Children learn through play and repetition and the best way to bring a heavy subject across to a child is to make it fun.
We never know what’s coming, we have no clue if we’ll need to evacuate because of a natural disaster, or a child gets lost while family and friends are hiking, or on a school trip. It’s good to be prepared, no matter what.
We don’t want to transfer our fear into them, but they need to know what to do in those "just in case" moments. We would rather equip them so that we know they're capable in a survival situation.
When teaching survival skills, your child needs to learn by doing it themselves. That way, you set them up for success and survival.
Toddlers or little ones need to know that they should stay put (they need a whistle in their carry bag). Older children can be taught the following:
WHAT SHOULD YOUR CHILDREN PACK INTO THEIR HIKING BACKPACKS?
Your children need to pack their own backpack so that they know what is in it.
- A weatherproof jacket
- At least 2 emergency blankets
- Stormproof matches
- A knife
- A LifeStraw or water purification tablets
- A whistle
- A torch
- Emergency energy bar
- A few emergency first aid supplies
- A bottle of water
They should know exactly what each item is for and how to use it, including how to hold a knife and use it safely.
Get your kids to wear bright clothing when hiking, that way they’re much easier to see.
WHAT SHOULD KIDS DO WHILE THEY WAIT TO BE RESCUED
Just stop walking and sit down for a minute.
Take a few deep breaths to stay calm. Think positive thoughts of what you CAN do, not what you can’t do.
This is close to the last place people saw you, they’re going to retrace their steps to come looking for you.
- Weather: What’s the weather doing? Does it look like rain? I need to stay warm and dry.
- Light: How long before it gets dark? I may need to shelter.
- Supplies: What supplies did I bring with me and what can I do with them?
3. Observe: Look & Listen!
What do you see?
What do you hear? Cars, barking dogs, people talking? Do you hear running water?
If you think people are still close take out your whistle and begin to blow it. Three times, wait and listen, three times, wait … and so on.
If you think that people may be too far away, and it looks like it’s getting dark, it is time to act.
THREE-STEP PLAN EXECUTION
USE GAMES TO TEACH
Teach your kids survival skills while camping. If you camp and hike often as a family, use that time to teach them skills they don’t even realize they’re learning.
Build A Shelter
Build Forts for fun:
- Show your kids how to make a shelter out of an emergency blanket or things naturally found in the area. Teach them to set up camp near a water source if they can.
Get them to take turns making the campfire:
- Using stormproof matches, get your kids to find whatever kindling they can, the best place and safest way to make a fire.
Get them to make smoky fires: (Smoky fires are seen from the air)
- Green sticks and wet leaves produce smoke, so let them know it’s part of what they need to collect. Get the fire going first, then add the green sticks or wet leaves. Maybe you could make a game of sending messages to each other with the smoke.
Campfire Fun "I'm a Survivor" Quiz Questions:Make these questions fun, laugh at silly answers, keep it light. Here are a few examples:
- You’re alone in the woods, you’ve lost your way, it’s getting dark and cold and you only have these supplies with you, 1. Stormproof matches 2. emergency blanket - What do you do?
- What would you use to make a shelter for yourself in the woods if you had no supplies?
- How can you tell how far away an approaching storm is?
- It’s started to rain while you’re in the wilderness, you have a weatherproof jacket in your kit, an emergency blanket, and stormproof matches. What do you do first?
- Can you hear water?
While hiking or camping, play a game where your kids need to stop and listen for running water. It’ll tune their ears into always listening for it.
Teach them how to use a LifeStraw or water purification tablets.
- T-shirt colander:
Have a competition to see who can get the cleanest water from a water source by draining it through a T-shirt.
LEARN TO SIGNAL FOR HELP
Spend some adventure time with your kids in your backyard or while camping. Show them how to signal for help with what is available to them.
If your kids know what they’ve packed in their backpacks, they’ll know they have a few ways to signal for help... keep reading for signaling options.
Find me Quick!
While camping or in your backyard put a spin on the regular hide and seek game. This time, the one who gets found first, is the winner.
Play "Survivor" by getting your kids to wear their backpacks and give them some time to hide away - BUT they have to leave a trail to be found. They are not allowed to shout, they need to use their supplies to be found. Make sure you’ve set boundary lines for the game.
- Cut up one emergency blanket and tie it onto trees or plants.
- If it’s sunny, their emergency blanket reflects the sun - the shiny side will help them to be seen.
- They could blow their whistle - Blow three times, then wait and listen, then blow another three times - repeat.
- They need to leave a trace of something that wouldn't naturally happen in their surroundings. A sliced branch, a pile of rocks etc.
Play the game at night too:
Let them hide in pairs, the options change slightly.
- Build a safe fire
- Use the torch
- Use the whistle
We hope it never happens, but if it does, your child will be prepared, they’ll survive and they’ll be found. They need a plan, teach them in a fun way how to execute it - it will give you confidence knowing that they know how to survive.