Survival Preparedness With Toddlers in Tow, by H.P.

As a former Boy Scout and long time minimalist, survival preparation is a natural fit for a “hobby” as I enter my thirties.  Of course this “hobby” is an important life decision, unlike how one might approach golf or poker.  The importance of this life decision really becomes clear when I think about my wife and our two little girls.  As anyone with small children will confirm, hobbies and social activities take a backseat to the needs of your toddlers.  My longtime interest in the outdoors, camping, and shooting have provided a sensible platform for a jump into the survivalist lifestyle.

As we, a young family, build our reserves of beans, bullets, and bullion (we already have a Bible), it is becoming apparent that survival with small children will prove to be quite challenging.  Developing a balanced approached to survival prep is key when considering children.  Our storable food and water supplies are modest but growing.  I have taken a deep interest in acquiring as many tools and as much information as possible to broaden my survival skills.  I am rather confident that my growing ability and stockpiled supplies could sustain my wife and I in a survival situation.  But what about the kids?  Our girls, two years old and almost four years old, are learning the value of hard work and conservation, but they’re still little kids.  The shock of a SHTF scenario would have a profound effect on the daily activities and physical/emotional needs of my beautiful dears. 

I am aware that the most important rule of survival is fulfilling the needs of yourself then worry about others.  However, one of my needs includes the fulfillment of the needs of my kids.  It must be my inner grizzly bear.  This set of circumstances presents an opportunity to apply some real-world, everyday principles of raising children to the survivalist lifestyle.  One major goal is to minimize the potential distress and disruption to the everyday lives of our girls in a survival situation.  I will not include emergency food/water storage and procurement in this plan, as those items are not kid specific.

I will begin with the dreaded D-word.  Because our youngest is not quite potty trained, diapers and baby wipes are a necessary evil in our everyday lives.  We shop at a local wholesale club store where we can use coupons and buy diapers and wipes in bulk.  Buying this way not only saves considerably on the cost, but it also encourages sustainability.  It can become quite expensive, but we like to maintain several months-worth of diapers and wipes in stock.  Baby wipes, which have an indefinite shelf life, are actually a useful item in any prepper’s pantry.  We have diapers in the next size up stocked as well (although I’d prefer she never needs them).  We also have a supply of cloth diapers that are currently used as kitchen rags, but could be pressed into service if needed.  In addition to diapers, it is important to consider the various lotions and creams that are required to maintain health in the diaper area.  We also try to maintain stocks of extra toiletries like children’s toothpaste, toothbrushes, soaps, and bubble bath.  Most of the everyday items that adults need in the bathroom are needed by children too.

Besides our storable survival food stock, we do maintain a decent supply of some favorite snacks and sweets for the kids that could be rationed in a SHTF scenario.  While their nutritional value may not be the greatest, salty snacks and sweet treats are good way to lift emotions and provide a bribery tool at dinner time (try getting a two year old to finish her broccoli without the promise of a special treat).  We also keep natural vegetable/fruit blend juice boxes on hand, which are a healthy treat that the kids love.  We plan to purchase some storable popping corn and chocolate milk drink from Mountain House or Provident Pantry to provide additional comfort food for the kids.  In addition to these food items, we are also building our stock of vitamins, supplements, and children’s medicines.  Benadryl, Motrin, and Tylenol all have products which are dosed specifically for children, and we try keep extra on hand.  Many of the vitamins and supplements we buy are in liquid form that can be added to a drink (easier than pills for kids).  We also stock extra gummi multivitamins that the kids certainly don’t mind eating a bit. 

Clothing is an aspect of survival prep that is easy to overlook as an adult.  Being in Ohio, we maintain a good selection of clothing and footwear for the different seasons we experience.  But what about children that seem to add inches at a time in their sleep?  Luckily we have two girls, so we already save all of the clothes and shoes from the older one for the younger one.  But what about an extended SHTF period of time?  I worry that the older one would be vulnerable to quickly outgrowing her clothes and shoes.  One easy and practical solution that we have taken up is purchasing these items on clearance in the off season.  It is easy to find summer clothes and shoes on clearance in the fall, and vice versa.  We have begun to buy these clearance items 1-2 sizes large for our kids.  Not only are we able to fulfill a survival prep need, but we can save money on something that we would need to purchase anyway.  Not to mention, my wife never met a clearance sale she didn’t like, so it is fun too.

We have started to take the girls on some light camping trips (in the backyard) to get them enthused and comfortable with “roughing it”.  They both have their own sleeping bags and love camping out.  While this is far from a survival situation, the girls are young and just getting into enjoying the great outdoors.  Becoming comfortable in a camp setting around a fire and in nature is an important step for the girls in learning survival skills.  This is an area that we will certainly continue to develop and expand on.

Now that we have begun to address food, clothing, and shelter, we need to look at emotional and developmental needs.  Obviously in a SHTF scenario that includes a potential bug-out, only essentials would be considered.  However, our survival prep and planning must include considerations of activities that occupy and continually develop our kids.  Due to the spoils of grandparents, aunts, and uncles, these kids have so many Chinese slave-made junk toys that we actually have to hide over half of them just to maintain order and sanity.  However, some toys are very important.  The girls cannot go to sleep without their special stuffed animals, so we actually bought backups (just incase).  These stuffed animals are cheap and simple, but very important to the emotional comfort of our kids.  We have no shortage of books, but it seems that you can never have too many.  Used book stores, garage sales, and library sales are nice places to find cheap kids books.  Back to school season is a great time to stock up on crayons, coloring books, and art supplies for cheap.  Simple things like balls, jump ropes, and bikes provide both stimulation and exercise.  We are looking to get a solar powered MP3 or CD player so the kids will be able to enjoy some of their favorite music as well.  While all of these items may be overlooked as non-essential items for survival prep, we feel that they are crucial to the sustainability of our young family in any potential disaster situation.  

Besides material items, we try to engage our kids in activities and experiences that could be applied in a survivalist lifestyle.  As we develop our gardening skills each year, the girls have taken an interest in helping in the garden.  We are also finding ways to get the girls involved and interested in helping with yard work, cooking, and other basic chores.  It sounds simple, but many of today’s children lazy, entitled, and would never survive if SHTF.  We feel that part of effective survival prep with children includes fostering a sense of work ethic and responsibility at a young age.  Developing these character traits are part of raising well rounded and well adjusted kids, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that they are also practical in a survivalist sense.

Any parent can agree that raising small children is no easy task.  Bring survivalist planning into the fold, and it can feel overwhelming.  Our family takes a balanced and common sense approach to our survival prep.  Our children deserve even greater consideration than ourselves in our planning, as they are unable to take care of or fend for themselves.  It is our responsibility as parents to provide every opportunity for the success and well being of our children, and including them in our survival prep is no exception.  Being smart about everyday purchases and expenditures is a good way to simplify survival planning for a young family.