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Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

How to Use Camping to Teach Survival Skills to Your Children

Every parent should take their children camping. Not only is it a great bonding experience, it’s an opportunity to teach your children survival skills that could literally save their lives someday.

Sadly, most children these days don’t appreciate the beauty of the great outdoors. They spend their days staring at screens, learning information that is mostly useless. Camping is a way to disconnect from the modern world and return to the roots of nature.

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Some people may feel like they can’t truly disconnect because they would get bored. However, there is a lost art to camping that could rekindle that innate love for nature. Spending time in the natural world is key to unlocking a lifelong love of the outdoors. 

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Get Them Used To The Outdoors While They’re Young

The more you do something, the more you get used to it, right? Imagine being a child again and hearing strange noises at night, or being cold without knowing that exercise can keep you warm. It can be a pretty scary time, without the right leadership.  

Getting kids outdoors alleviates all of these anxieties as you can show them how to solve these problems. Kids learn quickly since they are in constant observation mode, until it gets turned off by a constant bombardment of screen time. 

The earlier you get them outside, the less desire they will have for screen time. This is because they won’t experience the boredom often felt by families who don’t camp often and rely on technology for entertainment. 

Primitive Skills Are Important For Survival

If the power goes out for an extended period and you don’t know how to build a fire, well, you’re going to have a rough time cooking or keeping warm. Simple primitive skills teach kids how to use what’s around them, rather than relying on modern conveniences.  

If you broaden your view beyond the skills themselves, you’ll notice your children becoming more confident. This is a transitional behavior, meaning confidence can positively impact other areas of their lives, such as school and friendships. 

Children Hiking Outdoors

They Experience the Concept of “Less is More

Since we all know that more stuff isn’t the key to happiness, we can teach the next generation that you don’t need fancy things to have the same basic comforts. The nice thing about camping is that it can be as expensive or cheap as you want it to be. 

People go camping in tents or RVs worth thousands of dollars while others go out with a simple sheet of plastic and a cooking pot. Learning to differentiate between a good time and an expensive time can help them manage their money as well.

Teaches Respect And Creativity Towards The Natural World

One of the bigger problems with camping is the amount of trash that some people leave behind. Teaching your children the “Leave No Trace” concept can help them develop a positive relationship with cleaning up after themselves instead of it being a nag.

When children develop a reverence for nature, they understand the importance of being good stewards of the planet. If you go camping often enough, cleaning up after themselves will become second nature.

Survival skills are often powered by creativity as things seldom go as planned. Being able to identify alternatives to resources you need is a creative skill that can be taught. For example, using white birch bark, you can fold it and turn it into a waterproof bowl in which you can boil water.  

Promotes Independence and Critical Thinking

Survival situations are not for the faint of heart, and part of that problem stems from a lack of knowledge and wisdom from experience. If you teach your child how to be comfortable, they will be able to go off on their own without fear. Fear is what limits your mind from being able to think critically, and that is very much needed in survival. 

Think of it this way, it’s the difference between knowing how to dry yourself if you’re out camping and stuck in the rain, versus freezing up with fear and indecision because you don’t know how to start a fire or build a shelter in wet conditions.

Even The Bad Memories Make Good Stories 

“Remember that time camping when…” I’m sure you’ve never heard a bad camping story after it started like that. That’s because even the worst times camping always turn out to be a good laugh later on. Teach your kids that the miserable times camping are still just as good as the times at home. 

Skills You Can Teach While Camping

Keep in mind that you don’t need to go full medieval on your camping trips. There can be a balance between technology and nature. Several pieces of technology can assist you, whether they are identification apps, drones to get a better vantage point, or eBooks.

Building and Maintaining Safe Fires

Building a fire is almost a rite of passage for anyone out in the bush. This makes sense as keeping warm and cooking are necessities for life. Take it a step further and teach them how to build a fire in any condition using a variety of tools. F

ire building is incredibly fun as well since you’re creating a reaction from assembled components. Some of the things you can focus on include: 

  • Identifying dead-standing trees, as well as varieties for best burning. 
  • How to use different wood thicknesses to start a fire effectively.
  • Using a Ferro rod, matches, or lighters to start a fire.
  • Using fatwood from pine trees and birch bark as tinder.
  • Controlling the fire with proper fuel amounts.
Children Sitting by Campfire

Water Filtration and Purification

Another imperative survival skill is the ability to source clean drinking water. Kids are used to tap water and bottled products that are convenient and safe to consume (generally). There are some easy methods to ensure that your child is both prepared and outfitted in case they need an emergency drink of water.

