Life in the 21st century is pretty cushy. For many families, survival training just isn’t a priority. Food comes wrapped in plastic, we have machines that make sure the temperature is always agreeable and when it rains, we just head on indoors and reach for the remote control to watch television.
With all of these luxuries in place, it can be easy to get lazy when it comes to basic survival skills. However, kids can still get a lot of value from learning a few important outdoor survival techniques. It’s a good way to put them in the mindset of caring for themselves, and it doesn’t hurt if they get a little fun out of trying new things they’ve only seen in Hollywood movies.
Cooking Their Own Meals
When you think about survival, this probably takes on the image of a squirrel roasting over a pile of sticks. Your kids don’t need to get that extreme just yet, but helping them take ownership of meal preparation when they get home from school is a great first step and a way to introduce the concept of self-reliance. Maybe it begins with making a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Later on, you can teach them to cook over a grill or on a camp stove in the wilderness.
Creating shelter is one of those skills that you can learn when you’re young and carry with you for decades. Besides, what’s more fun for a child than finding just the right materials and creating an amazing fort? Basic shelters like a lean-to or an easy-to-set-up tent can make all the difference in a wilderness situation where inclement weather or getting lost leads to dangerous outcomes.
Of course, your child shouldn’t be subject to this type of situation until they are old and mature enough to set out on a wilderness adventure. However, practicing their skills will make them that much more proficient when the day comes. When your family goes on a hiking trip, take the time to get your kids involved in building shelter. Eventually, these things will become second-nature.
When you’re lost in the wilderness, lack of water is a much deadlier situation than lack of food. It only takes three days to die of thirst, so practice finding streams and small bodies of water with your children — both when they do and don’t have maps and GPS equipment. Just finding water isn’t enough, though. Make sure you teach your kids you’ve got to purify it to prevent illness from dangerous bacteria.
Your kids can learn to boil water if they’re old enough to use a basic camp stove. A gravity filter is another solution that provides great output in terms of the volume of clean water provided but doesn’t require much effort to use. Other methods include using purification tablets and learning to use an altimeter to derive whether a stream’s height makes it likely safe to drink from.
Of course, there are certain qualifiers for this lesson. Not every child is ready to jump into making fire, so let your kids grow into it. When they’re ready, it can be a fun and interesting exercise for the whole family. There are plenty of kits on the market that provide a flint knife anyone can learn to use fairly quickly. It’s not just a matter of making a spark, though — you have to understand how to correctly stack your logs and set tinder so that the fire will breathe and burn clean. Extra points if you can learn to build one in rain, wind or snow!
These are just the basics, but as we touched on earlier, practicing these basic skills will give kids a feeling of self-reliance and self-confidence they can find pride in. Teaching your kids about survival gives them both a great set of skills and fond memories of family time that will stick with them for years to come.