Survival Skills for Kids: How to Teach Children to Survive

Teaching your kids a few life-saving survival skills could really make a difference in their lives one day. While no parent wants their children to be in a life-threatening situation where these skills are required, it’s important they know what to do if a survival situation ever arises.

Many of these skills can be taught by simply going outside with your kids. If you go hiking, backpacking, or car camping with your children, it’ll give them the chance to watch, learn, and have the opportunity to ask questions about camping outdoors.

Some of the skills they will learn include how to set up a tent or shelter, how to cook and prepare food outdoors, how to build a campfire, where to find water in the wild, and how to make sure it’s safe to drink. Let’s begin!

Locate or Create Shelter

Being able to build a proper shelter is one of the most important skills to have in a survival situation. Failure to build an effective shelter can even mean life or death. 

As a parent, you can teach your kids this skill by simply building forts in the backyard. Being able to take what is around you in the woods and make a shelter (that is stable and safe) can make all the difference in a survival scenario.

Build a Fire

Fire can provide warmth, light, and a way to cook. When growing up every kid I knew loved to play with fire, and as a parent, it will not be hard to teach your kids how to properly build a campfire. A proper fire consists of:

  • Tool to create a flame or spark: Flint and steel (Ferro rod), lighter, match, lens, etc.…
  • Tinder: Objects that catch fire very easily such as paper, pine needles, or lent.
  • Kindling: Small twigs.
  • Firewood: Larger sticks and/or logs that are dry.

Teaching your kids the different elements of how to build a fire and properly maintain the flame could save their lives in a survival situation. Here’s a post I wrote about tinder vs kindling if you want to learn more.

Locate and Purify Water

The body can go without water for three days; this makes water one of the most urgent needs in a survival situation. 

It is important to teach your kids that untreated water can be dangerous and make you sick. If you are unable to treat the water before you drink it, the safest place to get water is from a spring that comes directly from the ground.

No natural springs in your area?

You’re going to have to find a source of water in the wild that’s not sitting still and filled with bacteria and parasites. This can be difficult if you don’t have a river, creek, or stream in your area. A pond or lake could be a good water source if the water isn’t stagnating or nearby a factory with run-off pollution.

However, once you find a relatively clean source of running water, you still have to purify and boil that water if you want it to be safe for drinking. You can purify water in the wild by building a natural water filter made out of rocks, gravel, charcoal, sand, more gravel, and a small cloth (in that order) placed in a container such as an empty 5-gallon bucket or 2-liter bottle.

Once the water appears to be clear and void of debris, you can then boil the water in something such as a small pot or metal container. Don’t have a small pot or container to boil water in? Use this method instead.

Foraging, Fishing, Hunting

The body can go much longer without food than water, but it is still important to know to find food in a survival situation. I recommend you teach your kids to hunt, fish, set traps, and forage. 

It’s also important to know how to prepare food once it’s obtained so that your child doesn’t get sick in the wilderness. Going hunting or fishing, properly cleaning your catch, and then cooking it over a fire can teach these skills. You may even want to teach your children how to preserve meat in the wild.

Navigate in the Wilderness

Being able to navigate in the wilderness is a very important survival skill that you can teach your kids. 

Having a sense of what direction you’re going, the direction you want to go, and what direction is north can be highly valuable and potentially save your life. 

Knowing how to read a map, use a compass, and operate a GPS are great skills to have as well. One good way to teach your kids these skills would be to go Geocaching.

Perform First Aid

In the wilderness, even a small cut can be dangerous if it gets infected. Teaching your kids the basics of First Aid, such as cleaning out cuts, and properly bandaging scrapes can potentially save their lives in a survival situation. 

A pro tip to teach their kids is that super glue can quickly and effectively seal any cut or small wound. While it may not be as effective as an Israeli bandage or tourniquet, it’s small, lightweight, and can be carried in the bottom of a backpack so that’s a win-win if you ask me!

Appropriate Mindset

The mindset of survival is also a less concrete skill that is important to teach kids. Equipping them to be independent, level-headed, and calm in stressful situations is quite possibly the most important survival skill they can learn.

Here’s a Great Tip

As a parent, you try your best to equip your kids with the proper survival skills so that they can handle any dangerous situation that comes their way. But what else can you do to best set your child up for success in a survival scenario? 

I would recommend you pack your children their own backpacks with water and food such as power bars or trail mix when you go hiking, camping, or out in the wilderness. 

In that backpack, have an emergency bag that contains:

  • Knife
  • Matches
  • Paracord
  • Compass
  • Power bars
  • Flint and steel
  • Small flashlight
  • Emergency Blanket
  • Small roll of electrical tape
  • Life Straw or purifying tablets
  • Superglue/Bandages/Neosporin

Equipping your children with the right survival tools is one of the most important things you can do for them. Hopefully, they will never find themselves in a life-threatening situation, but if they do it’s better to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.