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Monday, December 21, 2009

Teach Your Kids Winter Survival Skills

My kids have had their sleds lined up by the garage door since Thanksgiving. They've been trying on their snow clothes and eyeing new ski jackets in the L.L. Bean catalog and are ready to get out in the snow and burn some serious calories! I love to watch them play in the snow and ski down a (slightly elevated) hill, but the SurvivalMom in me wants to make sure they also have some winter survival skills. Combining the fun of winter sports and outdoor activities with a few survival lessons is my sneaky way of making sure they know what to do if ever they find themselves in trouble.

Above all, I want my kids to know how to make it easy for rescuers to find them. When there's a chance they'll be out of my sight, say, when they're skiing or tramping through the woods, I want them to have a small survival kit with them. Just in case.

Once kids are on their December break, putting together individual Winter Survival Kits is a sure-fire activity to keep them occupied. These are small enough to be carried in backpacks or fanny packs, and kids love having something important that is all their own. It's important to keep in mind that the most essential piece of survival equipment is knowledge. Make sure your kids know what to do with each item if they're ever in an emergency situation. Here is what you'll need to make up these kits.

  • a bright colored bandana or similar size cloth
  • a whistle
  • a small, powerful flashlight
  • 2 hand-warmers and 2 toe-warmers
  • 2 high calorie energy bars
  • a small bottle of water (Once it's empty, it can be filled with snow for more drinking water.)
  • a large black trash bag (use as an emergency blanket or shelter)
  • a pocketknife
  • small packet of tissues (emergency toilet paper, runny noses, etc.)

Put all these items in a large zip-loc bag or small nylon sack, and it's finished. In no way is this meant to be provisions for long-term survival! It's filled with just enough essential items to help a youngster signal for help and stay occupied until rescue arrives. For older kids, you might add a firestarter, a few tablets of over-the-counter pain medication (in case there's been an injury), and additional food and water.

Besides having some tools for survival, specific skills and knowledge are just as important. In addition to what you can teach them from your own training and experience, there is a vast resource of survival tips online. Older kids will enjoy this video of how to make a small survival stove using a couple of cans, toilet paper, and alcohol, and this video from Shiloh Productions has multiple survival tips designed to help kids survive the wilderness.

Bob Mayne's most recent Today's Survival podcast features numerous practical tips for surviving in the wilderness. Much of what he says is just great survival advice for any age, anywhere. My son was most impressed with Bob's comment on the need to avoid boredom in emergency situations. "See, Mom! I told you I need a DS! I can keep it in my emergency bag!"

Wildwood Survival, a fabulous site with over 500 pages of wilderness survival advice, has this page devoted to winter survival including directions for building a snow coffin! There's even a section devoted to teaching survival skills to children.

Sometimes parents have to be sneaky in order to teach our kids what they must know. Now that winter is in full swing, take advantage of the colder weather to teach important survival skills your kids will never forget.

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