Talking with children about emergency preparedness can be difficult, especially if they’re younger. The subject matter may be too confusing or upsetting for them, but being prepared—as a family—is no doubt something in which you want to invest time and effort. Survival games may be the best way to handle the subject in a manner that’s easier for younger family members to relate to—and they can be a lot of fun. Here are a handful of games that you can play with your children to increase their preparedness skills without causing them undue stress or worry.
Surprise Road Trip
This is essentially a bugout drill, but approached in a way that makes it unnecessary to discuss the concepts behind what bugging out means. Announce the surprise road trip (or hike, or even camping trip) to your family and let everyone know they have fifteen to twenty minutes to gather and pack whatever they think they’ll need for the trip. This will give everyone in the family practice at selecting and gathering supplies they might need for an actual bug out scenario. Your kids—especially younger children—will likely gather a lot of nonessential stuff and leave a lot of critical things behind the first few times, but that’s what games like this are for. After preparing for the surprise trip, you can then reward your kids with a day or weekend camping trip. As your kids get more practiced with this skill, reduce the amount of time or show them how to make bug out bags—which you can turn into its own game.
Make a list of every variety of edible plant that grows in your area or the area in which you plan to run this exercise with your family, if you’re camping or hiking. Make sure to include pictures of the plants and the plant names, and make enough lists for everyone in the family. Children should be paired with an older family member for safety—be sure that everyone in your group knows that there are unsafe and even poisonous plants that may look similar to edible ones, and that they should never eat anything unless they are certain it’s safe.
Make a Fire
Fire making is an invaluable skill, and chances are even the adults could use a little practice. Younger children can pick up basic skills and understanding, like what materials are good for starting a fire and what tools give an advantage. Talk with your family about the different kinds of materials that can be used to start a fire, like the best kind of wood for a fire, what makes good kindling, and how to collect or create tinder. Have your family split up into two-person teams to be safe, and then gather raw materials from the surrounding area that they think might be needed to start a fire.
Adults and older children can take it a step further and see who can get the best fire going. Arrange the kindling and wood properly and then use tinder to start the fire. It’s a great opportunity to offer some instruction on how to build a good foundation for a fire, how to strike sparks, and how to use tinder properly to turn those sparks into an actual fire, without a lighter or matches. You can start with a flint and steel and then move to other tools like a bow drill or fire plow, as well.
Getting Back to Camp
This game is a great one to help kids develop navigational skills (and for the adults to keep theirs sharp!). If you’re camping, have a cabin or other wilderness shelter, or are even just on a day hike, you can use this game to teach children how to find their way back to base camp, the trailhead, or the family vehicle. Always pair off a child with an adult who’s confident in their skills, or do this as a group activity and stay together, letting different members of the family take turns orienteering.
Make sure each family member or group has a compass and an accurate map of the area before starting out. Take the group to a random location (and if you have more than one group, you can use locations an equal distance from whatever you decide on as a base), then have them find their way back to the location you’ve decided on. Start with a relatively easy location close to the base and gradually work up to longer distances over more complicated terrain with each iteration of the game. This helps kids learn how to use a map and navigate over terrain with which they’re not familiar.
Keep It Fun
These games can be a lot of fun for the whole family. They teach your family valuable skills that could help them in emergency situations. If you’re a city dweller, you can adapt most of these games for an urban environment. It’s a great way to spend time together as a family, and will get your kids off of the internet or gaming devices, and keep them entertained while they pick up important survival skills.
To your survival,