6 Survival Skills for Kids to Learn ASAP

Here’s a question most parents don’t want to answer—when SHTF, will your children be able to survive on their own?

Many folks don’t want to answer this because the thought of 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 them from harm is equipping them with necessary survival skills for kids.

Teaching Survival Skills for Kids Is More Important Than Ever

man teaching son how to garden

Unlike the generations before them, kids these days rely heavily on technology. Most of them are used to getting everything they want in a snap. If a kid wants food, they’ll just call for pizza. Need to go somewhere? Problem solved—they’ll 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 their initiative and willingness to work are developed, so use this eagerness as an opportunity to teach them useful survival skills for kids.

Not only can they gain practical skills, but they can also use these in their daily lives and may even carry them well into adulthood.

Camping Is the Perfect Way to Teach Survival Skills for Kids

Camping gives you an avenue 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 for kids you can teach 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. Knowing how to use one is an invaluable survival skill for kids. 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.

You can teach younger children basic concepts like the direction where the sun rises and sets, while older kids can learn more about stars like Polaris (the North Star) and constellations like the Big Dipper and Orion. Teach them how these help them find their way in case they get lost. While you’re at it, show them how to identify or leave markers on the trail to avoid getting lost.

On the way home from camp, you can increase your kids’ 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.

Building Shelter

shelter-making is one of the most essential survival skills for kids

No camping trip is complete without putting up a tent, so teach this survival skill for kids to your children early. Let them know the survival rule of threes, which says that man can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 hours 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. Show your kids how to put up a tent. You can take it 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 help them find out how to select the right wood for their shelter, or how to make cordage from plant fibers. It’s also a great opportunity to let them practice their knot-tying, another must-know survival skill for kids. 

Starting and Maintaining a Campfire

Fire offers warmth and light—two of the most important things you need to survive in a critical situation. That’s why knowing how to start a decent fire is a vital survival skill for kids. 

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 create the actual fire once you’re already at camp. If your kids are too young to build one themselves, let them gather materials for fire-making 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 using these, starting with tinder and small kindling, then working your way up to larger pieces of fuel wood.

Older kiddos can be taught how to use a lighter or even a firesteel. In any case, be cautious and let them know the necessary precautions about this survival skill for kids.

Water Purification

Young kids are prone to putting just about anything in their mouths. That’s 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. Demonstrate water purification techniques like using water purification tablets or portable water filters. You can also show them how to filter water using a scarf and how to boil it. 

Finding and Gathering Food

Finding and gathering food can be fun survival skills for kids to learn at camp. They can enjoy the scenery while getting familiar with the wild edibles in the 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 your mini-mes find as much as they can. Just instruct them not to eat anything unless you’re 100% sure they’re edible. While there are a lot of wild edibles, many plants can be harmful as well, so supervise the kiddos during their excursion.

Teaching them simple cooking skills won’t hurt, either. You can start by training them to clean and prepare food. Boiling is a straightforward yet effective technique that kids can learn quickly as well.

Safety and Basic First Aid

teach your kids basic first aid procedures

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 advanced. You can teach them something as uncomplicated as how to fall safely.

Instruct your kids how to protect their head, neck, and back in case they slip or fall. You can also show them how to clean and put bandages on small cuts. Most importantly, teach them to dial 911 or signal for help when there’s an emergency. Teach them what information to relay to the person on the other line.

These basic survival skills for kids are things that can be taught even to kindergarteners and may potentially save a life, especially when it’s the adults that need medical attention.

Final Thoughts

Adults often underestimate kids. Most of us equate youth with helplessness when the truth is, kids are capable of looking after themselves. Think of their brains as sponges—they can absorb information like crazy. When you teach survival skills for kids in a fun and engaging way, they’ll be able to retain these well into their adult life.

Parents naturally want to protect their kids from harm. The best way to protect them 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. Survival skills for kids can be taught as a game, a contest, or a fun activity 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?

What other survival skills for kids do you think are essential? Let us know in the comments!

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