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25 Survival Skills for Kids

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If your child were lost in the wilderness, could they survive? Would they have the skills to keep themselves safe until they reached help or help reached them?

A compass on a map, invaluable tools in a survival situation.

In our convenience-centered culture, survival skills are rarely considered essential to ourselves, let alone our children. Yet, if a scenario were to hit where these skills were needed. It would be too late.

Life is unexpected.

You never know when survival skills may be needed.

Maybe you don’t have much knowledge of survival skills. That’s ok. You and your children can learn together!

While the events surrounding the idea of needing these skills aren’t so fun. You can make this fun. Learn a new skill once a week together as a family. You’ll all be better off for it.

Not only will you pass on skills to a new generation. You’ll be increasing their knowledge and confidence!

Don’t you feel good when you learn something new?

So do your kids.

25 Survival Skills for Kids

1. S.T.O.P acronym.

What if you and your child become separated? Would they instantly panic and run around aimlessly? You don’t want that to happen so you teach them to S.T.O.P.

Stop as soon as they realize they’re lost.

Think about the situation.

Observe their surroundings.

Plan what to do.

Always have a plan in place when you go to an area where separation is possible. Any crowded venues. Also add a plan to the books for natural disasters and other not-so-fun to think about situations.

2. How to grow food.

Growing a garden is fun! It provides delicious, nutritious food. Everyone should have at least basic knowledge of how to grow a small garden.

Start your own garden. Teach your children right along with you from seed to table.

If there were no more grocery stores, everyone would need a basic knowledge of gardening simply to survive. Just start one, have fun with it, let them learn something new, and experience the beauty of life and the fruits of their labors.

3. How to preserve food.

Knowing how to grow it is great. You can’t eat it all at once, though. Unfortunately, food goes bad quite quickly. This is where long-term food preservation skills come in handy.

Make sure your children have basic knowledge of how to preserve foods without electricity. If they’re out in the wilderness or the grid is down electricity isn’t going to help them.

Be it dehydrating by the sun, canning by fire, smoking, salt curing, or any other methods of preservation used pre-electrification. They should know how to keep and store food.

4. How to identify spoiled food.

We’ve all eaten bad food. We’ve paid for it dearly and moved on. Some food-borne bacteria aren’t noticeable. Botulism, for instance, is something you cannot see or smell.

Your child should still be able to tell if food is too far gone to consume. If it’s got mold growing all over it, probably best to do without and find provisions elsewhere.

5. How to forage and identify locally edible and medicinal plants.

Foraging for wild berries.

Modern society considers so many beneficial plants weeds. It disgusts me, personally. Many, many plants are completely safe and edible. Several even have amazing medicinal properties!

Teach your child how to identify these plants in your region. Figure out what their uses are medicinally and how they can be consumed.

6. How to hunt and fish.

Our girls love all things hunting and fishing. We depend on these things to feed us now. Even young children can learn how to use a bow and a gun.

They can learn how to cast and real in a catch. They can learn how to humanely harvest game meat. They can also learn weapon safety. That is an important skill for anyone.

7. How to safely use a knife.

I see so many people instill fear in a child when it comes to sharp objects. Particularly knives. Don’t make your kids scared of knives.

Teach your child that knives are tools that, when used properly, can help them. Knife safety is important because while we don’t want them grabbing a knife by the blade, we want them to be able to properly use one.

Teach them as young as you’re able. Give them a small pocket knife or another blade of their own to put in their packs when you’re out in the woods.

8. How to clean and sharpen a blade.

Part of learning how to use a knife is knowing how to make a knife useful. If you have a dull blade, it’s not going to be very useful at all.

Teach your children how to keep the blade clean and sharp at all times using a small sharpening stone they can put in their packs.

9. How to open a can.

It amazes me how many people can’t open a can without electricity. I can’t even use those things. I can use handheld ones, though.

Teach your child to use a handheld can opener to start. But, also teach them to open a can without one. Be it using a spoon, a pocket knife, or even a rock. If they don’t have a can opener, they need another method.

10. How to clean and prepare fish and wild game.

Cleaning a fish.

Knowing how to humanely harvest fish and game is only half the battle. They need to know how to properly clean it and butcher it so they can eat it.

