How to Teach Situational Awareness to Children – Part 4, by T.Y.

(Continued from Part 3.)

Game 4: Bug Out!

Summary

Teach the concept of evacuation and what is important to bring by simulating an event where their toys must leave home.

Concepts Taught

Strategic evacuation.

Materials required

You will need a favorite character toy, a bag, and some basic supplies for the toy to have such as clothes, food, water, blanket, etc. A doll with doll items would be perfect, but you can also use a superhero action figure with some play food, or even a stuffed dog with pretend dog food and bowls.

Before the Activity

Choose one of your child’s toys that will have to bug-out or evacuate their home. Have available some items that the toy will need to pack for their evacuation around the child’s room along with a bag.

How to Play

  • Play a simple game with your child using the target toy and the items they need for day-to-day living. For example, if you are playing with a superhero figurine that is flying and jumping on the child’s bed, make part of the game be that he needs to stop for a drink of water or something to eat. Later in the game, play with the child that he is getting cold and needs to wrap up in a blanket. Play this way until the child is familiar with the toy’s daily needs and where to find the items necessary to fulfill the needs.
  • Next, you will simulate a scenario where the toy needs to evacuate. Try to use a situation that could actually happen in your location. For example, if your area is prone to snow storms, use that. If not, you may say that a tornado is coming or there is a forest fire nearby. Tell the child that something is happening and the toy must bug-out or evacuate to a safe place.

Note: If these terms are new to your child, explain what “bug out” or “evacuation” means. Make it fun by smiling and saying, “Oh no! A snowstorm is coming! Let’s bug-out—quickly!”

  • Hand the child the bag and tell them to pack it with things the toy may need.
  • As necessary, give them guidance about what items belong in the bag. For example, say something such as, “Your dolly might get hungry, should we put some food in the bag?” Or, “What if your dolly gets cold in a snowstorm before she gets to her shelter. What could we pack for her?”
  • With the bag packed, take the toy and the bag to an imaginary safe location, which could be another room in the house. Review the items that the child packed in the bag and see if anything might be missing. Relate it to their life by asking what they might put in a bag if they had to leave their house in an emergency.
  • As the child matures and becomes more complacent with the game, look for safe opportunities to introduce more realistic elements, such as evacuating with the toy in actual bad weather to an outside building or playhouse. That way your child will get a more realistic appreciation of the importance of life-sustaining items and skills.

Assessment

If your children are new to the idea of evacuation, assess their reaction to the imaginary situation. Do they stay calm, yet concerned for their toys? Do they understand that the toys will have to leave their homes and that they can only survive with what they bring with them? Observe what items your children choose to put in the bag. Over time, they should pack a bag more quickly and with items that cover all the toy’s basic needs.

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Game 5: Scavenger Hunt

Summary

Go on a scavenger hunt outside to teach your children about the resources in your area.

Concepts Taught

Identifying natural survival resources.

Materials required

You will want to take pictures of items you want your children to find and print them out in a list type form. You will also want a marker, and to make it extra fun give your children a magnifying glass and binoculars!

Before the Activity

You can play this game many times with different items on the list. It is good to categorize the items each time you play it. For example, you can go on a scavenger hunt for wild edibles, and the next time you can hunt for fire starting materials. Other ideas include medicinal plants, water sources, shelter building materials, etc. Whatever items you wish to teach about on that particular scavenger hunt should be on a paper that you can bring with you. You will also need a marker for checking items off the list.

How to Play

  • Tell your children that you will be going on a scavenger hunt!
  • Before leaving the house, show them the list of items you will be looking for. Discuss what they have in common and where you might find them. If there are items they are unfamiliar with, you can explain them briefly, but tell them that you will discuss them in more detail when you find them.
  • Take a walk outside and let your children find the items on the list, crossing them off as they go. Each time they find an item you can observe it more closely and teach them about it.
  • If they would like, they can collect a sample of each item to bring back to the house for further study. For example, if you are hunting for edible plants, they could bring some inside for cooking later. If you are hunting for fire starting material they could collect samples and sort them into categories when they get home such as, wood, dry leaves, pinecones, synthetic materials like string or paper, etc.

Assessment

Observe what items your children are becoming familiar with. Can they identify them quickly and correctly? Do they know where to look to find certain items? Can they add more items to the list?

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Game 6: Drink Up

Summary

Teach your children the best places to find drinking water along with unexpected sources such as ponds and puddles once you have practiced purifying and disinfecting it.

Concepts Taught

Water purification.

Materials required

There are various methods of making water safe to drink. The materials you use will depend on which method you are practicing, but they could include a pot with a small fire, a water purification tool such as a Lifestraw or a Big Berkey water filter/purifier, or water purification chemicals such as Aquatabs.

Before the Activity

Become proficient at purifying water using whatever method and tools you are supplying. Practice this skill yourself many times before inviting your child to participate. If you need help, refer to the book Start Prepping!, which describes in detail how to make water safe to drink.

How to Play

  • Tell your children it’s time to get a drink of water. Go to the faucet, but pretend with them that it doesn’t work. Hypothesize with your children about reasons why the water might not work such as, the electricity is out or there is a broken pipe. Say that you are very thirsty, but you can’t get water from the usual source. Ask your children where else you might be able to get some water to drink.
  • Explain that you will have to go outside to look for water. If they can, let them lead the way to a water source. Discuss the different sources that are available to you such as ponds, streams, puddles, rain barrels, etc. Ask them if they think it’s safe to drink water directly out of these places. Explain how the water could be contaminated with bacteria from the soil or animals, which would make the children sick.
  • Tell them that you know some “magic” ways to make water safe to drink. There are many ways and each time you play this game you may want to demonstrate another method.
  • Follow these steps for the various methods:

Boil it – Collect some water in a cup. Pour it through a filtering cloth, such as a bandana, into a pot. Put the pot on the stove or hang it over a fire and boil the water for one minute. When the water cools it will be safe to drink.

