As survival preppers, we prepare for the worst-case scenario. But what happens if you have kids? It is easy enough to prepare as a single adult (or adult couple) but prepping with and for kids is a whole different beast.
The best way to make sure that your child survives a crisis is to prepare, prepare, prepare. Of course, you must collect all the appropriate supplies to care for your kid, but that isn’t all, you also must mentally prepare your child for a crisis before it happens.
Below I’ll share some more specific tips on how to make sure your child is prepared to survive in any situation.
Preparing Supplies for a Crisis When You Have Kids
The most important part of prepping for kids is making sure that you have the right supplies. Since they are growing, kids have different nutritional requirements, different sleep requirements and usually cannot travel as far, or for as long, as an adult.
These fundamental differences mean that you must prepare specific supplies for your kids in the event of a disaster.
Food for kids
It is obvious but you must have enough food on hand to support your child’s caloric needs, in addition to your own.
If your kid is old enough to eat solid food, that might mean extra of whatever food you are eating. Make sure that you familiarize your child with your chosen emergency food so that they are accustomed to the taste.
This might mean bringing some on a camping trip or hike first. Children are notorious for being picky eaters, but beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to survival.
If your child is younger, food can pose an additional challenge. Infants that are still breastfeeding might require extra formula as a supplement to their diet. Many women will stop producing breast milk if they are under stress, meaning a back-up solution is a very smart idea.
Luckily, formula is powder, making it lighter weight than other supplies. You should always have extra formula (and sterilized bottles) that you can easily access in case of an emergency.
These silicone bottles are a great option because they are light, flexible and don’t allow air to go back into the bottle and harm your baby.
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Of course, long-term survival means that you may run out of conventional formula at some point. Luckily, you can prepare emergency formula by mixing:
- 13 oz of evaporated milk,
- 19 oz of boiled water, and
- 2 tbsp of sugar
Evaporated milk and sugar will last in your deep pantry for several years, making it a great food supply to have even after your child starts eating solid food. You can also feed your child whole milk or goat’s milk that is diluted with water, though this is not recommended for the long term.
Some children no longer drink formula but are unable to consume hard foods that require chewing due to the choking hazard. Baby food jars can last up to two years without expiring and should be added to your reserves. Baby food is important for your child to get a variety of nutrients that you might not be able to forage.
If space is tight, you can also give your child your food that is soft and cut up into small pieces. “Baby led weaning” is the process when a child learns to consume solid foods without relying on baby food as a transition. This is a great technique for preppers that do not have the space, either in their pantry or their bug-out-bag, for heavy jars.
Toys might be a good idea
Simply because you are in a survival situation doesn’t mean that your young child will understand what is going on. Kids like to play and explore their environments. This is great but if you are trying to set up your shelter, start a fire or complete another task requiring focus, you can’t be distracted by a baby getting into something dangerous.
Some people might think that toys and baby products are a luxury, but I think they can play a role for parents prepping for kids. You still shouldn’t overdo it, but a few carefully chosen toys might make a big difference.
At the very least, parents of small babies and infants should have somewhere safe for the child to stay. This tent fits kids 6 months to 5 years and folds into its own bag so that is easier to pack and carry. You can find similar versions on Amazon and in major retail stores.
As for toys, you should take the liberty to be creative. Toddlers can play with “useful” toys like small shovels, stacking containers and smooth utensils. For babies I’d recommend a teething toy that also provides a more sensory experience to keep them entertained. This an example of a cost-effective option.
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Survival packs and gear for children
If your child is old enough to carry a backpack, you can pack a size-appropriate bag for them to carry in an emergency. Teaching your child to help carry their supplies during a crisis is a great way to raise a confident and self-sufficient kid. Remember that even older children cannot carry packs that are too heavy, so you will probably be packing the heavier tools and items on your back.
It can be difficult to pack survival gear for your child because kids grow quickly. Depending on their age, you might need to update your child’s bug out bag every six months to make sure that the clothes still fit, and the contents are age appropriate. I recommend purchasing gear that will fit your child for a few years to cut back on costs and to preserve its longevity.
Petit Pli is a British company that creates high-quality clothing that grows with your child, making them a great option for kid’s survival clothes. Designed to fit your child from 0-12 months and then 9 months to 4 years, Petit Pli’s sets are lightweight, quick-drying, water, and wind resistant and have reinforced knees to protect against rips and tears.
There is also some more gear that you might include in your kid’s survival pack. Remember to teach your child how to safely use the items so that they are truly equipped to survive.
- Stainless steel water bottle
- Water filter
- Extra change of clothes
- Personal hygiene products
- Headlamp or flashlight
- Small sleeping bag
- Gloves (for work and warmth)
- Snacks/dehydrated camping food
- Ferro Rod
- Emergency radio
- Comfort items: teddy bear, toy, etc.
If your child is too young to carry a pack, you will need to carry their supplies into your bag if you must leave your home. This can present difficulties and might mean that your bug-out-bag is larger than you want. Of course, if you are prepping supplies to stay in your home, then space may not be as big of an issue.
Survival Skills to Teach Your Kid
It is simply not enough to give your child the supplies to survive, you must also demonstrate how to use them. If your kid is separated from you during a disaster, you will be happy knowing that your child has the skills and resources to survive.
You must always think about your child’s age and maturity level before teaching them certain survival skills. You do not want to give your kid a ferro rod only to have them start a forest fire or burn down the shelter. Start out with more basic survival skills and scale up to more those difficult and complex as they learn. This keeps your child safe and allows them to start learning about disaster preparedness.
