Here’s a question most parents don’t want to answer: when SHTF, will your children be able to survive on their own?
Most parents don’t want to answer this because the thought of their kids fending for themselves is scary. Ideally, a survival situation is something a kid should never have to experience. However, we don’t live in an ideal world. When things go south, your best chance of protecting kids from harm is by equipping them with necessary survival skills.
Teaching Them Survival Skills Is More Important Now Than Ever
Teaching kids survival skills is more important now than ever. Unlike the generations before them, kids these days heavily rely on technology. Most of them are used to getting everything they want in a snap. If they want food, kids would just call for pizza. Need to go somewhere? They’d book an Uber. If they want to watch something, they can stream it on demand. The dangerous thing is that these comforts won’t be available to them in a survival situation. If you take away these conveniences, will they be able to survive?
While technology has a lot of benefits, kids should be oriented about working with their hands and learning valuable skills that don't come with a click of a button.
The good thing is that children, especially those around 4-12 years old, are eager to learn new things. This is the stage where a child's initiative and willingness to work is developed, so use this eagerness as an opportunity to teach them useful survival skills. Not only can they gain useful skills for survival, they can also use these skills in their daily lives and may even carry them well into adulthood.
Camping Is The Perfect Way To Teach Your Kids Survival Skills
Camping is a great way to introduce kids to the great outdoors and teach them hands-on, down-and-dirty survival skills. When you’re out camping they won’t have access to distracting gadgets and video games, so it’s an ideal setting to get them engaged. Here are a few survival skills you can teach your kids while out in the wilderness:
GPS apps are great, but there’s nothing like knowing how to navigate like they did “back in the day”.
A compass is still the most reliable navigation tool and knowing how to use one is an invaluable skill. Reading a compass teaches kids basic directions and lets them learn how to find their way. You can integrate this with basic astronavigation as well. Kids love stars and outer space. Teach younger children the basic concepts like the direction where the sun rises and sets.
Older kids can learn more about stars like Polaris (the north star) and constellations like Big Dipper and Orion and how these can help them find their way in case they get lost. While you’re at it, teach kids how to identify or leave markers on the trail to avoid getting lost. On the way home from camp, you can increase their awareness of their surroundings by letting them give you directions on how to reach your house. A simple game of “I Spy” is also a fun way of making them aware of their environment.
Putting up a tent is part of every camping trip, so teach your kids how to assemble one at an early age. Let your kids know the survival rule of threes, which says that man can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 hrs without proper shelter, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. This should instill the value of finding or setting up shelter as soon as they can.
When out hiking, point out natural shelters like overhangs, caves or fallen trees. Let them put up their own tents. You can take this up a notch by challenging them to construct survival shelters from natural materials. A lean-to is pretty easy to make and is quite reliable in a survival situation. Make things exciting and tell them you’re making a fort. This should teach kids how to select the right kind of wood for your shelter, or how to make cordage from plant fibers. This is also a great opportunity to practice knot-tying skills.
Starting and Maintaining A Campfire
Fire offers warmth and light---two of the most important things you need to survive in a critical situation. Before heading out to camp, you can make homemade firestarters. These are very simple and can be made from household items like dryer lint, candle wax and some egg cartons. Use this activity to teach kids about the combustion triangle, which is made up of oxygen, fuel, and heat. Take one out of the equation, and you can’t get a decent fire started.
You can demonstrate how to start the actual fire once you’re already in camp. If your kids are too young to build a fire, let them gather materials for tinder and kindling instead. Point out the characteristics of good tinder and kindling, and teach them how to select the ideal materials for starting a fire. They should be able to bring back dry twigs and sticks. Teach them how to assemble a good firelay, starting with tinder and small kindling, working your way up to larger pieces of fuel wood. Older kids can be taught how to use a lighter or even a firesteel. In any case, be cautious and give them the necessary precautions about fire building.
Kids, especially young ones, will be prone to put just about anything in their mouths. That’s just how they are. Teach them, as early as possible, that not all liquids are safe to drink. Even if it appears clear, water from unreliable sources should be deemed unsafe until they’re filtered and purified. Show kids how to select an ideal water source; they should be able to choose running water over stagnant sources. Teach them simple water purification techniques, like how to use a water purification tablet or a portable water filter. You can show them how to filter water using a scarf and how to boil it as well.
Finding and Gathering Food
Finding and gathering food can be a fun activity for kids at camp. It’s a good opportunity for them to enjoy the scenery while getting familiar with the wild edibles in your area. You can even turn it into a scavenger hunt of sorts. Prep ahead. Bring a picture book or print images and descriptions of wild edibles and have the kids find as much as they can. However, give them instructions not to eat anything unless you’re 100% sure they’re edible. Keep in mind that while there are a lot of wild edibles, a lot of plants can be harmful as well, so be sure to supervise the kids when out foraging.
Teaching them basic cooking skills won't hurt either. You can start by teaching them how to clean and prepare food. Boiling is a simple yet helpful technique that kids can learn quickly as well.
Safety and Basic First Aid
Kids are prone to bumps and scratches. Teaching them preventive measures and first aid will be useful in medical emergencies. These skills don’t have to be complicated either. You can teach them something as simple as how to fall safely. Instruct them how to protect their head, neck, and back in case they slip or fall. You can also show them how to properly clean and put a bandage on a small cut. Most importantly, teach the kids how to dial 911 or signal for help. Teach them what information to relay to the person on the other line. These basic things can be taught even to younger kids and may potentially save a life, especially when it’s the adults that need medical attention.
Adults often underestimate kids. Most of us equate their youth for helplessness, when the truth is, kids are very capable of looking after themselves. Think of their brains as sponges--- they can absorb information like crazy. When you teach them survival skills in a fun and engaging way, they’ll be able to retain these skills well into their adult life.
Parents would naturally want to protect their kids from harm. The best way to protect your kids is not by doing everything for them; it’s by teaching them how to be independent. You don’t need to go all military boot camp on them either. These skills can be taught as a game, a contest or a fun activity that you can do together. You’re not only training them to be better-equipped, independent individuals, you’re also spending a lot of quality time with them. Sure beats having them glued in front of their gadgets, right?