Smart and Effective Ways to Teach Children about Preparedness and Survival

Teaching your children preparedness concepts will help them survive.
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Editor’s Note: This post was generously contributed by Julie Ellis.

Teaching children to care about and understand the need for disaster preparedness and the development of survival skills is a complex task. First, one must maintain an understanding of the emotional maturity, attention span, and worldly understanding of the child with whom they are dealing. Then, they must tailor their instruction and expectations to that. In addition to this, it is important to engage a child on these topics in a way that they enjoy and that is interesting to them. Here are ten suggestions that might be helpful to parents or other adults who are attempting to tackle the job of introducing kids to the concepts and skills of preparedness and survival.

Incorporate Lessons into Daily Life.

It does not matter what the topic is, children learn skills and concepts best, when two things happen. The first is that they are allowed to learn and incorporate skills gradually. The second is that they see an immediate practical usefulness for these skills. The best way to accomplish this is to avoid introducing kids to huge concepts about preparedness, but to instead teach them small yet useful skills that you can build on later. This could be as simple as teaching a child how to sort food scraps for composting, or giving them the job of checking the deep freeze and pantry on a daily basis in order to determine which items need to be restocked.

Make the Child Understand that He or She Has an Important Role to Play

It is your job to introduce kids to the concepts and skills of preparedness and survival.

Nothing is less motivating to a child than giving him or her meaningless busy work. It can be tempting to give a child busy work to keep him/her out of the adults’ hair, but the long-term results of doing this are never positive. Even the least savvy child will eventually figure things out. Teaching a child new skills is a messy process that is never easy. Parents need to understand that children are going to make mistakes and that they are going to have to help clean up the resulting messes. That shouldn’t stop parents from giving important jobs to children. In fact, kids need to understand that they play an important part in things, and that the tasks they perform are meaningful. So, if you are engaged in some prepping project, make sure your child feels that s/he is truly contributing.

Make Sure that Kids See the Fruits of Their Labor

Food production and storage is a key component of successful preparedness. Many parents make the mistake of giving their children individual jobs to do when it comes to these tasks, but they fail to make sure the children have an understanding of the entire process. For example, it only takes a few moments to show a child a jar of canned tomatoes in the pantry, and then explain to that child how that jar of tomatoes came from a plant he helped put into the ground a year ago. From there, the parent can explain to the child that their jar of tomatoes along with all of the other jars of canned goods will help feed the family for a few long time. They can also explain that even if a disaster were to make getting to the store impossible, the family could stay healthy eating the food that they have stored.

Age appropriate skills are important for all children.
Let your child know they have an important role to play.

Encourage Older Kids to Teach and Mentor Younger Kids

One great way to reinforce a skill is to have a child teach that skill to somebody else. When children demonstrate and explain a survival skill to a younger friend or sibling, they gain self-confidence and a new understanding of what they are doing and why they are doing it. If the child who is doing the teaching needs to work on a skill repetitively, teaching that skill to others gives him/her the opportunity to repeat the work themselves without it feeling like drudgery or punishment. Of course, the younger children also benefit. They get attention from an older friend or sibling that kids often crave, and they probably have more fun than they would if they were learning from boring old mom and dad.

Go Camping!

Roughing it is a great way to teach kids outdoorsman ship skills that they may need to use in emergency situations down the road. Make it fun! Create a check list of skills each kid should learn and demonstrate, and then offer a reward and lots of praise when they succeed. After the child has met his or her goals, mom or dad can opt to tell them how the skills they have learned might be valuable in a situation where disaster or other tragedy has struck.

There are so many skills you can teach your children that could be useful in an emergency.

Take the Children Grocery Shopping

The family’s weekly, bi-weekly or monthly trip to the grocery store is a great opportunity to educate children about purchasing, storing, and rotating paper goods, dry goods, food, and other supplies. During these trips, parents can introduce their children to the butcher, military surplus store owner, and other members of the community that they can utilize when they eventually want to stock up their own reserves. When they are finished helping with the shopping, children can be taught how to sort the groceries into items that are to be used immediately, items to be saved for use in a few months, and items that are stockpiled in the event of a true emergency.

Make it Age Appropriate

There are many reasons that family make survival learning and preparedness a priority. Some of these reasons can be hard to understand for younger children. They can also be frightening. Parents should use their best judgment when determining what children should be exposed to. It may help to remember that many of the skills that are needed for children to become survivalists can be taught in ways that are enjoyable and that don’t cause children undo alarm. Parents can wait to tell their children the reasons why they are learning these skills until they are older and better prepared.

At the end of the day, there are no magic formulas for preparing kids for the future or for unknown crises or disaster. It just takes common sense, patience, and mentoring.

About the author: Julie Ellis is working as the writer for, finds her inspiration in the educational assistance to gifted students. A Master’s degree in Journalism allows her to follow her vocation and help English-speaking students around the world.

You can find her on Twitter – @premieressaynet.

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9 Comments on "Smart and Effective Ways to Teach Children about Preparedness and Survival"

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One method I’ve discovered is to get your kids involved in organizations – Future Farmers of America, 4H, and the Boy Scouts are great groups that can teach your children usable skills for everyday life and future emergency situations. Our kids learn more eagerly from other kids than from their old Dad sitting down and lecturing them about the right way to do things, so Boy Scouts has been a godsend to us.. In addition to learning survival skills, they camp a lot, hike, swim, bike, and act as leaders in various ways. My oldest is almost 16, and will… Read more »
Pat Henry

Great ideas Bobcat! How are you finding the scouts after the recent changes/controversy?

Scouts were a hit and a miss for us. The little one was and continues to be super excited to go to scout meetings, but the older one dropped out recently. I think she was getting razzed about it by her friends, and turned it into ‘you made me do it.’ That hurt, because I went to every meeting, and she never had a bad time, laughing and carrying on with the other girls. With one leaving, and the cub scouts moving at a slower pace than I expected, I’ve taken it upon myself to fill some of that gap… Read more »

For me, not letting my daughter think like a girl has been important. Her job is to conquer the world, not ‘just’ be someone’s wife/mother. Having the knowledge and skills to compete with boys is important. She can still be a silly girl, but she’s tough, smart, and capable of making it happen.

Pat Henry

Good advice! I’m sure she will do just fine.

Thanks Julie! I think you touched on it a little bit but I think kids will be happy to learn nearly anything as long as it starts with their interests. Want a kid to read? Let them know that they won’t have to wait for mom to get them the information they want if they can do it themselves. (and a day really will come when they’re called for dinner and they snap at people because they were busy reading about whatever it was that they were into and were annoyed at the interruption!) I also think there are some… Read more »
Pat Henry

I would bet a potholder is the last thing Brownies would be involved in these days.

Konstantin Konstantin
Konstantin Konstantin

My way of telling my children way should they be preppers is just teaching them history. I leave in the balkan region and in the balkans has never in history been more then 10 years peace.

Pat Henry

You have the advantage/misfortune of living in a world that many of us fear. We have too long ago forgotten the lessons of our own history, it has been taught out of us and we are insulated from the world around us. My fear is we will have our own recent history lessons to teach our children as well.