(Continued from Part 4. This concludes the article series.)
Game 9: tracker
This will introduce your children to hunting skills through identifying animal signs in your area.
You will need a drawing pad, pencil, and a basic book or printouts that shows detailed pictures of tracks from animals in your area.
Before the Activity
If you live in an area where animal tracks are easy to find, then you need no preparation. If not you will need to find an appropriate area, such as a park or forested hiking trail.
How to Play
- Tell your children that you are going on an animal hunt. Ask them what animals they might expect to see when they go outside. Say something such as, “We might not see any real animals, but they will have left some signs to let us know they have been there.” Ask them what you could look for as signs that an animal had been around.
- Give the children a drawing pad and pencil to bring with them and head outside for a walk.
- Take them to places where animals may have been and look for signs. Some examples could be next to a bird feeder where you may see spilled bird feed and possibly tracks, near a place where dogs run where you might see paw prints, in the forest you may see deer scat or hoof prints, and around the base of nut or fruit trees you may see cracked shells or partly eaten fruit.
- When you find a sign of an animal, try to figure out what type of animals might have been there. Use your resources of the animal tracks combined with the surroundings to determine what animal has left the signs. Have the child draw a picture of what they think the animal was doing when they left the signs and copy the animal’s tracks from the ground or from your resources.
- As your children progress, help them to begin estimating how fresh the tracks are, where the animal came from and where it is headed. Encourage them to look around and tell you why an animal was coming from a certain direction (shelter, cover) and why it may be headed in a specific direction (water, food).
While the children are playing outside or while you are taking family nature walks ask them to show you signs of animals. See if they can identify what types of animals have been around and what their tracks would look like.
Game 10: Germinate!
By planting and caring for seeds your children will learn how to germinate and grow basic vegetables seedlings.
You will need an empty soda bottle or milk jug, planting soil, vegetable seeds and water. Some vegetable seeds that are easy to germinate and grow are melon, summer squash, green beans, and cucumber.
Before the Activity
Cut the bottom of the bottle off about 4 inches from the bottom, but do not cut it all the way around. Leave a small part uncut to act as a hinge. You can lift the top of the bottle back exposing the bottom 4 inches of the bottle as a container for holding the soil. Poke some holes in the bottom of the bottle for drainage.
How to Play
- Invite your children to grow a plant with you. Ask them what a plant requires to grow. The basic necessities are that the seed needs soil, water, and sunlight.
- Have your children fill a container with soil and add some water to dampen it. Mix the soil and water together until it is the consistency of a rung out sponge.
- Allow your children to fill the bottom of the bottle with damp soil, tamping it down lightly with their hand.
- Next, have them use their finger to poke a hole in the soil, place the seed in, and then cover the hole back up with soil.
- Give the seed some water and then close the top of the bottle back over, leaving the lid off for ventilation. Place the bottle on a plate in a warm sunny spot.
- Each day water the seed together with your children and make observations. When the seed germinates discuss what is happening and together assess if the seedling’s requirements have changed. As the plant grows you will notice that it needs more water, more sunlight, and more space.
- Harden the seedling off after the danger of frost has passed. Explain to your children that you do not want to “shock” the plant by transplanting it outdoors before it becomes acclimated to the temperature variations. To do this, bring the jug outside during the morning, slowly exposing it to the outside temperatures. Use the hinged top to regulate the temperature inside the bottle (if it is hot, open the top and if it is cold, close it).
- When the seedling has acclimated to the outdoor elements, transplant it into a garden or larger pot where it can finish growing. Enjoy harvesting and eating fresh vegetables from your seedling!
Allow your children to have a small garden. This can be an area the size of a sandbox or even in a few pots on a balcony. Help them to plant and care for vegetable seeds. Do they know how to plant a seed? Do they remember to water it? Can they tell you the basic things that their garden requires?
Game 11: fish sticks
Teach your children how to catch fish with a stick and a line, rather than a commercial rod and reel.
Semi-primitive fishing skills.
