A vital part of any outdoor or survival situation is ensuring you know the right skills needed to flourish. As parents or teachers, we want to ensure our kids have the knowledge needed to thrive in difficult situations. It can however be extremely difficult to keep a child’s attention whilst offering them valuable lessons. Making sure your kids have the skills they need is important, but what is the best way to do this in a fun but informative way?
Today we have gathered the most vital survival skills any child should need and tried to adapt them into fun activities for kids and adults alike. From roasting marshmallows over a fire to competing with each other to see who can make the best survival shelter. We have come up with a host of games and activities for you and your kids to do together whilst still teaching them vital skills.
Read on to see what we think are the best survival activities for kids and tips on how best to turn a mundane outdoors safety course into a fun but informative game!
The Top 10 Survival Activities for Kids
1. Start a Campfire
One of the most essential survival skills for anyone to learn and one that can easily be adapted to an enjoyable activity, teaching your kid how to start a bonfire can be a great experience. Whether it’s for keeping warm in the cold outdoors or gathering around with friends to tell stories and cook ‘smores, knowing how to start a bonfire can enhance a child’s camping experience. But how exactly should this be done, and what safety measurements should always be implemented?
Below we have a brief guide on how best to teach your kid how to start a fire and how this can be an enlightening experience and crucial bonding time for both of you!
Picking the Right Area
Before starting a fire you should always take your time to ensure that you find the right spot in which to set it up. Always find somewhere that features flat terrain, or as flat as possible, and somewhere that isn’t sheltered too much by trees as you want the smoke to disperse. Finding the right location to start your campfire is essential as rough, uneven terrain can create an unsafe environment.
Remove any sticks and other debris that may impede the surrounding area to help flatten out the terrain around your chosen spot. Removing unnecessary debris is important as it will prevent the fire from accidentally spreading to nearby environments and causing a wildfire. Wind should also be avoided where possible for this exact reason, if not possible try to build a fire shield using larger logs or stone to prevent wind blowing the fire uncontrollably.
Your campfire should also be set up away from your tent or similar shelter, to help prevent your personal belongings catching fire by accident. Ensuring your kids know the right way to find a perfect campfire spot can be one of the best skills you can teach them when it comes to outdoor survival.
What To Use
Finding the right materials to set your campfire up is an extremely important wilderness survival skill. Some materials are easier to use such as dry grass and smaller twigs and branches, where is slightly damp leaves and sticks can massively impede on the fire building exercise.
Teaching your child the right firewood to use and the best foliage and shrubbery can be a rewarding and sensible activity. The beauty of this is it can be made fun by adding competition to see who can collect the best firewood whilst you are still teaching essential basic survival skills. Teaching your children how to collect firewood can be a very fun task!
This is without a doubt one of the most important wilderness survival skills anyone should be versed in. Helping make sure that your child knows the correct procedures and ways in which you can prevent a forest fire is extremely important. This goes hand in hand with finding the right area to build your campfire.
As mentioned in that section you want to ensure that a fire is built on flat and even ground where possible. You also want to check that it is hard for wind to reach the campfire, as again, this may spread the fire beyond your control and is a great way to start a wildfire. External fuels sources such as oil and diesel should also be completely avoided as it is sufficiently difficult to know how much of each liquid to use and how to keep it in a single, secure, location.
2. Scavenger Hunt
Starting a scavenger hunt for your kids can be an excellent way to improve their wilderness survival skills in a multitude of ways. It can be used to show them how to correctly use a compass or use the sun and moss on trees to navigate their way through unfamiliar areas.
You can also use a scavenger hunt to offer enjoyable and exciting ways to learn other survival skills such as Morse code and signalling. Set up the hunt so that when your child has found a clue, it is written in Morse so they will be required to translate it. It can also be fun to get them to signal to you that they have found a clue using a torchlight or similar device.
Scavenger hunts are an ideal way to provide important and essential skills required for outdoor survival in an interactive way. By adapting a classic game of hide and seek with an added challenge, your child will be learning a host of different important skills without fully realising it. The best part is, the whole family can take part so even the adults can get involved!
3. Grow Your Own Food
If you are looking for a long term survival-based activity that can be used for teaching survival skills, you may want to consider starting your own mini allotment or growing patch. Kids love to grow their own plants and food, which can make this an extremely exciting way to enhance their survival knowledge.
Growing common herbs and plants that can be found in the wilderness can be a great way to teach your kids what plants are safe to eat, which is an extremely useful life skill. Once a plant or vegetable is fully grown, you can then teach them how to harvest specific parts and cook up a nice meal together, which will surely beat hot dogs and fries!
This also has the added benefit of being both economical and environmentally friendly as you will save yourself money in the long run by planting your own crops. Due to the vegetables being readily available no packaging will be required which means there will be far less waste then visiting your local supermarket. It also offers valuable lessons in terms of food storage, as your fresh crops will need to be stored correctly to ensure that they are ready to use when you cook your next meal.
