We talk a lot on this site about gear, survival skills, and general preparedness. But that’s focused on adults. I’m lucky in that my 10-year-old son enjoys and wants to do “survival” type stuff. I trust him with a hatchet. He’s allowed to use some of my husband’s tools like the dremel for polishing and grinding and he likes to make “zombie weapons” by nailing nails into board and stuff like that.

He promises me they”ll only be used on “zombies and humans if I have to,” he says. And I believe him! Why? Because preparedness and self-defense are ongoing topics of conversation in our house that we include him in.

Let’s just imagine for a minute, if you lost track of your child in an outdoor setting, would your child know how to survive and be found alive? I’m not 100% sure my child would be. So I’m going to work on teaching him some of these skills that I consider basic for a child to be found alive.

  1. Situational Awareness

Just knowing that you are coming upon a potentially dangerous situation can go a long way toward saving your child’s life. Practice observing the world around you and engage your child in that conversation. If you see something that you’re keeping an eye on, let your child in on it too. They need to learn what to look out for.

2. Fire Making and Signaling

At this point my son doesn’t have his own bug-out bag but I’m working on making him one. He’s been young enough that he was under the protection of the adults in the house and didn’t have his own gear. But he’s old enough now that he can take on that responsibility. One of the things he knows how to use, and likes to use, is a magnifying glass to start a fire. He also knows that he can take a piece of mirror or glass and make a light that is bright enough to be noticed from afar.

3. Wariness of Strangers

The world is such a different place now than it was decades ago. Now, I no longer consider it safe to go up to any adult who happens to be around and ask for help. Most experts used to tell children to seek out a policeman. But that was when neighborhood officers were commonly standing on streetcorners or cruising down side streets. That’s no longer the case. Children are very unlikely to find a police officer when they are in need of help. The common advice now is to direct your child to look for a woman to help them, and in particular, a mother if they can find one. Statistically, women are more likely to not be a threat and to actually be helpful.

My son has memorized our phone number and address and whenever I’m asked to give it he pipes in and gives it for me. but he also knows not to give that information out unless he really needs to. My son also takes karate, and he believes that he could “take a creep down” if someone messed with him. The reality is though, that no child can overpower an adult unless they get extremely lucky. So they have to rely on their wits and not their bodies.

Teach them about rescue workers. If your child has been taught so strongly to avoid strangers, they may avoid a rescue worker, particularly if the child is very young. The bright lights they carry, the noises, the gear may make the rescue worker look even more frightening. That’s not a stranger to avoid.

4. Stay Put or Seek Shelter

When does it make sense to leave the area where you are and when does it make sense to stay? Try to actively discuss these possibilities with your child. If there’s a structure nearby, or a thicket of trees that can provide some shelter, it might be good to stay. If not, seeking that out makes sense. If they stay where they are and they’re in an outdoor setting, there’s less likelihood if them getting lost, getting injured, or going far away from where they are, which can make searching more difficult.

5. Teach Them How to Use Some Basic Gear

When it is age appropriate for your child, teach them how to use a whistle to attract help. Give your daughter or son a small knife and teach them the concepts of safety with the knife. Pack a small gear bag for your child when you’re hiking, camping or even to have at home. Here’s what is recommended for children:

  • Card with their emergency information and someone to contact – With everyone keeping numbers in their phone, many children don’t memorize the numbers of important people in their lives. If the phone is dead, they won’t be able to call anyone.
  • Whistle
  • Signal mirror
  • Emergency blanket
  • Hand warmers – older kids may be able to start a fire safely, but these will help keep younger ones warm.
  • Flashlight that is durable (in case they drop it) and doesn’t rely on batteries.
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Pouches of water
  • Basic first aid kit – All kids know how to use bandaids and ointment.
  • Map of their area – This might help older kids.
  • Depending on their age you might include firestarter gear, paracord, and other small useful objects like a water filter.