Life is uncertain and you can’t predict when your child will need a survival skill. Parents rarely consider survival skills to be essential life lessons; they’re forgotten life hacks that our future generations need to know.
When planning for an outdoor trip or your daily life routine, a child must know these fundamental survival hacks for any potential emergency situation.
Kids need to know how to survive in extreme conditions. For example, a group of students in Thailand recently were stuck in a cave full of water. They managed to find a higher place to stand, but the closed tunnel’s oxygen levels were getting consumed quickly.
Their instructor’s life hack came as a significant relief when he guided the children to lower their metabolism rate with a slow breathing technique. This survival hack helped the students survive for an extended period, and all were rescued unharmed.
You really never know when survival skills will come in handy. That being said, here are the 12 foundational survival skills your children should know.
17 Survival Skills Kids Need to Know
1. Understanding the S.T.O.P. Acronym
Teach your child the STOP acronym; explain the whole meaning of this word. Tell them to STOP and not change location when they are separated from their parents.
S– Stop immediately when you are lost. Calm down and try to assess the situation.
T– Think about what you need to do now.
O– Observe your surroundings and understand your location. Look for familiar landmarks.
P– Plan what to do next and act accordingly. Determine what course of action is best in the current situation.
Make sure your family has a plan in place; your kids need to know where to go if separation occurs, especially if you’re in a crowded location. This is also true for natural disasters and other situations.
2. Know ‘NEWS’ – North, East, West, South
Either with the help of a compass, map, the sky, or other landmarks, a child should know how to determine their direction.
In case they are lost and are confused with the directions, teach them how to determine where north is and how to search for the right path. Take them outdoors and show them how to figure out directions based on the sun’s location. And if you are even more adventurous, you can teach them how to make a compass out in the wild.
As the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, they will understand which way is north and understand how to move ahead when they are lost.
3. How to Read a Map
Although Google Maps makes things simple, kids need to know how to read a map. Many of us follow the GPS blindly, and there are cases when we get stuck because we don’t know how to use maps.
Go to a nearby gas station and buy some local road maps. Take your child on a stroll and teach them to find the spot where they are standing. Also, teach them to look for the north and how to reach a particular point.
4. Basic First Aid Skills
Children should know basic first aid skills; it’s never too early to teach your children these skills. Train them not to panic when they see blood. Instead, they should help their peers in case of an emergency.
Share an emergency number with them where they can reach you when needed. They should know how to clean a simple wound and how to disinfect and bandage minor cuts. Consider making a family first aid kit as a project to work on together. Include all of the first aid items such as:
- Cotton Balls
- Alcohol Pads
- Medical Tape
- Antibiotic Cream
Give your children real-life training and let them handle small burns or cuts at home with your supervision. Teach them to treat the wound with the help of a disinfectant and how to apply an antiseptic ointment. Make kids understand what they need to do in a real medical emergency.
5. Self-Defense Techniques
Self-protection is another vital survival hack. Kids have to know how to handle bullies and dangerous situations without an adult present. Consider teaching kids popular martial arts like jiu jitsu. They should be able to protect themselves from bullies within 6 months of proper training.
Self-defense classes not only build disciple, but they build confidence as well.
Something else that goes along with the idea of self-defense is teaching your child proper firearm safety techniques. Firearms are great for protection but only if you know how to use them properly. It’s never too early to teach your kids how to be safe around firearms, and when they’re older, it’s better for your kids to learn from you how to safely use a firearm. You don’t want them learning unsafe methods.
6. How to Find a Shelter or Raise a Tent
The outdoors can be harsh. A child should know the main types of survival shelters. Kids should understand the importance of retaining body heat, and that they should seek shelter sooner rather than later. Teach them to build a shelter before it gets dark, otherwise, they’ll be too tired to do so.
At the very least, they should know how to make a simple shelter themselves to brace for adverse conditions. Bright sunlight, heavy rains, and strong winds are situations where a roof over your head is essential. Kids should know how to put up a tent.
Show your child how to look for natural shelter in surroundings. For example, take shelter below a tree, a snow cave, or rock. In the absence of natural shelters, teach them how to use their clothing to make a temporary tent and branches.
Make them understand that they don’t need a shack, just a little overhead coverage to make them safe from harsh conditions. You should also show them how to make a blanket of dry leaves as a survival skill. Show your child how to lay down and cover themselves with dry leaves or pine needles to stay warm.
7. How to Forage and Identify Local Edible Plants
Teach your kids how to identify edible and medicinal plants in your region. Many plants are safe to eat, and many have medicinal properties that Native Americans have used for centuries.
Food is a vital part of survival, and if your child is in a survival situation, they need to know how to forage and find safe foods to eat. This is a skill that needs a lot of time, so make sure you are well-versed. If you don’t feel comfortable teaching you children how to forage has a survival skill, consider finding local state park rangers to give you a guide.
8. Learn How to Hunt and Fish
Not everyone considers hunting and fishing survival skills, but they are. These are skills that will keep your child alive during an emergency.
