Teach your kids these 5 simple survival skills to keep them safe. And parents, learn what you can do NOW to teach them how to survive if they ever need it.
If you’re lucky, smart, and prepare ahead of time, most of us won’t find ourselves in a desperate survival situation.
But, if you do something dumb, or forgot (or lost) some important gear, or are just dang unlucky that day, you may find yourself in some serious trouble.
Your kids can much more easily find themselves in these same situations.
This is especially true for us country folks. When your back yard is 40 acres of woods that all look the same to a 10 year old, it’s actually pretty easy to get lost by playing around outside.
Five Easy Survival Skills Your Kids Can Learn
When in these situations it is important to know some basic skills so that you can survive long enough to be rescued. There are 5 basic survival skills that everyone should know…
They are: your mindset, how to find water, building shelter, building a fire, and making sure you have a food source.
It’s been said that in a survival situation you can live 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water, 3 minutes without air, and 3 seconds without a clear mind.
If you are caught in a situation where you actually need your survival skills, the most important of all will be your attitude.
By attitude I mean you have to feel like you will survive and keep your wits about you. You need a clear mind and a “I’m getting out of this” mindset. If you start to feel like you’ll never get rescued, you panic and do dumb stuff.
Even more so for a child.
Survival situations will call on your primal instincts, those instincts are mostly driven by fear, love, and anger. A few learned skills will see you through most any tough spot, but not if you’re freaking out or have no hope.
Remember that whole three thing? Three days without water is a maximum for most because they are already dehydrated.
The funny thing is you’re stomach will scream for food after just a few hours and you’ll feel like crap (mostly from the sugar crash), but food is one of the last priorities. You’ll be just fine without eating for weeks.
Focus on water. Find it, purify it, drink it, and store it for later. The first thing to know is that water naturally will run downhill, so that is where you will find it.
You may also find that following a water source will eventually lead to some form of civilization. This is a blanket statement and not always true, but generally it can help if you have absolutely no idea where else to go.
Also you need to be aware of animal tracks. You can often follow tracks right to a water source. Animals need water just as much as you do to survive, and they will know of any available water sources.
Make sure your water is “clean” before drinking, or at least learn how to properly boil water (yes, there is a wrong way) before going out.
If you believe that you will have to overnight before being rescued the next order of business is to get a shelter built.
Now, it can be a toss up between whether fire or shelter is more important. If you have time build both, but if it going to be dark soon you’ll have to make a judgement call based on your situation. For instance if it’s very windy or might rain, shelter is your first choice. But if it’s a nice 70F night you may want to focus on a fire first because anyone looking for you could see and smell the fire too.
Usually it’s worth at least taking 30 minutes to make a thick layer of leaves into a bed so you don’t lose insane amounts of body heat from direct contact with the ground before considering a fire.
Your shelter does not have to be a mansion, but something substantive enough to keep the elements like rain, snow, and wind off you is important. At least a bed of leaves or broken tree boughs on the ground will let you keep your body heat.
You should build your shelter with just enough room to lie down. Your body heat will help keep your shelter warm, so the smaller the space the warmer it will be.
Conserve valuable energy by making your shelter as simple as possible.
Fire is an important skill because losing body heat can kill you just as quickly as lack of water. Building a fire will also help signal your location and may be needed to purify water and cook once you find a food source.
The most important part of building a fire is the location. You will want your fire to be as small as possible so that it uses minimal fuel.
The fire needs to be located in a place where the wind will not blow directly on it; typically a large boulder works well in this situation.
You will need tinder, kindling, and logs.
The tinder is tiny and fluffy, and will spark the fire into life. Old, dry grass makes great tinder.
Kindling are pencil sized pieces of wood that will build some real flames. Leaves and pine straw can also help the kindling along, but they burn so quickly you’ll have a hard time getting larger logs to ignite without some actual wood kindling. Start with the smallest pieces and work your way up to finger sized pieces.
Logs about the size of your lower arm are your main source of fuel for your fire. They should be dead and dry, but not rotten. Collect as much as you think you’ll need, then get 3x that much. Everyone always greatly underestimates how much wood they need for a night.
Don’t just throw the logs on every which way either, cross them or lay one end on top of another so that air can flow.
Keeping your energy up is important, you will be burning a lot more calories than you are used to burning. Thy won’t just be sitting around on a couch all day. All this survival stuff is hard work.