Another way you can make this seem like a fun game to your kid is by getting them to name each plan and add customized plant markers. This offers an additional creative layer to growing crops with your children and can help them spot edible plants from a variety of different plant families. Growing your own food is an incredible way to teach your children a valuable outdoors skill without venturing too far from your own home.
4. Campfire Cooking
Cooking food around a campfire is an honored tradition that every camper has to do at some point or another. Whether it’s roasting marshmallows while telling spooky ghost stories or cooking burgers after a long day hiking, cooking food on a campfire is an important aspect of camping. But how can you make this exciting to your children?
A great way of instantly enhancing the excitement behind cooking your own food around a campfire is by using the food that you and your kids have grown together. If you do decide to grow your own crops in your back garden or similar area then bringing some of those crops with you on your next camping trip for roasting is a great idea. Your kids will love the novelty of roasting their own tomatoes or potatoes over a campfire knowing that they grew the vegetables themselves.
Another method of turning this into a game is to see who can make the best s’mores with a bunch of different ingredients to choose from. As s’mores are essentially a sweet sandwich, each ingredient can be changed with ruining it too much. For example, you could bring along cheese and ham and see if your kids can make a savoury s’more. Try spicing up the sweet selection by bringing white chocolate and peanut butter, or any other treat you know your children love, the list goes on!
Teaching your kids how to safely cook meat is also an essential wilderness survival skill that most children will eventually want to know. If you are a fan of fishing or know that your child is, you can spend the day fishing together to see what you can catch. Once you manage to catch something you can then show them how to cook fish safely over a campfire. This is an ideal way for your child to get started in learning how to safely cook meat over outside fires.
5. Shelter Building
As a kid who grew up near woodland and forests, I always enjoyed competing with my friends to see who is the best at building forts. Racing to see who could get the coolest looking shelter before we had to go home was one of the most fun activities I did as a child and was surprisingly informative too. If you children are anything like I was when I was a young age, they too will love competing with each and other and even the adults to see who can build the best shelter before it gets dark!
Finding the Right Spot
The first step to creating the best shelter is to find the right spot. Ideally, you want somewhere that is flat whilst still near enough trees and other shrubberies that you can build around a natural structure. Using a tree as a centrepiece to your shelter is a great starting point as you can lean larger branches and logs against it without worrying about it collapsing.
The ground surrounding your shelter should also be flat as it is far easier to build upon flat ground than it is stony, bumpy terrain. Clearing yourself some space before starting can be a great idea and offers a perfect way to teach kids how to spot a decent survival shelter location.
What to Use
Even this step can be turned into a game of sorts that your kids will find exciting. Before you begin the grand survival shelter championships, walk around the forest and surrounding woodland asking your kids to see if they can spot animal dens. When a den has been spotted you can then ask your kids what materials have been used and how the animal has built their den and see if they can replicate it. You can easily make a game out of something that may initially seem mundane.
The best materials to use tend to be larger branches or log as well as large leaves and foliage to help disguise your survival shelter. Before your kids build a shelter you can turn the material collection stage into a race, giving them 15 minutes to find the best materials they can get. Your kids will love the competition and will race each other to see who can get more wood than the other.
Finding ways to jazz up even the most mundane tasks is a great way to teach important wilderness survival skills at a young age.
How to Keep Out Water
A good survival shelter needs to keep out the rain and any other water source to help ensure you stay warm. Teaching your kids about preventing water from seeping into a shelter is needed if they ever find themselves in a stormy survival situation. Things such as giant leaves and branches with foliage on can be used to build a shelter whilst offering a water-resistant design.
This can be turned into a game by offering a prize for whoever can keep the most water out of their shelter once it has been fully built. To do this you can ask your kids to sit inside their shelter when they think they have finished and then chuck a bucket of water over the shelter. The child who comes out the driest wins. Just make sure you only do this if the weather is decent and always be sure to bring a spare change of clothes and a towel!
6. First Aid Skills
Every decent survival kit should feature a first-aid set, whether that’s just gauze and plasters or bandages and stitching equipment. When it comes to outdoor survival and injury prevention, a basic first aid kit is a must. There may be times where an adult isn’t nearby and your kids require first aid, so ensuring they are familiar with ins and outs of first aid kits as well as contacting emergency services is extremely important.
Treating Basic Injuries
A quick and simple way of turning a first aid class into a game is to get your kids to act out any emergencies and how best to act in a given scenario. Whether it’s simply teaching your kids how to correctly disinfect a wound or how to roll someone over into the emergency position in case they pass out. It can be difficult to turn this into a fun activity due to how serious this subject can be but by adding some role-playing elements, you can definitely liven it up.
This is especially important if one of your kids or even other children you may know have a medical problem that may require serious attention. Teaching your kids how best to react to a serious situation can be a lifelong skill that plays into a host of different scenarios so it’s best to take your time with this lesson.
How to Call For Help
Much like in adult life, there may be times where your children simply aren’t prepared for a given situation. Some injuries are beyond an aid kit and will require the help of emergency services such as mountain rescue or paramedics. Teaching your kids the correct emergency services lines is essential as no one should be in a situation where they don’t know how to call for help.
