Games Preppers Play, by T.W.

Preparedness is well within the top ten subject matters of interest today.  Most everyone is thinking about it and many of us are well under way toward some level of advanced planning.  Groups of like minded families are common but it would be a mistake to fail at making preparedness attractive to our children.

Our pioneer ancestors invented creative games to teach their children skills of survival in an unfriendly world.  Games were simple and fit for most occasions.  If they were weathered in at a cabin, there was a game where one child was the subject and the others would take turns trying to make the subject crack a smile or laugh.  While the children thought it was just a game, it taught them to control their emotions.  Should a raiding party attack their home, it could save their life to remain emotionless and silent.  That skill could prove valuable today if you needed to escape detection by blending into a crowd or lay motionless in brush.  When it comes to extracting information, skilled interrogation derives as much from emotional response as it does verbal.
There are many other skills that we could teach our children by having them play interesting games.  Games need to fit the age and ability of our children but you would be surprised at how quickly they learn advanced skills.

My daughter was one of the youngest females to qualify for the Washington State Explorer Search & Rescue (ESAR) program.  At fourteen years old, she completed her equipment, classroom, and first-aid training and accomplished a final exercise that included a three day map & compass orienteering course.  She carried a fifty pound pack of standardized equipment, food, and water.  Objectives were to use map & compass and orienteering skills to locate designated cans on a stake that was painted bright orange.  The locations were marked on their maps but getting to those points was dependent on their skill.  As the teams found each target they were to remove the lid and mark the notepad inside with their name and time of day.  The course was designed to place the two person teams at expected locations for each night.  Senior ESAR members watched from a distance and checked up on them with a nightly camp visit.  On the first night, leaders had lost track of my daughter and her teammate.  A full scale search started and they began checking the targets for signature.  These two girls had located and signed in at more targets than had previously been expected for one day and the leaders found them on top of a hill that was reserved for the middle of day two.  They were in great spirits and enjoyed a truly “hill top” experience under the stars.  My daughter and her teammate were not only the youngest two qualifying females in Washington ESAR history but they completed the three day course a half day ahead of the second team in.  One of the challenges of the event is not told the recruits.  Day two put them on what is called “Magnet Mountain.”  Because of local iron deposits, magnetic north cannot be located with a typical compass.  They would be required to adapt and read their maps according to terrain.  ESAR has learned to teach through exercise which makes the entire learning experience a fantastic game.  It works.

A variation of the orienteering game can make it progressive.  Each team has a different set of targets to locate with each target providing a necessary part or clue to completing a task.  An example might be to start with a recorded tape or CD at the first target; followed by a tape or CD player at the second target; followed by earphones at the third; and finally the batteries.  The recorded message would guide them to the final prize that all teams are looking to win.  The prize for our youth is both something fitting to their effort and a fun filled event.  The prize for us as parents will be watching our youth learn valuable skills while having a ball doing it.

We can create many great games for our children.  Among groups of like minded families where many youth are represented, the potential is awesome.  We can make afternoon, day, or weekend events that will teach and sharpen skills.  As parents, we will learn as much and have as much fun planning these events as our kids have doing them.  “Hide & Seek” could be modified to emulate our military Escape & Evasion training.  They don’t have to “play Army” and the game can be called “Rabbit & Fox.”   They learn escape & evasion if they are the rabbit and they learn tracking if they are the fox.

My children have done things like this on a grand scale with their friends.  Weeks of preparation went into an elaborate all night game of “Capture the Flag.”  This involved a kickoff barbeque, camouflage clothing, and full face paint.  It ended with a pancake breakfast.  I have family pictures of my son and daughters as proud of how they looked that night as if they were going to the prom.  They were serious tacticians and they still share stories of those nights with dozens of their friends on their cousin’s farm. The excitement kept them up all night and after breakfast the next morning; they were already planning the next event.

At a well disciplined shooting range, we could teach our children how to safely handle firearms.  If there isn’t an Appleseed group near you, I’m sure they would help you with both ideas and perhaps a pathway to forming your own group.

Other practical events on a smaller scale could be a timed event at digging a Dakota Hole, starting a fire without matches, and bringing one cup of water to a boil in a standard soup can.  My youngest daughter invited several of her friends over for Smores around a fire pit.  It was sad that so many of her friends didn’t know how to start a campfire even with the use of matches and newspaper.  After several poor attempts they were all interested to learn how to do it right.  Imagine that?  Teens interested in learning a skill from one of their dads. 
Our children want to be a productive part of the group and what better way for them to demonstrate their worth than to be in charge of starting the campfire or a host of other suitable skills?
I am part of a group of families that meet each month and share training on various skills.  We describe it as 4H for adults.  At one event we explored how to make a bow & arrow from PVC pipe and a fiberglass rod used for temporary horse fencing.  It was amazingly good and the bow’s delivered forty-five pounds of thrust.  That would be perfect for teaching our teens an important skill and what would be more appropriate than hosting a “Robin Hood” shooting event with those home-made bows and arrows?

The movie “Hunger Games” cast the heroine as a young provider for her family and could be used to encourage our youth to participate.  She was an accomplished archery hunter but more importantly, she provided her family with food because of her skills.  In a grid down world, our children will need to become proficient at many things.  A problem is that many daily tasks necessary in a ‘grid down world’ are manually intense and tend to eliminate younger bodies.   When looking for a “Well Bucket” to manually draw water from a four inch well casing, I was amazed to find most were sized at several gallons and would be very heavy to draw.  Seeing a need to include our children in as many tasks as possible, I designed a light weight “Bullet Bucket” that holds only about one gallon per draw.  This is light enough that a young teen could draw water for a family and not be excluded from serving an important role.

Practicing skills can be a group event.  Our group was formed after reading an article in SurvivalBlog forum regarding Colloquium (CQ) Groups.  We have grown into our third year and have affiliated groups in three other cities.  Once each year we hold a CQ Field Day.  We camp out at a city park or privately owned field that is visible and accessible to the town.  This year we will be in a three acre field owned by our church and right in the middle of town.  Along with practicing our skills and having a great time of fellowship among ourselves, we will be hosting the local 4H group, Boy Scouts, and the city Youth in Action group.  We will be demonstrating outdoor cookery, amateur radio field operations, fire making, making your own laundry detergent and other skills of interest.  There are several merit badges available to the Boy Scouts and we have men qualified to approve those badge requirements.  This will be our second such Field Day and it is capturing some very good attention from our city.  Our group is not promoted as a “Prepper Group” and that is with purpose.  Since we are promoting skills that can help a family save money and that make us better prepared for storms and associated outages, we are cast in a very different light than with the mockery that is painted on “Preppers” as a result of sensational media attention.   Since the skills we teach and practice can and do serve both hurricane preparedness and TEOTWAWKI, we prefer to remain hidden in plain sight.  Even at our meetings, nothing is ever shared about how much any of us has stored.  We are all about skills and the subject of personal inventories never comes up.

The importance of training our young people will make a profound difference to the future of our nation.  As they learn skills of survival, they learn principles of living.  Including them in such an important part of family preparedness teaches them responsibility and recognizes their significance as a contributing member of the group.  Children are often marginalized by our system of education and teens especially may lack the confidence to stand shoulder to shoulder with adults in preparedness training.  It is easy for them to feel overwhelmed and left behind as their parents become serious about making preparations.  We can unintentionally push our children aside because we want to demonstrate and practice abilities newly learned.  Reaching them and encouraging them to join in is a worthy effort at the very least.  An important note is that all of us like to play games and that is the key to teaching skills and including our youth in sharing the future.   When we teach skills by the media of games, we discover a love of learning.