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Teach Your Kids Survival Skills – 5 Fun “Let’s Pretend” Games

Teach Your Kids Survival Skills – 5 Fun “Let’s Pretend” Games. My Zoe- who’s 10- and my teenager Zachie love to go camping. They love the mountains, the beach, they’re both strong swimmers, so I kind of slacked off on survival skills. What happens if they get lost? What if we end up displaced because of a real-life disaster?

I wanted to find ways to teach new skills without being scary. My Zachie has autism, so heightening his anxiety isn’t going to help him learn, and Zoe finds almost anything can be scary if presented poorly. So how to teach them?


Teach Your Kids Survival Skills – 5 Fun “Let’s Pretend” Games

1- Playing “Doctor”

Zoe used to love trapping her twin brothers on the couch and more or less taping them to the cushions with surgical tape and winding gauze haphazardly all over their face and arms. But it’s a good start for teaching first aid skills. We tried a session of going through the Todd’s “medium-intense” first aid kit. (The Todd is a born prepper- he has multiple kits stashed all over the house, our cars, our trailer, the boat… One is a massive kit that paramedics use– I could probably do open heart surgery at midnight with the contents and car headlights to see with.) We practiced how to splint an arm, how to tell if a bone is broken, how to check for fever, and what happens if you swallow something big and you’re choking. (Note to self: try the Heimlich again with Zoe. She’s very enthusiastic and alarmingly strong.) We danced to the BeeGee’s “Staying Alive” which is the new anthem for CPR and sets the rhythm for chest compressions.

Next Step: taking a first aid class together- find some options and locations here.


2. Backyard Campout

If you’re not ready for a big mountain/desert/beach campout, start at home. But this time, use a “bug-out” bag, or the closest thing you have. (Find out more about an easy 72-hour emergency bag here.) This is a good chance to go through the bag, find medications that might be needed, cook some of the food you have there, teach about filtering water and change into clothes already stashed and ready to wear. Have the kids help you put up the tent and “find” firewood. We’ve done a short hike with everyone wearing their bug-out backpacks to make sure they can carry everything comfortably.

Next Step: trying the same scenario in the wilderness.



This is our kid’s favorite phrase because it means Mom and Dad managed to finish filming and editing and it’s family time, baby! We keep our trailer stocked so that, with gathering just a few things, we can be on the road. But we’ve altered it into a game where we time our kids. In most natural disasters, you have around 15 minutes to grab what you can and leave home. The terrifying spread of wildfires across California last summer is a classic example. So now we focus on what we can pull together immediately, which made some changes in our life. I keep all our important documents- titles, birth certificates, legal paperwork, and passports in one fire-proof pouch. I’ve started saving important papers and family photos in iCloud so they’re always there if we need them. And this has taught our kiddos to decide what’s really important to them since there’s so little they can grab in 15 minutes- though Zoe’s managed to shove a good 28 stuffies in the car before the time was up.

Next Step: here’s what FEMA suggests you need in terms of documents.


4. Scavenger Hunt

Learning edible items in the wild, understanding direction and how to create shelters are all crucial lifesaving skills if you were to get lost. We created a “scavenger hunt” style game that rewards our kiddos for finding important items based on their list. Our last list included:

  1. Edible grasses or berries
  2. Moss from the north side of a tree
  3. Kindling
  4. Rocks to heat for warmth a night stay
  5. A spot perfect for building a shelter
  6. Filtering water to make it drinkable

Next Step: there’s a great set of cards – The Purple Cow –  that brings out your young outdoors expert and scientist that our kiddos have totally loved, find it on Amazon.com here.

BTW: if you’re interested in teaching your kiddos how to grow a garden from kitchen scraps, have a look at our complete guide here.


5. Lights Out!

I’m embarrassed to admit this one came from our last power outage here and the only lighting I could find was the glow from our iPads. The Todd came home and laughed at me for a good 30 minutes. Hmph! Mr. Overprepared, next time show me where you’re stashing the flashlights! This makes a good point: do our kiddos know where to access lighting and other emergency gear if the lights are out and we are somehow separated? So we turned off the power this weekend for 24 hours and worked through where to find important items, what to eat, where to find our water storage, etc. All done under the guise of an adventure, but you know, it truly turned into a fun challenge for all of us.

Next Step: a chart with all the important information, phone numbers, and a location for all the needed supplies in the house.


I think sometimes that I underestimate my kid’s resiliency and ability to keep calm. But I know that by practicing “Let’s Pretend” scenarios, we’ve all gotten more confident about their ability to handle an emergency. We have a list of some of our favorite disaster prep gear and information on Amazon here, and here.

What about you? What tips and tricks have worked with your family? How have you prepared for the worst together? Spill! Share!