Cooking and growing food
It is never too early to start teaching your child to prepare, cook and grow food.
Younger children can start off helping to find the right supplies and to wash food. As children age, they should learn how to cook in the microwave, use the oven and the stove top. Doing this will teach basic skills, like safely using a knife and boiling water, that are useful in an emergency.
You must also teach your child to cook over a flame. In an emergency, you probably won’t have power. If you have a generator or solar panels for your home, there is always the risk that they could stop working. A child that knows how to cook food in this situation is better prepared for survival.
It is also an excellent (and fun) idea to teach gardening early on in your child’s life. If your kid understands how to plant and grow food from seeds, they will be able to use your survival seeds in a pinch. A small herb garden in your backyard, or on your windowsill, is a great way to introduce children to gardening. It also gives them the opportunity to harvest and prepare the food that they grow.
Fire Safety Skills
It might sound scary, but your child absolutely must learn how to make fire or else they may not survive. While you don’t want your toddler learning how to start a flame, you do want your toddler to start learning how to be safe around fire.
Going camping, or making a backyard bonfire, is the best way to start exposing your child to fire early on. Every parent knows that kids learn from watching you. You may not think it, but they will learn to build fires, even if they aren’t trying it themselves.
Start by teaching your child to be safe around open flames, like candles, and the dangers of being too close to a fire. Make an evacuation plan if there were to be a fire in your home and practice with them! As your child progresses and shows maturity, you can teach them how to safely use a lighter or even a ferro rod. This will build the foundation that your kid needs to survive and safely use fire in an emergency.
Regulating body temperature
Your child must understand the important of regulating body temperature in a survival situation. It might seem obvious but teach your child how to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. You can also explain the dangers of getting wet during winter and frostbite. A child that hasn’t been taught about the risks associated with an unregulated body temperature won’t understand the dangers of going swimming, being out in the rain or over sweating in the wintertime.
Body temperature regulation should also include teaching your child how to use any emergency heating devices prepped for your home. If you are relying on alternate fuel sources, teach your older child how to safely use those and operate the devices. Always warn your child about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning when using heat sources like propane and always have a battery-operated detector.
You can also practice having your child dress themselves appropriately for the weather and to open and use emergency space blankets. These skills might seem basic, but every survivalist starts somewhere.
Finding and purifying water
Some children are old enough to understand that microscopic and harmful bacteria and protozoa can live in water, even if you can’t see them. Younger kids might have a harder time understanding this concept, but it is imperative for survival. Your child must learn that under no circumstances, no matter how thirsty they might be, should they drink water that has not been boiled or purified. Doing so may be the difference between life and death in a survival situation.
A great way to teach children the basics of water purification is through a “science experiment.” There are so many videos online with simple experiments that demonstrates how purification works. Of course, most experiments don’t result in drinkable water because they only filter out visible particles, but it is a great way to explain the basics to children.
I really like this video that is short and to the point. It also has the added benefit of introducing children to naturally purifying materials in case they didn’t have the survival filter.
After your kid understands why you purify water, introduce them to your more complex emergency water purification devices. Life Straw and other straw based survival purification systems are great for children because all you need to do is sip the straw! No need to fuss with multiple bottles, tubes, and complicated filters.
Finally, you must teach your child how to find water. Hiking, camping, and spending time outdoors is the best way to practice finding natural springs and clean water sources. You can also use a rain barrel collection system at home so that your child learns how to capture and use clean water from the sky.
Basic First Aid Skills
Your child is probably already learning basic first aid since most kids have their fair share of accidents. However, first aid becomes a much more important skill to have when there are no doctors or hospitals to help treat you.
Start by teaching your child how to use basic first aid supplies like band-aids, antiseptic, and gauze. Show your child where the supplies are located and how to open any child-proof containers (if they are old enough). If you get a minor cut or scrape, let your child practice their skills on you by gathering the supplies, cleaning, and dressing your injury.
You must also teach your child to stay calm if someone is seriously injured. They can be of no help if they are freaking out and freeze. Of course, your child should also know to call 911 if someone is really hurt. However, preppers plan for when there is no 911. In that case, your kid needs to remain calm and rely on their training to help themselves and others.
As your child learns, you can start to incorporate more advanced first aid techniques into their lessons. Teach them how to fit a SAM survival splint for broken or fractured bones, how to dress burns and how to make and apply tourniquets.
While this all might seem too complex for your kids, watch how quickly this young boy picked up tourniquets.
You should also teach children about the dangers of fevers, which often result from viral and bacterial infections. When your kid is sick, show them the medication and tell them the amount. Children cannot survive with a fever for as long as a healthy adult, so teaching them how to heal is important. You can prep single doses of acetaminophen (like Children’s Tylenol) in small bags to make it easier for your child to know the correct dose.
Avoid Scaring Your Child and Have Fun!
As adult preppers and parents, we think about every terrifying scenario that might happen to our children during a disaster.
While it is important that your child understand the dangers and risks associated with a crisis, you must avoid scaring your child. A child that is too scared might crumble under the anxiety and stress from a survival situation.
Making prepping fun will give your kid the confidence that they need to use their skills without letting fear take over. It is also a great way to bond with your kid, even if they never need to use them.
While prepping for kids can be stressful, remember that you know your child best. Starting early and working consistently will make it easier to teach disaster preparedness a few steps at a time, without making it overwhelming.
At the end of the day, everyone’s survival plan is different, and you might need to make some adjustments to fit your kids’ specific needs.