As a prepper, I prepare to ensure that I am able to conquer the challenges that life may throw my way. I worry about what may happen to my children if disaster strikes when I am not there to lead the charge. The only way to protect children in my absence is to turn them into skilled kid preppers.
What is the best way to involve children in prepping? The best way to get children anxiously involved in emergency preparedness is to make preparing a natural part of their everyday life. We are not talking about a “doomsday, end-of-the-world” type of fear prepping. We embrace a “when challenges come, we will be ready” attitude of joyful prepping.
The majority of events that we prepare for are those everyday little emergencies that most of us will eventually face. We work hard to be self-reliant to ensure that our basic needs are met. Children find a lot of joy and security in knowing that they have the skills to safely see them through whatever life throws at them.
Teach Skills Appropriate for a Child’s Age and Maturity Level
Children grow and develop at different rates. Make sure that you are teaching skills that are appropriate for your child’s age and mental maturity. For instance, teaching a 2-year-old how to light matches is unwise and dangerous. Teaching an 8-year-old how to respect fire and build a campfire is probably a reasonable activity.
Pay close attention to your child’s interests and abilities. You can build a skilled little prepper just by spending a few minutes a day with your child and letting him or her work next to you. Remember that children learn more when you allow them to physically touch and do it themselves.
Building Mental Skills to Confidently Deal with Everyday Disasters
Success or failure often occurs in your head before you ever have a chance to engage in the activity. You must believe that you can succeed before you can experience success. Children must know that you believe that they can accomplish a task in order to build the confidence that will allow them to conquer the challenge.
Do not overdo the “prepping” thing! Disaster preparedness and the end of the world should not be a nightly topic of conversation at dinner. Prepping is just something that you weave into your life. If you talk about it too much, your children may develop unreasonable fear or think you are crazy.
These are some ideas that have worked well with our children.
What If Scenarios
Encourage your children to get creative and be very aware of their surroundings. We like to play the “What If” game. When you walk into a room, take a moment to evaluate the scene, imagine a possible challenge, and determine what the possible courses of action might be if the event really happened.
- Your son walks into his school classroom in the morning. Kids are putting up coats and backpacks. There is normal chit chat and kids talking about last night’s ball game. What if he suddenly heard screams coming from the hallway? What would he do? What if those screams were followed by loud popping noises?
- What if your daughter suddenly felt off balance and a few seconds later recognized that the room was violently shaking and desks were jumping around the room? What actions should she take to stay safe in an earthquake?
- What if the student sitting next to your child is unnaturally quiet and starts to struggle for breath? What should she do to help?
In each of the scenarios, it is important that he or she takes the time to:
- Clearly identify the problem
- Explore possible courses of action
- Visualize himself or herself acting and being part of the solution
These scenarios must always end in success. The child needs to visualize himself or herself acting and succeeding. This is a great game to play as a family when parents can carefully guide the child in determining possible actions to take.
Promote Faith Not Fear
Never allow your child to see fear or terror in your eyes. Children will mirror your emotions. If you are terrified of a house fire, do not pass that on to your child.
- Come up with a reasonable plan
- Practice that plan and revise as needed
- Take steps to reduce the risk
- Choose to have faith and live in peace
We do not prep out of fear. We prepare because we have faith that the steps that we take will help to reduce our risk.
Enjoy Hard Work
Life is much better when you have learned to enjoy hard work and to serve others. Your attitude and work ethic will be mirrored by your children. Make it fun and reward them with some type of treat.
Expect them to give you a hard time, that is just what kids do. Don’t give up on teaching them this important life skill.
Risk Evaluation and Plan
Take some time to discuss with your children the possible risks that your family may face. There is great power in a well-designed and practiced plan.
We wrote a post that can help you understand some risks that you may want to prepare for at Prepper Risk Assessment: What Threats Should You Be Prepared to Survive?
Discuss what you need to prepare for, the steps you are taking to prepare, and what to do if the event occurs. Your kids will know what they need to do and will have the ability to act when disaster strikes.
Important Physical Skills for Emergencies and Everyday Life
There are a variety of basic skills that are important to teach children. We include some that we think are important to teach kid preppers.
1. Emergency Cooking
The ability to cook is a great life skill that every child should learn. It is empowering for a child to be able to cook something all by themselves.
How to Cook without Electricity
Does your child know how to cook when the power is out and the microwave doesn’t work? Regularly practice cooking without electricity or gas.
Teach your children to safely use the alternative cooking devices that you plan to use for emergencies. Let the kids help Dad barbeque the hamburgers. Our kids love to cook in our solar oven or cook outside on the propane stove. Our scouter son, Sam, is famous for his Dutch oven dump cake with his fellow campers.
