Last Updated on March 6, 2021
We all love the great outdoors, and it’s a great way to spend time bonding with your family. If you go out hiking as a family, do your kids know what to do if they get separated from the group? What about other survival situations — would your little ones know how to stay alive until help arrives? Everyone should know some basic survival skills, regardless of their age. Here are some easy ways to teach your kids about survival skills.
Teach your kids about survival, but be Stealthy about It
This is the best tip we can probably offer you. Be sneaky about teaching them survival skills, the “wax on, wax off” method per se. Don’t walk up to your kids — especially younger ones — all doom and gloom and tell them that you’re teaching them how to survive in case the world ends.
All you’ll manage to do is scare them to death, and they won’t remember anything you try to teach. Instead, be sneaky about it. Take notice of what interests your kids and play into their interests. Approach it as a game, if it helps.
Don’t — “Hey, let’s learn how to build a fire in case you’re stranded in the woods all alone.”
Do — “Hey, wanna learn how to build a fire?”
Don’t put the focus on survival. Instead, shift the focus to learning new skills. If your kids are ever alone in a survival situation, they’ll thank you for these comprehensive lessons.
Focus on the Rule of 3
This isn’t some mystical voodoo — just a simple rule to help your kids remember what they need to focus on in a survival situation.
Remind them that they can live:
- Three weeks without food
- Three days without water
- Three minutes without air
- Three seconds without the right mindset.
From there, know your priorities — first, don’t panic. If you’re not swimming, you can skip the second one, focusing on water and food.
These aren’t the only things you need in the wilderness — fire, and shelter being among the most important — but reciting the rule a few times can help you get into a survival mindset.
One rule you should reinforce as often as possible is the Lost rule — if you get lost, you don’t move. You stay put and wait for someone to find you. Staying in one place makes it easier for search and rescue teams to find you, and could potentially save your life.
Get Out There
Kids aren’t going to learn how to survive in the wilderness if they spend all of their time sitting in front of video game consoles or televisions.
Take the family hiking or camping, and give your kids a practical application for all the skills they’ve learned. You should be there to supervise, especially if they’re trying their hands at foraging or fire building, but having a possible outlet for these new skills can help reinforce them in their young brains.
Make sure you have plenty of supplies on hand for these excursions, especially if you have younger children who aren’t up to building a fire or fishing for their dinner — or if the kid’s attempt to catch dinner falls through. Children of any age can benefit from regular camping excursions. Getting them used to the woods helps make it familiar territory and prevents panic if they ever end up out there alone.
Skills They Should Know
What survival skills should your kids know? That depends on their age — you don’t want to trust that a toddler can tell the difference between nightshade and blueberries — but most older children should know these basic skills.
- How to build a shelter — This is vital in areas where it gets cold at night. Even a basic shelter could mean the difference between a successful night vs. the wild and/or hypothermia.
- How to build a fire — You need a fire to cook food, boil water, and stay warm in cold climates. In addition to creating a fire, your kids should know how to protect it for the night and how to keep it contained, so they don’t accidentally start a wildfire.
- How to purify natural water sources — Rivers and streams might look clean, but they could hide dangerous bacteria that could make you ill. Boiling or otherwise purifying water could save your life.
- How to forage for food — While you can survive for three weeks without food, a lack of calories makes it harder to sustain because you won’t have the energy to continue moving forward. This is a tricky lesson because there are so many plants that look edible and are fatal — a handful of pokeberries could easily kill an adult, even though they look edible. Learning how to set snares can also help them stay full in the woods.
- How to defend themselves — Self-defense is as much a survival skill as anything else listed. Even if they never need to use it, self-defense classes can be life-saving. Learning how to create makeshift weapons can also be a valuable skill.
- How to perform first aid — Take a family trip to your local Red Cross or fire station and take a first aid class. It’s a lot harder to deal with a skinned knee or a broken bone if you can’t holler for mom or dad’s help.
- How to navigate — A cell phone with GPS won’t always work if you’re out in the wilderness. Teach your children how to read a map and navigate using a compass. This can be a fun skill to learn — set up a scavenger hunt with prizes at specific coordinates.
There are plenty of other skills they’ll pick up along the way, but these seven can save their lives if they’re ever alone in a survival situation.
Closing Thoughts — Don’t Scare Them
While learning survival skills is important, your kids won’t learn anything if you scare them instead of teaching. Children will learn from everything you do, so show them the basics and let them run it with them. You’ll be surprised how quickly they pick them up!