Fishing is a great family activity that kids enjoy; take your kids fishing regularly so that they know how to catch food if needed. Hunting takes time as well. It requires that you first teach your children firearm safety and how to safely shoot a gun. You might also consider teaching your children how to use a bow and arrow.
Kids should know how to humanely harvest game, along with how to properly cook that game in the wilderness if needed.
9. How to Use a Knife
Parents instill fear in their kids about sharp objects; we don’t want our kids to get hurt, so we have them stay away from knives.
This is a mistake.
You don’t want your child to fear knives; you want them to develop a healthy respect for them because they can injury your child. However, knives are needed for cooking, and learning how to use a knife is one of the best survival skills. You never know when you might need to know this.
Knives are tools that must be used safely and properly. Teach your kids how to grab a knife and how to carry one. Start your kids young with a pocket knife; whittling is a great hobby for kids that teach them proper knife safety.
You also can teach older kids how to clean and sharpen blades using a small stone.
10. How to Tie Knots
Tying knots means more than tying shoelaces. Knowing how to tie more advanced, complicated knots is a valuable survival skill for kids.
Children like to make a rope out of twigs and bendable branches. Just look at the excitement on their face when they succeed in tying a complex set of knots to make a piece of rope. These ropes will come in handy when camping, backpacking, setting up a tent, or going on a river trip.
11. How to Find Water and Make It Safe to Drink
All animals, including humans, can live without food for many days, but they can’t survive without water. Children should be taught ways to find water in challenging situations. Also, they must know how to purify contaminated water, so they don’t get sick, making a bad situation worse.
Make it a point to teach your child when you are out in nature with them. Teach your children that running water, such as a stream, is always safer to drink than standing water. Kids need to know the dangers of bacteria in water, and you should show your kids how to boil water as a simple filtration method.
The next time you go outside with your kids, show them some simple ways to collect water, such as:
- Collect rainwater with leaves
- Wring water from ground moss
- Collect morning dew
- Tie a plastic bag around a leafy branch and collect condensation
12. How to Start a Fire
Fire is an important element when you are in trouble outdoors. You need heat to keep you warm, boil your contaminated water, or cook food to help you survive. If your child is stuck somewhere in the middle of nowhere, having fire keeps them alive. In some areas, like the mountains, temperatures drop below freezing as soon as the sun sets.
Show your kids how to look for kindling materials and small logs to light on fire. Then, show them how to strike stones together to produce a spark on top of dry grass. They’ll set that on top of the logs.
Explain that this takes time and patience, but it’s an essential survival skills for kids.
13. How to Insulate
Ideally, your child will have an emergency pack prepared for them, but that’s not always the case. Cold kills, and kids need to know how to insulate when they feel cold.
The easiest trick to teach your kids is to tuck their pants into their socks and fill their pants with dry leaves. It might feel strange, but it’s a DIY emergency blanket that will keep your child warm in the wilderness. After they fill their pants, they can tuck their shirt into their pants and fill their shirts with leaves as well.
This is a fun skill to practice; kids will think it’s a hilarious game, but it could potentially save their lives.
14. How to Signal When There is an Emergency
Using a reflective device, such as a mirror, is a practical life hack. It can be used to signal and draw attention when in trouble.
A fire signal is another good technique when a child is stuck outdoors. Tell them stories about how they can send a written message in a bottle through a stream or a river.
15. What to Do If They Encounter Wildlife
Does your child know what to do if they encounter a coyote? What about if they see a mountain lion nearby?
You might not think of this when you consider survival skills for kids, but it’s not farfetched. My child was on the swingset, and a coyote walked through our backyard in the daylight. Thankfully, she knew how to respond to the situation appropriately.
First, consider the wildlife native to your area, and teach your children how to properly encounter all of them. This is a serious life or death matter; we aren’t the top of the food chain, especially kids who are easy prey for a predator.
16. Be Healthy
Our society doesn’t teach kids how to eat healthy anymore; our lives depend on fast food and junk food.
It might not seem like a survival skill, but families need to exercise regularly and learn how to be healthy. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind, and you need those two things for survival. If you have to bug out and hike to your destination, your family will make the hike easier if they’re healthy.
Survival of the fittest is a real thing.
Encourage your kids to eat healthy foods, and engage your family in physical activities often. Hike together as a family, go on family bicycle rides, and spend time outside. The more that you do together as a family, the more your kids will associate healthy living with happiness.
17. Cooking Over Fire
It seems easy, but teaching a child to cook over fire is essential. This will help them gain confidence. They’ll know how to catch a fish and cook it over the fire when they’re stuck in a remote location.
Teaching a child how to cook is important and making them learn to cook over fire is even better. The great thing about teaching this survival skill is that kids love it; it can become a regular weekend activity. Build a small fire in your backyard, put a grate over the fire, and have your kids cook something. At first, they might only make hot dogs, but over time, you can show your kids how to cook more advanced foods over a fire.
Start explaining to your child the importance of various survival skills before it is too late. There may be hard conditions in the future, but your kid needs to understand how to remain cool with a can-do attitude.
Children are always up for learning new things, and they get excited about the word ‘outdoors.’ Make them more curious by explaining the most possible emergencies and how to face them with the right survival skills.