Where the Food Storage is Located
Don’t take it for granted that your children know where your food is stored and how to access it. I am confident they know where the Doritos and fruit snacks are but could they find the important staples and make a meal if you are not around?
Take your little preppers on a tour of your stored foods. Remind them that food storage is something that we like to keep quiet and shouldn’t be sharing that information with our friends. Years ago some of our kids’ friends used to joke about us having Wal-Mart in our basement. So much for operational security!
How to Cook Stored Foods
Make sure that your children know how to make a meal from the foods that you have stored. If you have freeze-dried meals, do they know how to boil the water and create the meal? If you have dried beans and rice, do they know how to cook it?
Let your children help you make meals from your food storage regularly. Teach them now and they will be able to cook with basic staples all of their lives.
2. Emergency Heating
Children need to learn basic survival skills including how to stay warm in freezing weather. We turned off our power in January one year to see if we could survive without electricity. Check out our post: Surviving a Winter Power Outage – How to Stay Warm to see what we learned.
How to Safely Use Alternative Heating Devices
What alternative heating devices do you plan on using if your power goes out? Teach your children how to safely use these devices. We have a wood burning stove and while it is not difficult to use, you do need to have some basic knowledge to safely operate it.
Give your children some hands-on experience so that they will know how to operate the devices when they need to. The more opportunities they have to use the device, the more confident they will become.
Where Additional Fuel is Stored
Where do you have additional fuel stored? How long will that fuel last? Teach your children where the fuel is stored, how to handle it safely, and how to conserve the fuel so that it will last longer.
3. Food Production
Everyone should know how to grow their own food. Our society has become so detached from our food supply that many children do not know where their food comes from. Basic gardening and food production skills are important to teach children.
How to Grow Food
Teach your children how to grow food. Help them plant seeds and feel the joy that comes from watching it take form and grow delicious foods. Growing a garden helps children learn to eat healthy fruits and vegetables.
How to Harvest Food
Harvesting fresh produce may seem like a no-brainer but it actually takes a bit of skill to know how and when to harvest fruits and vegetables. Children love this part of gardening. Picking berries around our house usually results in a lot of full tummies and very few berries in the bowl.
How to Prepare Garden Produce
It may be a bit obvious how to prepare a cherry tomato for dinner but how do you fix kale, Swiss chard, or zucchini so that it is tasty. It is easy to waste a garden full of produce because you don’t understand how to turn it into a meal.
Take time to explore delicious recipes that use fresh garden produce and make eating from a little garden part of your routine.
The ability to communicate is a critical life skill. Texting doesn’t seem to be an issue for kids today but they struggle with face-to-face conversation.
How to Call for Help
We take it for granted that children understand when and how to call for help. You may be surprised to learn that they really don’t understand. Take a few minutes to review some different scenarios. Make sure they understand if they call when they think they need help, they won’t get in trouble.
How to Use Communication Devices
Make sure that your children know how to use every communication device in your home. Don’t take it for granted that they know how to tune the emergency radio to the right station to get updates.
Practice using the cell phone, family band radios, and other devices to ensure your children really understand how to use them.
Emergency Contact List
Create a written emergency contact list and post it where your children can use it. Ours is on the back of our family emergency plan. We have a copy of it in each person’s personal survival kit, in each vehicle, and posted on the back of the coat closet door.
Knowing when it is time to leave and where to go is tricky for adults and even more so for children. It is important to have a written and well-rehearsed family plan that includes the following guidelines.
When to Evacuate
Discuss the various risks that may require you to evacuate your home. For instance; when the smoke alarms in your home go off in your home, when do you evacuate and go to your designating meeting place? Do you need to see smoke?
When to Shelter-In-Place
There are times when it is best just to stay where you are. The precautions that you need to take will vary depending on the event.
- A chemical spill may require you to turn off the air (heater or air conditioner), block vents, tape air entry points, and go to the highest location in the home. It may be important to tune into a local emergency station to know when it is safe to come out.
- Nuclear fallout protection requires that you get as much mass between you and the source of the radiation as possible. A basement is one of the safer options. Learn more at The American Civil Defense Association.
- Active rioting or civil unrest may require that you barricade yourself indoors in order to avoid going out in the dangerous streets.
Where to Go
Your family plan needs to include exactly where to go and how you will meet up. You may have a few different destinations depending on the circumstances and include specific scenarios that would require you to meet there.
