Even the best laid plans can fail, as a disaster can strike at any time and any place. Of course, you've already got a strategy to ensure your family makes it through OK, but the harsh reality is you're not going to always be around. The only real way to combat this is to teach your children basic survival skills, and it's never too early to learn. Many of the basic skills we take for granted need to be taught, and it's your responsibility as a parent to ensure that you've given your kids every opportunity. You never know when your kids will need them. The trick is to keep the lessons lighthearted and fun, so they're entertained and interested in learning more. Just last week the team here at APE Survival ran through the most important lessons to teach your kids, and here's where you ought to get started.
Respecting fire You don't need to go camping to start this lesson, as small cookouts in your backyard give ample opportunity to teach your kids the right way to manage a campfire. Show them the right ways to collect firewood, how to prepare kindling and tinder, and how to start the fire with a variety of different materials. Demonstrate safe practices in constructing your fire pit, and why you need to properly extinguish the fire once you're done.
Cooking over a campfire Once you've got a campfire roaring, the next step is the food. Start your kids off with simple items like roasting marshmallows or grilling hotdogs, and as their confidence increases teach them ways to prepare and cook different foods. As a kid my parents taught us from a young age how to make damper, a traditional Australian bread, in the campfire. Show your kids how to determine when the food has been cooked, and get them involved in all stages of the process.
Building a shelter Next time you're camping help your kids to build a ‘fort,’ and teach them how to make it sturdy and waterproof as its being built. Demonstrate how to insulate the ground with pine boughs to retain warmth during the night, and once it's serviceable let them spend the night ‘roughing it’ in the shelter they've built.
Embracing the dark Instead of hiding away in your tent in the night, arm your kids with a flashlight and take them on night walks to get them used to the sounds of the wilderness. Try to identify the animals making the sounds out there, one of the easiest to get a look at is a bullfrog that's croaking down by the pond. Your little ones will be less frightened of the dark once they know what's making the sounds out there.
Finding sources of water When you're out on a nature walk during the day, point out the different places you can find water along your path. Perhaps there's a natural valley with a stream running through it, bamboo or vines that can be cut to reveal the water within, or you can try more advanced techniques like making a solar still to extract moisture from leaves and greenery. Remember that many sources of water must be purified before you can drink them, so teach your kids the different methods to ensure the water they collect is safe to consume.
Finding sources of food In addition to finding water, teach your kids about the different kinds of plants they encounter on a nature walk. Be very clear on what's poisonous, but also point out the particular plants and fruits that are safe to eat. You can make it a game to challenge your kids to find the most, the competition will help them to get excited about the hunt.
Learning how to navigate The ability to read a map is a fantastic skill, especially if your kids can use a compass to track their path and follow a route. Consider setting up a treasure hunt, that leads your kids to a number of locations before they get to the final prize. Of course, I'd arm them with a GPS device before I sent them off (just in case they get seriously lost), so you can always track them down.
Using a knife Once they're old enough, entrust your kids with a pocket knife of their own, and teach them how to safely use it for everyday tasks. You'll need to be aware of the particular laws in your area for this one, but a knife comes in handy for opening bottles, fishing, and even self defense. Be very clear they must respect the knife, as it's definitely not a toy.
Tending to a garden This one you can teach in your own backyard, as you help your kids understand the process of planting seeds, growing their garden and harvesting the fruits and vegetables. I particularly like this one as you can really get your kids involved, and in addition to learning where their food comes from, you end up with fresh, home-grown produce for your table.
Being active and fit Staying in shape will help get your kids a long way towards surviving whatever comes. Encourage them to get excited about a sport, and find something they enjoy so they have fun while they're doing it. Martial arts are a great way to learn self-defense skills, while team sports can help them to develop friendships and leadership skills.
How to 'fix-it' My dad included me every time there was something around the house that needed fixing, and we've done everything from retiling bathrooms, fixing plumbing, and a hundred-and-one other small things around the house. Now if something breaks, I've got a half-decent idea about how to fix it or improvise a solution, instead of having to rely on professionals. In a disaster you're not going to be able to rely on anyone but yourself. All of these skills take time, effort and a great deal of practice to master. As a parent your job is to make them as fun as possible, especially the first few times, so your kids stay interested and actually enjoy the survival lessons you're teaching. It will take patience on your side as you're kids make progress, but you'll be bursting with pride once they get it.