Family members of all ages should be taught in the correct way to contact outside help whether that’s by calling emergency services using a cell phone or using Morse code to alert a park ranger. As mentioned in the scavenger hunt you can sneakily teach your children Morse code by adding it in as part of the game. At home, you will also want to show your children the different emergency helplines just in case there comes a time when they need to call for help. This is a vital skill regardless of whether you are a child or an adult!
7. How to Find Water
Finding water outside may seem easy, especially if there is a lake nearby, but is not as straightforward as it may seem. There are certain factors that come into play when it comes to drinking water from outside sources such as never drinking from standing water and purifying any source before taking a sip. Water safety is required in an array of situations so it’s best to start teaching it to your kids as early as you can.
Before you can even consider how best to purify any water you may come across, you first need to find a source of water. If there is a lake or stream nearby this can be turned into a simple competition. Hand out any bags or sacks to your children that can carry water and offer a prize to whoever can collect the most water in 10 minutes. Your kids will love racing around trying to find the best location to collect water as fast as they can. If an accessible source of water isn’t available, however, you will need to teach them how to collect water using other methods.
There are a host of methods in which you can collect water such as setting up a container to collect it as it rains. Teach your kids how to use a t-shirt to catch the water and drip it into a bucket or jar by adding an extra layer to the shelter building tournament. Consider adding an additional prize for any kids who have considered water collection or have provided a means of collecting rainwater ready for purification.
A vital but often overlooked skill that is essential to ensuring yours and your children’s safety when collecting water from outdoors sources. There is a host of way to purify any water found such as distillation, boiling or even using water purification tablets. Children tend to be fascinated by science, so showing them how to this using different methods can be fairly exciting. When it comes to teaching your children how to safely boil water, however, be sure to cover fire safety as a heat source is required for water purification in this way.
8. How to Track Animals
Tracking animals in the wilderness is already a fairly fun task so trying to find methods to spice it up isn’t too important. A great way of adding another layer to it however is by getting your children to find animal tracks and guess what animal might have left them behind. Give them pen and paper and ask them to draw the tracks, or even better, ask them to draw an animal that they think may have left those tracks behind. Bonus points for the child who draws the most creative animal!
Animal tracks can also be used for navigation in the wild, such as finding a source of water or avoiding dangerous areas. Teaching your kids the different animals that they may come across and what their tracks look like can be a challenge. But as long as you make it interesting and rewarding it can be one of the most enjoyable activities in the wilderness.
Water safety and teaching your children how to swim can potentially save their, or even someone else’s life in emergency situations. Being able to swim is a big part of wilderness survival especially in areas prone to rain or woodland surrounding lakes. If your kids have the knowledge needed to swim then they will feel far safer navigating rivers and other outdoor locations that feature water.
This can be a tricky skill to teach if you are nowhere near a safe lake or river, but it can be done. Checking to see if your local sports centre or gym has swimming lessons available is a perfect way to ensure your kids will be safe even in the wettest environments. If however, this isn’t possible, you may want to teach your kids in an outdoor swimming location.
If you decide to be your kids swimming teacher, then there are some safety measures you should ensure you take before you start each lesson. Make sure that the river you choose isn’t too deep or features a strong current as this can be extremely dangerous. Always check the bottom of the lake for sharp rocks and other shrapnel and try to prevent your kids from diving in as they may accidentally cut themselves on rocks. You should also bring a life preserver or swimming safety vest with you if your child is unsure about how to swim as this could save their life!
If you are planning on teaching your kids how to swim, ensuring you know the correct safety measures you need to implement before starting any coaching. If you need more safety information be sure to check online for any safety tips we may have missed as swimming can be a dangerous activity if you are not prepared.
10. How to Forage For Food
Regardless of age, there may come a time when you are stranded in the wilderness and you need to find food, water and other resources quickly. Teaching your kids early what plants are safe to eat and what they should always avoid can give them a massive head start. Just make sure you yourself know the right plants and berries you can eat before traipsing into the wilderness looking for food!
Identifying Different Food Types
There are a host of different food types that you may come across in the wilderness from meat to berries. Sitting down with your child and going through the different types of food using pictures can be an enjoyable activity to do at home. You can also link this back to tracking an animal as you can show your child what animals are easy to hunt and what their tracks look like.
Plants to Avoid
Some plants, and especially berries and mushrooms can be toxic or poisonous so it can become a risky game finding the edible ones. A great way of showing your kids what is edible is by growing it yourself in your back garden or allotment. Get your kid to design the labels and show them what a specific berry looks like so they can easily distinguish it in the wild. You can also get out the colouring pencils and sit down with your child to draw the plant they should avoid and what berries are toxic. This can then be turned into a handy little guide they can take with them whenever they next go camping!
You can also check to see if there are any local survival lessons that your kids can go to that offer plant safety guides and other tutorials that will come in handy in any survival situation. Teaching your kids vital lessons doesn’t have to be boring, As long as you use your imagination and make sure they are learning what they need to, you can adapt any boring task into a host of different exciting activities!