The thing about food is, if you don’t know what it is then don’t eat it! Contrary to popular belief, plants are not your best avenue in a survival situation.
If you do not know exactly what you are doing you can actually end up poisoning yourself for a measly 10 calories. Plants have very few calories and the risk is never worth it unless you are 9000% sure.
There are some food sources that are a sure bet, but unless you think it will be days or weeks without rescue you’re better off forgetting food.
Any mammal that has fur is edible and will provide good nutrients, but catching them is another story. All insects, the six-legged variety, are edible as well, but not appealing at all. You can eat the dang worms, but don’t expect to like it.
Parents, Be A Sneaky Teacher
Make an effort to turn every camping trip and day hike into a learning experience. If your kids come back with just one new skill you’ve accomplished a lot.
We all know the honest truth is if you can even get your tween and teenage kids to look up from their phones you’ve accomplished something.
That’s why you have to do two things. First, ban all electronics. Make sure the phones are cut off. Secondly, teach without being obvious. Kids want to have fun, and kids tired from a hike want a couch more than anything else.
Learning how to drink river water without pooping your pants isn’t very fun to most kids. This is when you can be sneaky and drop in some little lessons along the way. If you make a big deal about teaching them the day might feel more like a school lesson and your kids will zone out.
A walk in the woods can easily become a lesson just by pointing out a few things or demonstrating some skill, like stopping at the steam to show them how to use a water filter, or how to build a proper campfire that night, or even how to set up a simply tarp shelter to block the wind.
Show Them The Landmarks
Make your kids aware of his or her surroundings while they’re with you.
Say things like, “That’s a big hill over there” or “Did you know the lake is down by those oak trees to your left?”.
Don’t be annoying with it, but a quick comment every now and then will help them stay oriented and teach them to keep an eye out. Before you know it they’ll be pointing landmarks out to you.
Pointing out landmarks and obvious features isn’t just for camping trips either. This can be especially important if you’re walking in your own back woods (or down city streets) as they will quickly learn what to look for if they wonder off one day.
Don’t be afraid to start young either. You can point out landmarks as young as 4 or 5 and slowly go from there into more advanced survival skills as your child grows up.
Make An Easy (And Cheap) Kids Survival Kit
Give your kids their own mini survival kit. You’ll have to make one yourself, so it’s a good family project and a learning experience all in one.
You can even suggest your kids give a survival kit as a gift to their friends. Hopefully this will help your kids grow up with buddies fully aware and just as prepared as they are for any emergency.
A kids kit is essentially a simplified and lightweight adult kit with maybe no fixed blade knife. Here’s a list of some basic things to include in the kit:
1. Mini first aid kit
This box should be kept in the kit and the child should also be taught how to use all of it. You can fill the box with a few bandages, gauze, some cotton, scissors, a few swabs of cotton dabbed in alcohol that’s packed, some cough drops and a pair of gloves would be a nice idea too.
If you want you can also add a few safety pins, a sanitizer, a bit of string, and Q-tips. Teenage girls might also want to add a few personal items too.
2. Fire starter kit
One of the most important survival kits, but also not to be trusted with younger kids. You can teach your kids how to use a basic lighter, or something more complicated like a flint and steel, or maybe some simple waterproof matches for small fingers that may have trouble with a lighter.
Make sure you emphasize to them the importance of personal safety and teach them what the word “arson” means.
3. Water purifier
This should also be taught to your kids. Don’t assume they’ll understand how it works or how to keep the “clean” end clean so they can have reasonably safe drinking water. An empty bottle, preferably stainless, should be in the kit too for boiling.
4. Compass and a topo map
With the knowledge of how to read both and locate themselves should be provided to all your kids. Mark any known points of civilization, such as your weekend campsite, on the map yourself so your kids know exactly where to go. Teach them how to spot landmarks and how to follow a straight line up hilly terrain.
Your mindset, finding water, finding shelter, building a fire, and foraging for food are 5 basic survival skills that we should all know at any age.
150 years ago we all knew these things, but now they must be learned on purpose. These skills, combined with some basic tools, can be the difference in your ability to make it out of a tough situation alive.
The best gift you can give your kids is to make them self sufficient and independent while they’re still young with a mind for nature and prepping for the unknown.
In times of a crisis or an emergency, their survival training and true grit will decide if you get to ever tuck them in bed again. Make sure you do your part.