Most parents would probably agree that a large part of raising children is about keeping them alive and healthy until they become adults ready to make their own decisions. We do our best to prevent them from getting into dangerous situations and try to equip them with the knowledge, experience and skills to keep them safe, but we also know that we can’t foresee every possible scenario that could happen, you can only do your best to prepare them. You may think that only older children are able to learn survival skills, but you can actually start teaching some survival skills very early in life, even when they are too young to ever let them out of your sight. Here are just a few ideas to start introducing and building survival skills in young children.
Awareness of Surroundings
Young children are naturally fascinated by the world around them. Regardless of whether you spend most of your time in rural or urban areas, by simply taking a little extra time during daily walkabouts, you can encourage their curiosity and help to start teaching them to be aware of their surroundings. It doesn’t matter if they remember anything when you get home, you just want your children to notice and talk to you about things they sense around them as they see/hear/feel/smell them. Answer their questions patiently and try not to hurry them. The most important thing is to make it a fun shared activity.
In the countryside, point out animal tracks, insects, types of flowers and plants, interesting stones as well as landmarks such as big trees, big hills, rocks. Encourage them to touch different surfaces like stones, grass and sand, smell flowers and listen for noises like birdsong or farming machinery.
When out and about in town, look at the buildings and talk about why some look different. Stop and look upwards for a different view. Talk to them about everything you can see, even if it seems mundane; pigeons, statues, trees, types of dog, individual cars or building site machinery. Even simple games like looking out for certain colour cars or front doors all help a child to notice their surroundings.
Road safety is an essential part of learning about their surroundings. Just because they are too young to cross a road by themselves yet does not mean you can’t start teaching them. As adults, we often choose the most convenient or quickest route, rather than the safest. So try to lead by example when you are walking with your children, choosing the safest places to cross and explaining why you are choosing that route. Always stop before crossing, even on quiet minor roads, and consistently explain to your child how you are looking and listening for traffic both ways before you cross.
We all know swimming is great exercise but being able to float or swim is an essential life skill for children, even young toddlers. Simply being able to float on their back, even for a few seconds, dramatically increases their chances of survival should they accidentally fall in water.
Take your child to a swimming pool regularly or to organised swimming lessons. It may be expensive but it really could save their life one day. With young children, they will all learn at their own pace but the most important thing for them to learn first is confidence in the water. If they are not scared about water splashing in their face or bobbing under for a moment, then they will be less likely to panic.
Once they are happy and confident in the water, progress onto teaching them how to roll and float, especially onto their back. There is plenty of information available online to help with this or seek out a qualified children’s swim instructor if you are not confident.
Ok, most young children won’t have the physical strength or mental ability to produce a usable shelter on their own and neither should you expect them to. But they love to help build a den and nurturing this interest is the very first steps in teaching them how to construct shelters. Don’t concentrate on getting anything more out of it than just having fun building dens indoors, in the garden, in the woods – but do let them get down and dirty outdoors if you can. Let them explore different environments, different materials and let them figure out for themselves what works and what doesn’t, allowing them to develop their problem-solving skills as they go. As they get older, this knowledge can be practised and honed until they can build usable survival shelters. It’s also not a bad idea to teach them about safely sheltering from sudden downpours, thunderstorms, etc., especially if you are a family that enjoys being outdoors.