Use a Water Purification Tool – Follow the manufacturer’s directions for the tool you are using.

Chemical Treatment – Follow the manufacturer’s directions for the chemical treatment you choose.

Solar Purify –After pre-filtering water through a cloth, fill a clean, clear two-liter bottle. Place it outside in full sun for a day and the sun will purify it.

  • After you have demonstrated the method, allow the children to take part the next time at whatever level they are capable of.

Assessment

By asking your children what types of water are safe to drink you will see if they understand the difference between potable and non-potable water. Have them point out different water sources in your immediate area and explain how they would make it safe to drink. As they progress, they can demonstrate their water purification skills by showing you how to do each step.

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Game 7: Light Brigade!

Summary

Teach children how to light a dark room when the electricity goes out by practicing various ways to create light.

Concepts Taught

Navigating through a power outage.

Materials required

You will need a variety of materials to create light such as a flashlight, candle and matches, oil lantern, glow sticks, etc.

Before the Activity

Assemble your materials and close shades, turn off nightlights, etc. to make sure the house will be dark when you turn off the lights.

How to Play

  • When unexpected, turn out the lights and simulate a power outage. Tell your child to FREEZE! so that no one walks into anything in the dark. Explain that you are having a pretend power outage and the lights will not work. Their challenge is to light up the room. Ask them if they have any ideas of how to create light.
  • Let your children guide you and try out their ideas, but your goal is to show them where you keep the flashlights and how to get there safely in the dark. Help them to walk slowly and to feel their way around the house to get to the flashlights, if necessary. Then practice turning the flashlight on and off and using it to navigate around the house.
  • During later games, if appropriate, you can show them how to light an oil lamp or candle. Otherwise, let them see you light it and carefully carry it around the house. Show them flammable materials that they must avoid.
  • When your children are ready for the challenge, tell them that soon there will be a pretend power outage and they will become the Light Brigade. It will be their responsibility to call out the words “Light Brigade” and make a siren sound when the power goes out! Then they must safely navigate to the flashlight, and bring light to the rest of the family.

Assessment

Flashlights are simple tools that even very young children can use, but skills such as navigating through a dark house to find them and using them to light a path as you look for other family members in the house is challenging. Assess how well your children move in the dark. Do they walk slowly? Do they hold their hands out in front of them so that they don’t walk into anything? Observe how your children handle a flashlight. Can they turn it on? Do they hold the light out in front of them when they walk? Can they shine the light around to search for items?

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Game 8: Lost in Space

Summary

Find your way home after pretending you are lost. Depending on the age of your children, you can simulate an adventure while driving and allow them to use a road map or compass to follow street signs. Or, vary this game by setting up a map of your home where they must navigate through the rooms they are familiar with.

Concepts Taught

Map skills.

Materials required

You will need a road map, compass, and possibly a pencil if marking a photocopied map.

Before the Activity

Be very familiar with the area you are navigating and choose a location with little to no traffic. Be sure that you know many alternate ways home and are able to navigate your own way home should your child take you on some wrong turns.

How to Play

  • After taking a short drive out, tell your children that you are pretending to be lost and you want their help finding the way back home.
  • Stop the car in a safe place and provide your children with a road map. If the children are experienced with this game, you can make it more challenging by only providing a compass and no map or if they are very new to the game you may want to provide a photocopied map and a pencil so they can mark their route home.
  • If necessary, help them find your location on the map and your home street.
  • In the beginning, you may have to help the children plan the route to take, but your goal is to have them navigate as much as they can. As they use the map more, they will become more proficient at determining the best route to take.
  • Have the children call out to you what street you are looking for and which direction you should turn. Together you can read street signs while you search for the correct one.
  • If your children tell you to take a wrong turn, take your time and follow their directions so that they may learn. When you both find yourself off course or if the child becomes confused, pull over and regroup. You can say things such as, “This doesn’t look familiar to me. Have you seen this on the way home before? Maybe we are off course.” Look at the map together and use guiding questions to help them get back on track such as, “Where are we now? Where do we want to be to get back on track? What road could we take to get there?”
  • Celebrate when you arrive home and together review the route you took. In time you can find alternate routes. Don’t be afraid to toss in imaginary roadblocks to get trigger their problem solving.

Assessment

Monitor your children’s progress to determine if they are reading the map correctly. Watch them and ask questions even when you are not playing the game to see if they are internalizing a sense of direction when you are driving. Ask them randomly if they know what street you are on. Have them begin to estimate time and how long it might take to get to a specific destination. See if they use landmarks to become familiar with a location. As they become more comfortable with maps, allow them to help you choose a route when going to an unfamiliar place.

(To be concluded tomorrow, in part 5.)




2 Comments

  1. On the subject of a dark room, my master bath has a South facing window, so I took one of those cheap solar sidewalk lights and laid it on the window sill with the solar charger facing out and it makes a great night light. Heck I think it has lasted for probably 2 years or more and when you get up at night no one even knows your in the bathroom, so no need to close the shades. At times I have even used two if you want more light, as I said they’re cheap, and they cost nothing to operate. Trekker Out

  2. One game I used to play with my boys was to see who could build a fire the quickest with flint and steel. We had the old-time flint and steel kits like the mountain men used. On “Go!” we would have to go gather up kindling, bring it back to our camp, then see who could strike enough sparks to get the charred cloth tinder going and blown into flame under the kindling. It was a lot of fun and a good way to teach kids how to properly build a fire and get it going quickly. In a survival situation, a fire has as much psychological benefit as it does for cooking and warmth.

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