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7 outdoor survival skills your kids need to know

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Published on 07/08/2020

We’ve all been spending more time at home and in nature lately. The great outdoors is such a brilliant place for families, and children in particular, but would yours know how to light a fire or find safe drinking water if they got lost on a hot day? Would you even know?

It sounds dramatic, but it’s never been more important to teach our kids these key tips and tricks for survival

1. How to build a fire

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Perhaps one of the most obvious tricks is teaching your child to build a fire. It seems like a simple act, but many of us fail when it comes to creating something so powerful when just left with the outdoors world. Even if we have matches or a lighter, there are certain tricks that are vital to ensure a safe, consistent and usable fire is built.

Firstly, take time to teach your child the basics of fire; oxygen, heat and fuel – and then run through how each can be created and kept safe. Work together on how to make a spark, using two sharp pieces of flint, or glass or mirror to reflect light from the sun to create condensed heat. Secondly, introduce a fuel, such as dry grass, paper or cardboard. It’s really important to ensure the less dense fuel that burns, such as twigs and thin paper, is kept at the bottom of the fire, and the larger logs are propped on top. Not only will this ensure a safer fire, but it will last longer and generally burn more effectively.

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Fires can, or course, be very dangerous, so make sure your children are being super safe when practising. Always ensure fires are built away from trees or other flammable objects, and are built in a suitable well-ventilated non-enclosed space, so that the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning is considered.

2. Identify useful – and dangerous – plants

Teaching your child all of the suitable plants that are edible seems quite a feat when confronted with the vast array of flora. However, teaching your children the plants that certainly should not be eaten is perhaps more important.

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Think about familiarising yourself with the look of the deadly and woody nightshade plants and flowers common in some countryside areas, that if ingested are very poisonous. It’s not just whether a plant can be consumed that’s important, think about the herbal benefits of lavender, aloe vera and dock leaves, that are natural antiseptics.

3. How to find safe shelter      

Finding shelter can be difficult, but there are certain tricks you can teach children to look for when out in the wild, needing somewhere to sleep, rest or pitch a tent. The most important aspect is to ensure you are protected from rain and moisture, which can be obtained by elevating your bed off the ground (which also protects from bugs) and finding coverage from trees and caves.

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4. How to climb a tree

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Climbing trees can be a really important survival tactic outside, both to gain fruit and shelter, or to protect yourself from things on the ground. The most important aspect to learn when climbing trees is safety; ensuring the tree branches are not rotten or in danger of not holding your child’s weight. Trees that are rotten display signs of leaf discolouration, irregular bark and obvious signs of decay.

5. How to find clean drinking water

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We cannot survive without water. The most important tip to teach your children is that water always flows downhill. The most obvious bet is finding streams, rivers and lakes, especially at the bottom of valleys. Animals also often know where clean water is, so teach your children to look out for wildlife or animal tracks leading to water sources. Also, as a general rule, it’s wise to teach your child to only drink flowing water, as still, stagnant water has much higher risk of contamination and bacteria.

6. How to read the sky

Familiarise yourselves with the iterations of the sky, and what they mean throughout the day, such as measuring the time through the position of the sun, searching for signs of approaching storms, or running through the cloud formations. Tracking the sun throughout the day can also be used to identify East and West, and once learnt, will be vital for aiding with directions.

7. Basic first aid

It’s surprising how few children are taught the basics on how to stop bleeding, one of the most important aspects of administering first aid in an emergency situation. Teach your child the three aspects if they are faced with bleeding; covering the wound with a gauze or cloth, applying direct pressure to stop the blood and not removing the cloth. The cloth will help clots in the blood to form, which prevents the flow.

And once you’ve done all of that, you have well and truly succeeded. You’ll have a baby Bear Grylls on your hands and can feel much more assured when they venture out on great escapes.

How much of this do you already know?

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