You will need items to fashion a makeshift fishing pole such as a bamboo pole or long stick, fishing line, and a commercial fishing hook. You will also need a container for bait.
Before the Activity
Locate an area where fish are present and fishing is allowed.
How to Play
- Tell your children that you will be going fishing today, but that you are leaving the rod/reel at home (if you have one). Your challenge is to make your own fishing pole that they can use to catch a fish.
- Together you can find a pole that would be a good length and is sturdy enough not to break. Have the children tie the fishing line on the pole and offer help as needed to make sure it is not going to slip off.
- Show your children how to tie on a hook and then ask them what else you need to catch a fish. As you progress with this game, you can experiment with making hooks from natural materials, such as thorns.
- Find your own bait by digging for worms or looking under rocks and rotten logs. Collect bait in a container and then help your children to bait the hook, if needed. Having extra line and hooks will come in handy.
- Have fun fishing! If your pole design does not initially work, you may need to make adjustments. Brainstorm and problem solve together. Are you fishing at the right time of day? What is the weather doing…what stage is the moon in? How does weather and the moon affect fish activity?
- Hopefully you will catch a fish, but if not use this time to discuss fishing techniques, such as using bobbers and sinkers and using the correct type of bait.
Fishing is a skill that can offer a lifetime of enjoyment. Do your best to help your children enjoy fishing experiences by spending quality time together, packing a picnic, and hunting for treasures while you are by the water. Monitor if they look forward to fishing trips and assess their skills by challenging them to make their own rod from scratch, find their own bait, and successfully catch a fish.
Game 12: Camp Out
This is the culmination game that ties the other prepping games together! Make a shelter, sleep outside, build a fire and cook over it, preferably with the fish you caught playing Fish Sticks! You can play Lost in Space, Tracker, Scavenger Hunt and more, all safely in your backyard or at a campground.
Camping lets you show your children how to survive without modern conveniences, even if only for overnight. It allows you to teach them about potential hazards, such as dangerous wildlife, bad weather and fire, and how to remain alert. Prepare them ahead of time by playing the games in this book so they gain confidence in their ability to be self-sufficient.
Integrate all survival skills.
You will need a camping spot and materials as specified in the earlier games.
Before the Activity
Play and practice as many of the previous games as you can. Alternatively, you can simply introduce some of the previous games, such as Tracker, Drink Up!, etc. on a camping trip.
How to Play
- Plan a camping trip! It can be a formal, multi-day trip in the woods or at a campground, or it can simply be overnight in your backyard.
- Allow the children to help you plan the trip by using a checklist of skills you want your children to learn and demonstrate.
- Start by making a checklist together of each important survival category. For example, start with shelter. Ask them what you will use for a housing structure (tent, primitive shelter, etc.), what you will use for a bed (sleeping bag, hammock, etc.), how you will stay dry and so on. Do the same for food, water, heat, and sanitation.
- Before packing, have your children check the weather report and let them recommend what to pack based on the forecast.
- Once the list is complete let your children do as much of the packing and checking off the list as possible. Be sure to add to the list anything you will need to complete the games you plan to play on the trip.
- Suggested games to play include, Weather Report, Drink Up, Extinguish, Fire it Up, Breaker Breaker, Fish Sticks, What’s Your Sign, Tracker, What If?, Guts and Snapshot.
For each game, follow the assessment guidelines as described before. For the camping trip itself, check how effectively your children planned the trip, completed the checklist and packed the supplies. Did they forget any crucial areas or survival items? Were they efficient in packing?
As they mature and their skills improve on later trips you may want to throw them some “curve balls.” For example, what if you misplace the water purification tablets. How will they respond? Do they know multiple ways to purify water?
The goal is for your children (and you) to become comfortable with their (and your) survival and decision-making skills. Achieving that takes practice, sometimes with stress induced. However, remember that this is all about learning very serious survival skills in a very FUN way. So keep it fun!
We owe it to our children to help them truly prepare for life. I hope you enjoy teaching your children these lessons, and that they give both you and them the confidence they need to survive and thrive.