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Stop YOLOing
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Hey y'all...I just read this thread ( http://www.survivalistboards.com/showthread.php?t=178376 ) and it made me realize that we don't talk much about how to get kids involved and keep them interested. So here's something I wrote several years ago that helped me connect with my kids.

They're 12 and 16 now, so these games don't quite apply to them, but it did help get them comfortable outdoors so now they're more confident when we go shooting and stuff nowadays. Hopefully this list will help other folks connect with their kids and make them appreciate the outdoors and self-sufficiency...providing a strong foundation for future preppers!

What outdoor tips can you share that will make strong, confident, self-sufficient kids?

http://www.tothewoods.net/HikingWithKids.html
I hike/camp with 4 and 8 year old boys, and the biggest trick I came up with was to slow down and take more rest stops. I wanted to "get there", but they wanted to explore and touch everything along the way. Once I learned to hike like they do, I was less frustrated - and my lack of frustration resulted in less tension between them. That and the fact that I started looking for things along the way for them to do. Here's my list...


1 - Planned and unplanned snack breaks. Bring a big snack or lunch for about the midway point, but bring a few smaller snacks for random stops along the way. If they see a fallen tree they want to climb on, stop for 10 minutes and let them play while you snack. My kids still like to pretend so this works great for them...even if I have to give them a few ideas to fuel their imaginations. Last night, their hammock was a ship and they were battling pirates in a sea storm.

2 - Scavenger hunts are da bomb. They pay attention to what you put on the list, which gives you a chance to teach them about different plants, animals, tracks, whatever, when they find it. And you can make different lists for each child. First advantage, they're age-appropriate. Secondly, they both want to see what's on the other's list. Then you offer a prize when BOTH lists are completed - instant teamwork. Bonus - since you make the list, you have time to make sure you know interesting facts about several things on there. They think you're smarter than you really are that way!

3 - I spy. You can keep it interesting by naming facts instead of visible traits. Instead of "I spy something green," you could say, "I spy something that causes rashes." Poison Ivy leaves. Then teach them to identify it. Or, "I spy something that nests in trees," instead of, "I spy something fuzzy" for squirrels. Then teach them the difference between squirrels and chipmunks.

4 - Senses with verbs. Everyone sits and takes turns talking about senses, but make sure each observation has a verb in it. For example, you can't say, "I see something green." You have to say, "I see something swaying in the breeze." Or, "I smell something decaying" if you're in a swamp. It's too easy to fall back on listing visible traits, so encourage them to use their other senses. "I feel the temperature change of an approaching rainstorm." The coolest is when they begin to notice subtle details and say things like, "I smell the forest growing."

5 - Outside the box. Pick something in the forest during a break, or something in the distance that you'll be able to see for some time, and have each one list a few things it reminds them of. For example, my grandmother went on a hike with my aunt when she was younger. They found a rock, and my grandmother asked, "What do you see?" "A rock," she answered. "I see a piece of bread." And the rock did look like a piece of bread. So my grandmother took it home and painted it, and printed "Our daily bread" on it. My aunt just brought it to my grandmother's funeral last January and said she'd used that as inspiration for solving problems throughout her life. Learning to think outside the box during simple things like a hike will equip them to use those same skills when it really matters.

6 - Happy lists. Make them list 4 things they're grateful for. Five things they like about themselves. Or for a bigger challenge...five things they like about each other! Or three reasons they're glad you brought them on a hike. Top three things they like doing with you or with the family. The list goes on and on...but sometimes it's hard to keep them focused on happy things when they're grumpy. I often get, "I like it when my brother shuts up."

7 - Play trivia. It helps if you keep useless information in your noggin.

8 - Um...sometimes we make up diarrhea songs because they're at that age. Hey...it keeps them talking and let's them know I can communicate on their level instead of trying to bring them to mine. That's more fun, anyway. Bonus - they look up to me like a genius because I can make almost anything rhyme with some word for poop.

9 - Have a class. Without the lecturing, but teach them something. If it starts to rain, teach them gravity, the water cycle, pollution and acid raid, how to collect rainwater if you're surviving, etc. Kids like to touch and do, so bring along a poncho and teach them to build a shelter with it. Bring along a stove (pepsi cans rock!) and have them boil their drinking water, or make a warm lunch, or just hot chocolate on a cold day. Or pick three edible plants, teach them, then collect them along the way and have a buffet during your lunch break. You can work wonders with dandelions...search the web for recipes!

10 - Trick them. Here's one I did this morning on the way back from our camping trip. I "found" a pile of poop next to Amicalola Creek while they were playing in it. I called them over and explained how the animals come to drink, how you can find water by following game trails, etc. Then I asked what kind of poop they thought it was. Deer, rabbit...just guesses. So I said that you can tell what an animal has been eating by how the poop smells and tastes, then I picked up a piece and ate it...confirming that it was deer poop. My 8yr old screamed and ran away! Then I gave him his own pack of Raisinettes and he knew I just tricked him. The scary thing? My 4yr old actually tasted it before I showed him it was candy. Now THAT'S trust! If you know of other tricks, maybe we should start a new thread about how to trick kids in the woods.

11 - Just listen to them. Ask questions and don't offer your own answers...just listen to theirs. In "real life" it's easy to get too busy to really listen to your kids. Sometimes when we hike, I just let my 8 year old talk and talk. At times I'm listening and actively engaged...you rarely get a chance to have a conversation with your kids where there are almost no distractions and you can really communicate. That's where the deeper questions of life, like the birds and the bees, are asked and answered. Sometimes I'm all-but-ignoring him and watching the wilderness, but asking a few questions now and then so he knows I'm still there. But at least he appreciates the fact that he gets all the time in the world to just talk about whatever he wants, and most importantly, that I'm not trying to teach him something or lecture him or show him "the right way." And sometimes it's hard NOT to tell him what I'm thinking, but it boosts his self-esteem and makes him more open to me, and therefore more likely to come to me when he has a problem, and more likely to look on his walks in the woods as fond memories. Bonus - when they run out of things to talk about and you get that comfortable silence when you just enjoy being together without a purpose. These moments are few and far between at younger ages, so they're all the more special. But then, at those ages pretty much ANY silence is special.

Ok...closing the novel now. One of my favorite parts of hiking is what I can do with my kids and remembering when my dad took me camping, so I like to share it with everybody!
 

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We take our mushroom and morels book out with the kids when we go hiking. When we find some they try to identify it in the book. They learn if its edible, where they are likely to grow. They have to really look at the mushroom for characteristics if its veiled, button like etc. we all have a lot of fun with it and sometimes get to bring some home to eat.
 

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When I was growing up, I loved backpacking and camping, still do. My dad would cut wood and build the fire. As I got older, he starting asking me to do that. Being passed on the responsibility was a great confidence booster.

Catching, cleaning, and cooking my own fish was also good. As a young boy, I looked forward to hiking to a lake, setting-up camp, and catching my dinner. It made me feel grown-up.
 
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