Teach them not only how to hunt and fish for their food, but what to do with it once they harvest it.

11. What to do if they encounter wildlife.

People in cities and other populated areas don’t think much about wild animals. Yet, they are a real threat. We’re not at the top of the food chain, folks.

In the wilderness, wildlife is a real threat. Does your child know what to do if they encounter a bear? A mountain lion? A pack of coyotes?

Determine the wildlife native to your area, then teach your child what to do in the event they encounter them. It could be the difference between life and death.

12. How to start a fire.

If your child is stuck in the middle of nowhere and it’s cold, having a fire to keep warm is essential. Teach them how to safely make a fire and be around the fire.

In the mountains, especially, the temperature can go from comfortable to below freezing as soon as the sun goes down. Teach them about their environment. It’s better to settle down early and build a fire than to be stuck in the dark and cold with no means to make one.

13. How to cook on a fire.

A soup kettle over an open fire

While we’re on the subject of fire, may as well learn how to cook on it. Teaching your child to cook at all is a great skill. Teaching them how to cook on a fire? Even better.

Teach your children the different methods of cooking over a fire so that they can cook that wild game and fish, among other things.

14. How to find water and make it safe for drinking.

Humans can go quite a while without food. Water is another story. We cannot go long without it.

Your child should know ways to not only find water but how to make it safe to drink. We need it, but we can’t drink contaminated water without getting sick or dying. Something as simple as a life straw in their pack could be a great addition. Also teach them other methods, such as boiling over that hot fire.

15. Make or find shelter.

A primitive survival shelter made of tree branches

Shelter isn’t just a creature comfort, it’s important. Keeping out of the elements should be a priority.

Teach your children how to utilize their natural surroundings to their benefit.

Teach them to use sticks to make a lean-to. Tree branches as a temporary shelter from the rain. Shade to keep cool. A small cave or alcove (after they’ve checked for wildlife), or how to make a snow tent.

All of these skills will keep them from being completely exposed to the elements. It can keep them warm, cool, and dry as long as they know how to use what nature has given them.

16. Basic first aid.

Everyone should know basic first aid. Your child is no exception.

I’m always amazed when I read stories of how young children saved their parent’s life because they had basic first aid knowledge. Never underestimate the power of teaching these skills to your child. They could do more than just save their own life. They may save yours.

17. How to determine direction.

Be it by compass, map, the sky, landmarks, or whatever. They need to know how to determine direction. Gain knowledge of where they are.

If they’re lost and have lost their bearings, determining their direction can help them get turned around. This could be the difference between being really lost, and just being turned around. It could potentially help them find civilization sooner.

18. How to signal.

You can teach even young children how to signal with something as simple as a mirror or other reflective device.

Having this skill can be the difference between surviving and not surviving. Toss a mirror in their pack and teach them how to properly use it.

19. Self defense.

Knowing how to protect themselves is not something to wait around on. Self-defense is beneficial not only to potential safety. But to wellbeing. It also takes time to learn.

Self-defense can also be very rewarding and even fun. Start teaching them the basic knowledge now, before it’s too late.

20. How to keep a positive attitude.

I don’t know about you, but when I have a bad attitude, my whole life sucks.

Negativity can ruin chances of survival and pretty much anything else. Your child needs to know how to remain calm and maintain a positive, can-do attitude. Regardless of the situation, they need to know how to do this.

Something as simple as being positive could save their life.

21. How to use a compass.

My kids love compasses. Something about them seems to bring out their natural curiosity.

Your child should know how to properly use one. Make it fun and teach them! Make sure they have a good compass with them anytime they are out, especially in the wilderness.

22. How to read a map.

A topographical map

One of the many downfalls of technology is that there aren’t many maps left. Everything is on your smartphone or GPS and getting a hold of a paper map is like finding an antique.

You should locate a few local road and trail maps, though. Even if they’re not entirely up to date. Maps could really help them along their way. Teach your child not only how to read a general reference map, but a topographical map (which is what most trail maps are).

23. How to sew.

Sewing skipped a generation in our family. My mom cannot sew something as simple as a button. I’m no seamstress, but I do have sewing skills and gain more every day.

I’m determined my kids don’t wind up like my mom. So, they’re learning right along with me. Everything from basic mending, to making clothing. Sewing should be a skill you and your children have.

