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Rules for Wilderness Survival for Children

by Sara Ipatenco

No parent wants to think about her child getting lost in the wilderness, but the fact is that it can happen. Don't just shove that scary thought to the back of your mind, however. Equip your child with basic survival skills so he'll be prepared if he does get separated from you while you're enjoying the outdoors.

Stay In One Place

One of the best survival skills to teach your child is to stay in one place if he gets lost. Many lost children wander around trying to find their parents, but that makes them harder to find. According to the Equipped to Survive website, the chances that a child will find his way back to where he's supposed to be on his own are small. Teach your child to find a tree to sit under or a rock to rest on and to stay there until he's found. Remind him that you'll be able to locate him faster when you don't have to recheck all the places he might have walked at the same time you were looking for him. Teach your child to find a place to wait, and not a place to hide, according to the United States Search and Rescue Task Force website. If he's scared and hiding, he'll be harder to find.

Find Shelter

Show your child how to seek shelter if she gets separated from the group. This is particularly important if the weather turns or if it starts to get dark. Teach your child to find a shelter that's as warm and dry as possible such as under a cluster of trees or beneath a rock outcropping. You might also equip your child with a brightly colored plastic poncho or trash bag with a head hole cut in it before heading into the wilderness. If it begins to rain or snow, your child will be able to pull it over her head so she can stay dry.

Look For Water

Teach your child to always have a bottle of water with him when he's in the wilderness hiking or camping. If he gets separated from you, he'll be able to stay hydrated while he's waiting for you to find him. Your child should also know how to find drinkable water if he's lost for more than few hours. Encourage your child to find water that's relatively clear, suggests the Equipped to Survive website. Also remind your child not to eat snow for water because it will decrease her internal temperature and make him colder than he already is.

Attract Attention

Have your child wear a whistle around her neck when she's out in the wilderness. It's an easy way for her to attract attention to her location if she gets lost. Teach her to find a place to sit and blow the whistle three times at regular intervals until someone finds her. You might also teach your child to carry a brightly colored bandana or piece of fabric in her pocket. She can use the bandana to attract attention if it's necessary for helicopters or airplanes to join in the search for your child. She might also tie the fabric to a large bush or tree, making it easier for you to find her.

Additional Rules

If your child spends a lot of time outdoors, help him create a wilderness survival kit to keep with him on his expeditions. Use a large, waterproof zip-close plastic bag to store the kit. Include a whistle, a colored bandana, a plastic poncho, a few snacks, such as trail mix or granola bars, and a bottle of water. You might also include a first aid kit that includes bandages and antiseptic wipes. Enforce a rule that he shouldn't eat anything he finds while he's waiting because it's hard to know what's potentially poisonous. Remind your child to keep his clothes on instead of shedding a sweatshirt or shoes while he's waiting. This will keep him warm, but will also reduce his risk of exposure to the elements including cold weather and sunburn.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

Photo Credits

  • Mike Powell/Digital Vision/Getty Images