Here are the five wilderness survival skills that every kid should know.
When I coached youth sports I used to point at my head and tell the kids "This is your strongest muscle." It wasn't really even a joke, and it applies to more than just athletics. For us outdoorsmen and women, the greatest survival skill involves trust in ourselves, and an avoidance of panic. Kids should know this point, and we should make it a point to teach them.
Sure, it is easier said than done for someone that's not lost, hungry, and running out of daylight. There are certain things we can benefit from knowing, especially at a young age. If they're going to spend time outside, these are some of the first things that kids should be taught.
The truth is they're never too young to start, and once they reach an age of independence, you'll feel that much better about them going out alone. You can pass on these skills to any child and create knowledge and confidence in them that cannot be denied.
Ready to run through it? Here are the wilderness survival skills kids would get the most out of.
Find Or Make Shelter
Even in warmer weather, finding or creating shelter is the difference between protecting your body from exposure to the elements and sanctuary from the sun, wind, rain, heat, or cold.
Bluffs, overhangs, caves, and other natural shelters can be found if they know what to look for. If this cannot be found then they should know how to build something that will temporarily keep them safe, such as a lean-to. It can be as easy as gathering pine boughs and stacking them, or carrying an emergency blanket to drape over some limbs.
Make a Fire
This is a basic survival skill for anyone, and kids need to know how to do it safely just as much as adults. And again, it's not just for warmth in cold conditions. A fire can serve as a rescue signal, boil water to consume, and even deter wild animals.
One of the best ways to get kids used to handling fire is at the campground. Under supervision, kids need to know how to start a fire and maintain it while keeping it under control. It's not cheating to let them use some matches, but a fire starting kit is great in these situations. If they can start a fire without matches or a lighter, then they're one big step ahead.
They should know the basics of how to gather the best fuel, and how to put it all together (and out) when the time comes.
Finding Food and Water
Whether you teach them to hunt, fish, or gather wild edibles, take the time to show your children that they can survive on what nature has to offer. It is vitally important that they know what can and can't be eaten, and how to find them if they're in a survival situation.
Plus, with modern day things like packable emergency water filters, there's no excuse not to put one in a child's hand and help them understand how to operate it.
Basic First Aid
One important thing everybody needs to be reminded of is that merely carrying a first aid kit isn't enough if you don't know how to use the items within it. If you don't know some very basic principles of wilderness first aid, no kit will save you. Without knowing at least the bare minimum you're legitimately putting yourself, and any kids you're responsible for, at risk.
Using a Compass
This is such a basic part of outdoor training that we sometimes forget to include it. A compass is a great gift for a young outdoorsperson, and an item the should be a part of every kid's backpack.
When the battery dies or there's no more cell signal, a kid needs to know how to find safety in the wilderness. At least a compass in their pocket might give them a chance.
Does Every Kid Need to Know Survival Skills?
The short answer is yes, of course every kid should know these survival skills. Even urban kids who rarely find themselves in the woods can benefit from this kind of competence.
Most parents and guardians want their children to grow into resourceful, independent adults. It's important to teach them that there's a beautiful world out there to be enjoyed, and give them the confidence that they can take on its challenges.
Learning outdoor skills - especially survival skills - is a great way to teach critical thinking in young people, and to foster the type community we hope inherits our world.
As a parent or guardian, you can share your own survival wisdom with kids on a daily basis. As a volunteer or instructor, you can influence them in the correct settings and often in larger numbers. If you teach anyone about wilderness survival, you're also being taught something yourself.
You get to see the power that can be passed on from one person to the next, the power that helps prove that the wilderness is a wonderful thing to enjoy.
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