24. How to be healthy.

The average American is anything but healthy and a large portion of Americans are children.

Teach your child how to eat healthily and stay physically fit. That garden I mentioned earlier can help with that! It will open them up to new foods and help them stay fit. Going outdoors instead of being cooped up and glued to a screen all day will also help.

If they aren’t in tip-top shape and a survival situation presents itself, they may not be able to make the cut.

25. How to barter and trade.

We love bartering and trading. I think it’s an art that never should have been lost. Money is overrated. It’s trading for essentials and skills that we need.

Teach your child how to barter in a fair way that benefits all parties. You can teach them this skill at flea markets or garage sales pretty easily.

Thinking about your child being in a situation where they would need any of these skills is scary, I know. Yet, it’s best to teach them now instead of sitting around thinking that they may never need them. Hopefully, they never do.

In the event they do need these skills, it could save their life. So teach them now, while you have time.

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12 Essential Life Skills That Will Equip Your Kids For the Real World | Free Printable

Tuesday 3rd of August 2021

[…] skills. It develops awareness and, your kid will know what to do in emergencies. We need to teach all the basic survival skills to our […]

Ariel

Monday 23rd of September 2019

Hello,

Thank you for putting this list together. I did not grow up learning a preparedness-mindset from my parents and it's felt like an uphill battle learning all this stuff as an adult. I SO want my own son to grow up knowing the basics of survival.

Have you considered creating this list by age? Or including baby steps to start off with younger children? As a mom of a toddler, I look at this list and think: I can't teach my son ANY of this yet. But after some thought (several hours to a couple of days), I realized, actually, I can. He already helps me water our little container garden (he's 2) and we've been working on identifying ripe fruits and veggies all summer. I just started teaching him how to use a butter knife (prompted by this blog post, actually - thank you!). We haven't taken him fishing yet but he knows to look for worms in the dirt! (Ha ha!) I've started to point out the plants that I know on our walks (dandelion, yarrow, St. John's wort, etc.) and he's such a sponge, he knows them pretty well already. All these little, baby steps that, as a mom of a toddler, I CAN start teaching him right now.

Danielle McCoy

Tuesday 24th of September 2019

I haven't thought of that, but thank you so much for your suggestion!

Chris Gilmour

Sunday 6th of January 2019

As someone who instructs in wilderness and emergency survival as well as self-reliance skills and who ran a summer camp and youth organization for years, I LOVE this list. This is a really solid foundation to make people resilient and more in touch with both what they are capable of and the natural environment. Thanks for the great post!

Travis Walker

Tuesday 31st of October 2017

These are great skills to teach children, Danielle. They are young and it will be easy for them to comprehend. I'm used to bring my children with me whenever I'm going to fish. This has become a hobby, and they really enjoy it. Next time, I will also teach them how to grow food from our garden. I just wish that more people will be open to talk about survival and to have this mindset. Outdoor education and set of survival skills are essential that we have to instill in our children. In case of a worst case scenario, we can rest easy that they can thrive and survive.

John Duffy

Sunday 15th of January 2017

I wish more parents had your mindset. Too many kids (& adults) are clueless as to what to do in a survival situation. I'm sure there is an "app" for that but, eventually your smart phone is gonna run out of power. I wonder if some people would have the 'sense' to put their butts out if they caught fire. I recently bought my grandson his very own sharpening stone. I figured, if he's going to be hunting & fishing, he needs to know how to sharpen a knife. I am so thankful to my grandpa for teaching me this life skill. A sharp knife is a safe knife! I really enjoy your website. Best regards, John

Danielle McCoy

Monday 16th of January 2017

There aren't many people who think about what ifs without modern amenities. It's as if everyone assumes that even in a desperate, SHTF situation they're going to have their phones and whatever else necessary. Most people live in cities and don't think about what lurks beyond the highways and byways surrounding their populated areas. Actually, people are probably safer outside of cities in a SHTF situation, but that's a whole other.... Their grocery stores will eventually run out of food and looters will take anything from anyone without a second thought. My husband and I are trying to teach our daughters everything we can as far as these life skills. They actually have a lot of fun doing it and we are all happier for it. We are meant to live more naturally than modern life affords.

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