he cocked the gun.
A simple reminder is all it took.
|Even as "small" as a Henry Survival Rifle is,
it was far too big for Itty Bit.
He did a great job with it, despite the fact that his arms are
I think that kids are probably better than adults and aiming instinctively. The only things I worked on with Itty Bit were keeping the gun pointed downrange and keeping his finger off the trigger until he was ready to shoot. He was hitting the steel plate more than half the time with both the revolver and the rifle.
If I had been thinking, I would have filled some gallon-sized jugs with water, even though we were crammed like sardines in the truck. Even as an adult, shooting jugs of water is one of my favorite things.
If you choose to use water jugs as your "reactive targets" when shooting with your kids, you can always play around with using food coloring. OR...you can do what I used to do when I had time to prep: use the jello jiggler recipe and fill the jugs with jello. Always a ton of fun. I have tons of pictures of the kids and I shooting at them, but that was back before the days of digital cameras.
As kids get older, you can start adding in other fundamentals, but I firmly believe that safety needs to come first, followed by fun.
Someone asked me at what age do I feel comfortable teaching other people's kids to shoot. That's tough. I've taken my kids' friends out to the range with us when they were teenagers, and with their parents' permission. I don't know that there is an easy answer to that question; I guess I'd have to take it on a case-by-case basis. Some children are ready to shoot at a younger age than others, and some children need some extra maturity before they are ready to hit the range. Sorry, I wish I had a better answer.
Those of you who have taught your kids to shoot, at what age did you start them? Do you have any tricks for keeping them interested?