- House fire – In front of the neighbor’s mailbox
- Flooding – Higher ground meeting place
- HAZMAT spill – Out of the neighborhood
- Rioting – Out of town
- Serious Event – Bug out location
How to Use a Survival Kit
Every person should have a personal survival kit. Let your child help you pack his or her kit and help them to understand what things are in the kit and how they may be helpful in an emergency. Rotating these kits can be a challenge. It may be a valuable experience take a little overnight trip using the survival kits every 6 months to learn how to use the items and keep them rotated.
To learn more about creating the perfect survival kit go to How to Create the Perfect Emergency Survival Kit or watch this video.
6. Fire Safety and Management
Fire is a powerful tool when used correctly. Take the time to teach your children to respect fire and use it safely. Establish clear guidelines for use and enforce them.
How to Safely Use an Open Flame
Many emergencies may require the use of an open flame. Candles, lanterns, wood burning stoves, emergency heaters, and many emergency cooking devices require flame. Teach children how to carefully operate these devices and let them have age-appropriate hands-on experience.
Home Fire Evacuation Drills
Home fires are the number one disaster that The American Red Cross responds to. That makes emergency evacuation drills critically important. Take the time to physically practice evacuating from your home with the alarm blaring. Practicing will ensure that your children clearly know what to do and where to go.
Carbon Monoxide Safety
Carbon monoxide is a silent killer that takes the lives of unsuspecting victims every year. The rate of deaths significantly increases during disasters due to alternative heating and cooking devices being used incorrectly.
Teach your children how to avoid this killer and the symptoms associated with it. Make sure to install working carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
7. First Aid Training
Children need to be trained to be little first responders. A little bit of knowledge and practice can make them into a valuable asset when someone is injured.
Where First Aid Supplies are Located
Quick access to first aid supplies can be important when someone gets hurt. Do your children know where the first aid supplies are kept in your home? Where are your back up supplies located?
How to Care for Minor Wounds
Teach your children how to care for minor injuries. Whenever someone gets hurt use it as an opportunity to let them have hands on practice cleaning and dressing the wound. Practice with younger children without injuries. They always love Band-Aids!
How to Respond to Serious Injuries
It is a bit terrifying for a child when someone is seriously injured. Children tend to freeze in fear and not know what to do to help. Take some time to roleplay various scenarios and encourage them to physically call or run for help. Help them to evaluate the situation and come up with a plan of action.
This is a great topic for spontaneous “What If” scenarios.
- What if Daddy fell off the ladder and he couldn’t talk? What would you do? Show me how you would do that.
- What if your brother was bitten by the neighbor’s dog? What could you do?
- What if someone pulled up to you in a car to ask for directions? Should you talk to them? Is it a kid’s job to give a grown-up directions? It might be a trick. What could you do?
8. Emergency Lighting
Power outages are a common occurrence. If the power goes out at night, do your children know how to safely light their world? Check out our post: Brilliant Ideas to Literally Light Your World in a Power Outage for ideas on emergency lighting.
Where Alternative Light Sources are Stored
It is a good idea for each child to have a backup light source that is easily accessible in his or her bedroom. Do your kids know where the flashlights, lanterns and other devices are kept in your home? Can they be easily located in the dark?
How to Operate a Lighting Device
Cell phone lights are a great emergency light source because they are usually kept close by. Teach your children how to turn on the cell phone flashlight to minimize the risk of accidents in the dark.
Gather all of the alternative lighting devices in your home and demonstrate how to use each one. Let the children physically turn the lights on and off. Help them change batteries or show them how to place the solar charged light sources in an appropriate location to recharge.
How to Safely Use Candles and Lanterns
Children are fascinated by open flame. We have learned that open flames are just not kid-friendly during a power outage. It is best to let them use glow sticks or flashlights. However, if you are planning to use candles or flame lanterns be sure to teach them how to safely use these devices.
Not all lighting devices are safe to use indoors. Be very careful to only use lighting devices that are rated for indoor use.
Where to Find Backup Batteries or Fuel
Teach children where you store the backup supplies for lighting such as batteries, matches, and lamp oil
We live in an increasingly dangerous world. Our children face challenges everywhere they go and you can’t be there to protect them. You need to arm them with the skills and knowledge to take care of themselves.
Each child has unique talents, abilities, and sensitivities. We teach our children self-defense skills starting at a very early age. I was a certified RadKIDS instructor and I had the ability to teach my children self-defense in the classroom as well as at home.
Some children are aggressive and others are extremely sensitive and are unable to fight the bad guy. Work with your child’s unique situation and provide them with opportunities to succeed. Our children are trained in firearms as well as martial arts. Many kids are not interested in these activities but they should clearly understand the following basics.
When to Hide
Teach your children when it is best to stay out of sight. If someone breaks into your home, a young child may be safer if they are quiet and invisible. Talk through possible scenarios and help your child understand when the best option might be to hide.