  • Give your children a Lifestraw and show them how to use it. It is small enough that they can keep it in their camping pack.
  • Show your children how to choose the right water source. Look for running water sources instead of stagnant pools where bacteria can grow.

Shelters That Can Save Your Life

Building forts outside is fun, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t agree. Luckily, these kinds of shelters can save your life too. 

A great camping idea is to pick one trip a season where you go out and build a survival shelter together, then sleep in it. It gives your children the experience of building a survival shelter in all four seasons.  

Shelter ideas that won’t compromise on safety include:

  • Build an A-Frame or debris shelter in the forest using logs, sticks, and forest duff.
  • Quinzees are snow structures that are easily constructed and can provide warmth in the cold.
  • Tarp shelters are great to teach children since they are easily packable and can be built into multiple configurations depending on the weather.

Knot Tying

Tying knots is such an important skill to have, even in modern society. There are so many knots to learn, all with different capabilities. Keeping it simple with a few essential knots will make muscle memory easier to maintain. 

Here are some of the easiest and most versatile knots to check out:

Using a Compass and Other Navigation Skills

Relying on a GPS tracking system is fairly easy for everyone, but what happens if that system isn’t available? Are you able to read the land, remember landmarks, and know how to identify what direction you’re going?

As you can tell, orienteering is an incredibly handy skill that you can teach your kids easily while camping. Turning it into a fun adventure with a pre-marked course and some scavenger hunting action will help these activities stick in their minds. 

Here are some of the topics you can explore with your children:

  • How to read a compass. Specifically the four cardinal directions. Show them what direction the camp is in as well as other landmarks. 
  • Learning how to use a topographical map to determine if there are hills or flat land.
  • How to follow rivers if getting lost in the forest. 

Proper Clothing Layering To Keep Warm and Cool

Weather can change often and with it, varying temperatures. If you are taking your children on a colder adventure, then it’s important to teach them how to manage their heat. You don’t want them getting all sweaty while they’re active and then suffering from hypothermia.

  • Bundle them up in multiple thin layers instead of big, bulky clothing, then teach them to take the outermost layers off if they get too hot. 
  • Alternatively, teach them the signs of frostbite or any other physical problem that could cause harm and how to dress for them. 
  • In the hotter months, understanding how heat can affect the body is directly related to the clothing you’re wearing. 

Wild Edibles and Identifying Natural Resources

Naturally curious children will always find something to eat, whether it be mud or something they found growing in the forest. There are a lot of incredible wild edibles to take advantage of, especially in the summer months with all kinds of berries. The same can be said for other resources that can help but are not edible. 

  • Go on interpretive hikes where you talk about the local flora. Show them easy-growing berries such as raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. These are easily identifiable and delicious. 
  • Look for things like poison ivy and other common toxic plants, and talk about how they can hurt them and how to avoid them. 
  • Medicinal plants such as broadleaf plantain and jewelweed can be used as medicine for cuts and irritations from other plants.
Parent and Children Foraging

Small Game Hunting and Fishing

There is more to eating food than just buying it from the grocery store. It is such a disconnected way to get food that the kids don’t even think twice about it once they reach a certain age. Teaching your kids about hunting and fishing helps them to develop respect for the natural world.  

  • Hunting small game such as grouse or squirrel can help acclimate your child to the world of hunting. Plus, skinning a squirrel is a good skill to have that can be transferred to other animals that can be hunted. 
  • Fishing is an age-old activity and is a great way to bond as a family. Fishing also teaches your child how to get food if they need it. 
  • Show the proper way to hunt an animal, including where to shoot it, how to utilize all of the animals, and showing respect to the creature that gave its life so you could live.

Astronomy and Learning the Constellations

Seeing the starry skies can be difficult in the city as light pollution tends to ruin it. For some kids, camping might be the only time when they can truly appreciate the marvel of space and its constellations. If your kids love taking photos, then astrophotography is a great way to introduce them to the different aspects of the night sky. 

  • Often constellations have different stories to them that make them easier to remember.
  • Use the position of the stars to teach your children the different seasons. For example, the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year and the sun doesn’t rise very high in the sky.

Final Thoughts

The adventures you can have outside are endless if you know where to look. There is always some new skill to develop or a fascinating new find out in the wilderness

Survival skills are needed more than ever, and you can start teaching your children at an early age so they appreciate what the outdoors has to offer. Using these ideas, you can start to bring out the inner wild in your child while also having a good time making family memories.

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