The great outdoors just may be the most varied and real learning experience a person can get; it’s never too early to introduce your children to Mother Nature’s glories, as well as start preparing them to handle some of her harder lessons.
Although we can go quite a while without food (about 20-30 days for most people), water is far more vital. Humans can only survive 2-3 days without water, so make sure your child understands that water is one of – if not the – highest priority if they are lost more than a couple of hours. If they have water on them, they must save it for when they are truly thirsty, and then ration it very slowly. A truly prepared parent will include water purification tablets in their child’s pack (or in a pocket of their jacket) and ensure they know how and when to use them. The ability to maintain safe drinking water will arguably help your child survive longer than any other skill.
Teach your child how to build a fire from scratch, including building a teepee with kindling sized pieces of wood around a pile of something very dry that will easily catch fire, such as pine needles, dead grass, wood splinters, or dry leaves. Right next to those water purification tablets in your child’s pack or jacket pocket ought to be a box of matches, which they can use to start the fire. Obviously, a safety lesson (or two) should be performed together on how and when to use matches. Be sure to stress the importance of making every match count and always keeping the matches dry.
Hug a Tree
Although there’s nothing wrong with teaching your child to be a treehugger in general (we encourage it, actually!), what we’re referring to here is the old standard of hugging a tree if they become lost. What this actually means is that the moment they realize they are lost, they should stop and stay put. Encourage your child to make him or herself a comfy little spot to sit down and wait for help. Most likely, by the time the child realizes they are lost, the parents have also realized it and are already looking for them. By staying in one place, the child decreases the changes of missing the search party, thereby increasing their chances of being found.
Make Some Noise
It is the parent’s responsibility to attach some sort of noisemaker to their child in case of danger or getting lost. We recommend a simple whistle attached to the child’s pack or clothes. Encourage your child to blow the whistle as long and hard as they can if they run into danger, whether they see an animal approaching, get lost, or get hurt.
Dry Equals Warm and Comfort
Wet hair and clothes makes for a cold and miserable experience, either because you’re wearing the wet clothes, or because you’re naked waiting for your clothes to dry. Make sure your child understands the importance of staying dry in the wilderness – especially as night approaches, as temperatures drop significantly when the sun disappears. Encourage children to avoid moisture as much as possible – which includes excessive sweating – in order to maintain heat and avoid chaffing and blisters, which can lead to larger medical issues if not properly treated.
Of course, we all hope our children will never end up in a situation where they must survive for a period of time alone in the wilderness, but it is always a small possibility for families active in the outdoors, and a responsibility parents owe it to their children to prepare for.
By: Audra Rundle