Even in today’s age of iPhones and Xbox Ones, millions of kids enjoy spending time outside. If you are a parent, there are many different things that you may worry about when your child is outdoors, like that they might get hurt or even just worrying about protection against the sun.
Here are some basic outdoor and survival skills that you can teach your kid(s) to help them enjoy their time outside better, and give you a little more peace-of-mind.
First, let’s teach your kids to S.T.O.P. when a potential survival situation arises or if they find themselves turned around and not sure which way to go. From equipped.org.
S – Stop. Take a deep breath, sit down, and calm yourself. It will be a lot harder for you to be able to know what to do if you are not calm. Then…
T – Think. Use your brain! You must never panic! Take time to think about what you need to do and don’t do anything before thinking it through all the way. Then…
O – Observe. Take a look around you. Observe the type of land where you are (woods, hills, fields) and pay attention to the weather. Consider the resources you have with and around you, like equipment you brought and even the skills you (or anyone else with you) have. Then…
P – Plan. Prioritize your immediate and long-term needs and develop a plan to deal with your situation, while at the same time conserving as much energy and resources you have. Follow your plan, but don’t be afraid to modify it if the need arises!
REMEMBER TO S.T.O.P. AND YOU WILL BE ALL RIGHT!
If your child is ever lost, it is important that they know that they need to stay where they are. Failing to do this can make them get lost even more and will almost certainly increase the time it takes for them to be found. If they are hurt, moving around too much can cause them to injure themselves further. If night is approaching or has already come, the darkness will make everything for your child harder and scarier, so again it is best for them to stay put. Make sure they know that if they are with someone else to stick together and never split up, making sure they are always within sight.
Shelter is very important in terms of both short and long term survival. Having a good shelter can help protect you from the heat, cold, high winds, bad weather, and even dangerous animals. Plus, having shelter will immediately boost morale. They can either find shelter or make it themselves. Rocks, ferns, wood, and other natural resources make excellent shelter when used properly. Do not sit or lay down on bare ground or snow, make sure to put down a small layer of branches or vegetation for insulation and cushioning for harder ground. Man-made items like tarps are ideal and can always fit in a backpack. These are waterproof, tear-proof, and are much easier to set up. It is a good idea to pack one, as well as a rain poncho or even one or two large plastic trash bags. If you are using any man-made item, the brighter the color the better (bright yellow and orange are ideal). Even simple things like hats will help keep the heat off you. Get next to a large tree or rock to break the wind and, if there are more than one person, you can huddle together to keep warm.
Again, bright colors are the best when it comes to attracting the human eye. Yellow and orange are the best and most survival-type gear are usually in such colors. Having a brightly colored t-shirt is also suggested. If your child is old enough, or if there is an older individual in the group, building a fire can be a life-saver. During the day the smoke can be see fore miles, and at night the flames will light up the dark. Search parties tend to use helicopters, depending on the situation and terrain, so if a helicopter is heard flying around, clear an area of ground so that it is easily visible from the sky and lie down. Spreading yourself out creates a bigger target for them to spot. If no helicopter is heard, you can still clear an area and use rocks, branches, or even dig with your feet to create a large “X” or “SOS” for any passing pilot. Letters that are 12 feet tall and 2 feet wide are the easiest to spot. Whistle make excellent attraction-getters and are a must to have. With a whistle, you won’t scream yourself hoarse and the sound will carry much farther than just your voice. Learn to use a good signaling mirror as well, since they can be used for helicopters, planes, and even ground targets miles away. (Here is an example).
That was a signaling mirror from a distance of 0.7 miles, 11.1 miles, and 43 miles away. Using the sun’s reflection can clearly be seen from a great deal off.
Overall, water is more important than food. We need more water, and sooner, than we need food. The average person can live 3-5 days without water, and 20-40 days without food. Conserve the amount of water you have and begin to find or capture any water around you. If you have any buckets, bottles, or other water-retaining gear, use it to catch rain or fill up in rivers and streams. If possible, purify the water before drinking it by either boiling it or using water purification tablets. Morning dew can be found on vegetation and sometimes pooled on big leaves. Even wet clothes can be wrung into a container to get water. Do not eat snow to get water if you can, it will make you colder faster, instead try to melt it in a bucket or other container first.
Improvise and adapt.
Think outside the box. Many objects can be used for things other than what they were normally intended for. A trash bag can make a great water-catcher or poncho and duct tape has hundreds of potential uses from temporary band-aids to making a spear. Here are 5 general rules when improvising:
- Determine what you really NEED.
- Inventory all of your materials and resources, both natural and man-made.
- Think about any and all possible alternatives before continuing.
- Select the best option that takes the least amount of time, energy, and resources.
- Follow through, making sure it is safe and durable.
You’ll be okay.
Make sure that your kid knows to tell you or another adult before going outside. If there are no adults around and your kid needs to go outside for whatever reason, they must leave a detailed note telling you where they went and when they left the house. They need to remember to S.T.O.P. when things go wrong and to keep their wits about them, and they will be fine.
Spending time outdoors is a wonderful thing for a child to do. It allows them to exercise their body and mind, and is infinitely better than them glued to a TV screen all Saturday afternoon. If you are one of those parents who allows their kid to play video games nonstop, you are doing your child no good. Video games are fun but cannot be all they do. Make them spend time outside playing sports or building a fort – if they don’t want to then do it with them and help! It will be a fun activity for both of you and a great experience for developing minds.
I’ll leave you with this basic list of suggested items to pack in your child’s (even for a teenager) backpack for when they go outside. Add to this list depending on their age and the nature of their outing.
- a couple bottles of water
- some high protein snacks
- sun screen
- powerful flashlight
- some bright fabric (tarp, shirt)
- appropriate outdoor clothing
- anything else you think your child needs!