If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a mother of 6, it’s that kids learn best by doing. To really grasp a concept they need to get their hands (and feet, and face, and clothes) dirty. They need to be in full contact with the medium, to let their minds and their instincts run. Whenever possible, kids need to learn totally immersed in their subject matter. This is especially true in teaching survival skills.
Something as simple as taking frequent walks with your kids is a great platform to teach. Get them thinking. Ask for their observations. Point out variables that you come across; on a warm summer evening, what would they possibly have to contend with if they were forced to sleep outside? Mosquitoes, nocturnal animals, condensation making everything damp by the morning? How about if it were a chilly October morning or a snowy day in March, what might they be dealing with then? Get them in the habit of solving problems in a calm and analytical manner rather than panicking.
Role-playing is a great way to kick up conversation too. Suggest scenarios and ask your kid(s) how they would handle things. What if they were completely alone? What if someone was hurt? When you’re standing in your natural surroundings they can look around them, really dig deeper and use deductive reasoning to find solutions. Encourage them to stand still, look around them and listen closely.
A nature walk is the perfect time to work on identifying plants and animal tracks too. We go foraging in our woods for morel mushrooms in the spring and wild blackberries in the summer, and collect black walnuts in the fall. We look for tracks, partly to identify threats to our livestock and also to gauge the presence of deer before the fall hunting season starts. During a walk with the kids while we were in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula we encountered what was, quite possibly, an extremely poisonous kind of mushroom. The kids were a little surprised at how casually it grew right alongside the trail and how easily it could be mistaken for an easy dinner if they were hungry and desperate.
Even if no one ever finds themselves in the scenarios or has to use the skills you practiced, you still learned something. You got outside in the fresh air and got some exercise. You spent time as a family without spending money, burning brain cells or needing a wifi connection- which is always a plus!