When to Walk Away
Sometimes the best option may be to just walk away. Equal or lesser force is the rule. Calling names or damaging your things does not give you the right to punch someone. Hard as it may be, many times it is just best to walk away from a confrontation.
Martial arts teach our children to stand up for themselves, to stand up for others, but only to use violence as a last resort. Maintaining control and walking away when you clearly have the skills to dominate an opponent is a silent victory.
When to Fight
There may be a time when the best course of action is to fight. Advanced preparation can make all of the difference in a successful outcome. Prepare to win.
The decision to fight should be a last resort. Avoid dangerous places and people. Many confrontations have the ability to end peacefully through de-escalation techniques.
When to Tell
Children are often reluctant to tell parents when challenging situations arise out of fear or embarrassment. You can’t fix a situation that you are unaware of.
Keep the lines of communication open between you and your children. We all make mistakes. Lovingly guide them and teach them what things are important to tell a trusted adult. Be sure you listen when they are ready to talk.
Safe drinking water is critical for survival. Drinking contaminated water can result in serious illness or even death. Don’t take it for granted your children understand how to get safe drinking water when the faucet doesn’t work.
How to Identify Safe Water Sources
Safe water sources include bottled water, stored water, and water that comes from a clean municipal water supply. You can’t tell if water is safe to drink by simply looking at it.
Where to Find Water
Teach your children where to find water when disaster strikes. We wrote a great post: Emergency Water: 17 Potential Sources that you may want to share with them
How to Make Water Safe to Drink
Water disinfection and purification are actually fairly simple if you understand the basics. Make sure that you teach children the basic principles as well as giving them hands-on experience. Check out the following post to learn how: Making Water Safe to Drink: 7 Disinfection Techniques or UV Rays Save the Day—Disinfecting Water with the Sun.
11. Personal Sanitation
The leading cause of death following a disaster has been attributed to poor sanitation and contaminated or insufficient clean drinking water. It is important to teach your children healthy personal sanitation practices.
What is your plan to dispose of human waste if disaster strikes and you do not have working toilets? Teach your children how to safely dispose of human waste. Do your children know how to clean themselves if you run out of toilet paper?
Make sure that your children know where you keep the extra sanitation supplies. Teach them good hand washing techniques and how to do laundry by hand.
12. Basic Survival Skills
These are the basic skills that you may need to survive if you get lost in the woods. Basic survival skills include how to find or build expedient shelter, how to build a fire, how to find water, and how to identify edible plants.
Our friend, Martin, at Team Life Hack wrote this great article 16 Survival Fire Hacks – How to Start a Fire that has some unique ideas to start a fire without matches. Perhaps you may want to try some of these ideas when you go camping or for a school science fair project.
Sometimes we neglect sharing important legal details with our children. Teach your children where your important legal documents are located in case something happens to you. Help them to understand what the plan is for them in the event that you are injured or die.
Learn how to organize your important legal documents into one location at our post: How to Organize Critical Documents for Emergency Evacuation.
14. Money Management
Do your children know where you keep emergency funds? That can actually be a bit of a frightening thought. Some children are more trustworthy than others. There may be times when it is important that they have access to cash. Decide how you are going to handle this and hold a little family council with your children.
Personal Financial Management
Children should have a savings account at a bank or credit union. Teach them how to access those funds and let them manage that money with a little age appropriate assistance from you.
If disaster strikes and the kids are in need of money, where can they go for financial assistance? Do you have close family or friends that could loan them money? Should they go to a priest, pastor, or bishop for assistance?
Help them understand what resources may be available when times are tough. We don’t want them to end up living on the street when help is available.
Kid Preppers as Adults
One common frustration of many preppers is the lack of interest their adult children have in prepping. The trend in our world is just-in-time inventory and paycheck-to-paycheck life and a big-brother-owes-me entitlement. It is difficult to convince people who have never seen truly hard times to believe that they are a possibility.
Children who are raised as preppers tend to embrace that self-reliant life as adults. They may execute that lifestyle a little bit differently than their parents but they have been trained to look to future needs and prepare for them.
We frequently see adults suddenly develop a great need to prepare as they have little people they are responsible for. When a young father looks at his adorable children, the weight of his responsibility to provide can be a great motivator to stock up on important supplies to make sure they are safe and fed. The example of a prepper father has more influence than you may think.
Proverbs 22:6Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Building Confident Kid Preppers
Every skill that we discussed in this post will help build strong children who grow into productive, self-reliant adults. We are giving them the skills that they need to thrive in life. It is hard work, but the payoff is worth it.
Thanks for being part of the solution!Jonathan and Kylene Jones