BASIC AND INTERMEDIATE SKILLS FOR CHILDREN
By: Wodan

This article addresses skills you may want to ensure your children obtain. When imparting these skills it is important that you tailor the instruction to your child's maturity level and attention span. Keep it fun - childhood is supposed to be a fun learning experience not boot camp.

First your child must be physically fit. I'm not talking about being a tri-athlete but if he/she is fat, gets out of breath running across the back yard, or can't take a walk in the woods - that is your fault. If that is the case - kill your TV, throw out the Nintendo, quit letting them eat marshmallows, etc. Other things you can do include:

Ok, now that our kids are in decent shape, what can we do to improve their ability in the survivalist arena? Start with their BOB (Bug out Bag). There is a plethora of articles on this subject out there but I'd like to add a bit. First, after you decide what it will contain, have your child help pack his/her BOB. They need to learn how to use everything in their BOB. Not all at once, but it makes for nice Saturday activities to practice some of it a bit at a time (on that weekend hike maybe?) When packing their clothes consider packing 'civilian' clothes instead of BDUs. Kids generally don't arouse a lot of suspicion in normal day to day activities, but a kid in BDUs will. The next article will cover much more on this aspect - for now just consider earth-toned civilian clothes.

Before you take your child to the woods (or on the first trip) you should ensure he/she has been given a lost-proofing class and has basic survival supplies ((Kids Survival supplies LINK)).

Your child (and you too for that matter) needs to have seven broad skill sets:

All survival kits should cover these seven vital areas ((Thinkin' 'bout surival" LINK)). These are basic/intermediate skills. They are all fairly easy to learn but like everything else, to really learn them you must PRACTICE. This is especially true with kids - they remember what they DO. Scouts will teach all of these skills to your kids. I recommend you sign your child up and participate yourself as a parent -

Scouting is a great organization. If you cannot join you can at least buy age appropriate books (Cub scout manual, Boy Scout manual, etc) and work through the activities.

WATER. Your child needs to understand the importance of proper hydration and how to procure and treat water. Streams, ponds, solar stills, rain - all are sources. Treatment includes boiling, purification tablets, filters, bleach..... and on. Let your child actually do these things - it is the only way they will remember.

FOOD. He/she also needs to know how to procure and prepare food. Things that come to mind are wild plant identification; traps and snares; hunting; animal sign identification; how about opening a can with a pocketknife? They should know how to dispose of trash in a sanitary and secure manner. They should know which parts of the above plants are edible and how to prepare them. They should know how clean, butcher and cook critters. Teach them to cook at home, let them do a little on campouts. Have them help clean up. Now obviously, your 15-year-old daughter will be able to do much more than your 5-year-old son - keep things at a level your child can handle.

SHELTER. Knowledge here will allow your child to stay warm or cool, dry and safe when circumstances are 'less than optimal'. Things that come to mind are: knowing how to set up a tent; poncho hooches, alpha tents, brush shelters, avoiding hypothermia, flash flood and lightning considerations, and on.... Training here can be as simple as talking about it on hikes "would you want to set up a shelter here? Why not?" Playing in the park, setting up tents/shelters in the back yard and of course camping are all good ways to practice this as well.

FIRE. Fire is our friend - it keeps us warm, cooks our food and can be used to signal for help. It can also be dangerous so we must learn proper safety considerations as well. Your child should be comfortable with fires. He/she should know several ways of starting them. This can be done in the back yard too - I live in suburbia and we taught a group of scouts fire building in the back yard in an unused portion of the garden. We kept them very small - just enough to learn how to light them. Again, kids learn by doing.

FIRST AID. The biggest medical danger to lost kids is hypothermia. Your child should know how to prevent, recognize and treat this killer. He/she should know how to treat cuts, stings, sprains, fractures, and shock. All scout manuals cover these skills - Cub scouts at a lower level than Boy scouts and the First Aid merit badge book being the most advanced. Teach to the level your child can handle.

NAVIGATION. First teach (it is NOT innate) your kids a sense of direction. It amazes me how many adults, not to mention kids, have no concept of North, South, East and West. "This river is flowing north, which side are we on?" Teach them how to use their compass (they DO have one, don't they?) and read a map. Have your kids help navigate on car trips. Practice as a family on those walks you take. Many parks have orienteering courses set up that you can "play" on.

SIGNALING. Cloth, mirrors, whistles, smoke, lights, images stamped out in snow or sand, etc. can all be used for effective signaling. Teach your child when it is appropriate to signal for help. Have them practice - kids learn by doing (I keep pointing this out because it is important).

OK, so those are the basic and intermediate skills your child should know. Time spent learning how to do these things is so much more valuable than time spent in front of the idiot box. Remember to keep it fun. It should seem like a treat, not a chore to learn these things. What? You don't know how to do all of these things? Well they say kids learn by doing, so do adults. Even more so, adults learn by TEACHING. Sounds strange, doesn't it? Try it. "It's for the children."

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Copyright 2000 Wodan
No reprint or republication without express permission of author.