Did you learn about emergency preparedness when you were a kid? What stuck and what didn’t? When I was growing up, we had a few lessons at school and a spattering of youth activities at church centered around survival topics. Mostly these lessons focused on first aid skills and safety during disaster situations. I don’t remember much of what I learned from these lessons except that they either made me very, very scared or bored me to death.
Teaching emergency preparedness to kids can be tricky. It shouldn’t instill paralyzing fear in them but instead teach them about real dangers and how to deal with them. And it’s crucial that, especially when you’re teaching it to kids, emergency preparedness be fun. Here are five ways you can make your family emergency preparedness efforts more appealing to kids so they can grow up with the tools they need to handle emergency situations capably.
1. Make a family emergency plan together. We’ve talked about family emergency plans and their importance before. (If you missed out, see this post.) Good family emergency plans help family members contact each other and reunite in emergencies and give members tools to use to keep themselves safe in the aftermath of a disaster. It’s vital that all families have family emergency plans in place. But carefully consider how you will make your plan.
Rather than just telling children what procedures are going to be, allow them to help in the creation of procedures. This will help them to feel ownership of your plan and consequently be much more interested. Getting kids involved in making the plans will also help them remember family plans more. Set aside a special night on which you write up family protocol for emergencies. Include treats and pictures and a family game afterward to make the information memorable to little minds.
2. Have an emergency supply kit scavenger hunt. A great way to make emergency preparedness fun for kids is to turn it into a game. Try out this scavenger hunt for an interesting way to put together your family’s emergency supplies. Separate the family into two groups, split the emergency supply list in half, go to the store, split up, and see who can get their supplies gathered first. When you get home, talk about the items in the kit and why they are important. Finish with putting the supply kit together and put it in a place where all family members know about it.
If you’d like a briefer version of the emergency supply scavenger hunt, purchase your items beforehand, hide them around your house, and then have children find the items and check them off their list as they do.
3. Learn new survival skills together. In addition to having a family emergency planning meeting, hold regular family nights during which you increase your survival skills together. Be creative and have fun. Build a solar oven together and experiment on different kinds of food. Have a fire-building skills night. Learn about edible plants together. Make these nights informal and try not to involve fear or scary scenarios. Yes, it is important that children be prepared for disasters both physically and mentally, but scaring them can inhibit their learning. Try to focus on the fact that you are all going to build your skill set together so that you are ready for anything.
4. Go camping. Not all families are camping families. Some prefer comfortable hotel rooms and sightseeing to the ruggedness of the wilderness, and that’s okay. But don’t underestimate the power of a camping trip to offer endless natural opportunities to teach survival skills to your kids. While camping, you can teach your kids how to pack well for outdoor survival, cook meals in the wilderness, build fires with few supplies, use pocket knives, create shelters, catch fish, and drink wild water safely. Everything I learned about outdoor survival as a kid came from my camping trips with my family, not from lessons in school or church.
5. Give kids a garden. At the beginning of the gardening season, set aside a little piece of the garden that belongs to each child in your family. Let them choose what to plant in their corner of the garden, then teach them how to water their plants, remove weeds, and harvest their food. Performing all of these important tasks and growing their own food will give them a sense of accomplishment and capability that will carry over into many other aspects of their lives. You can also use harvest time as an opportunity to teach them about canning, dehydrating, and cooking.
When you make emergency preparedness interesting and relevant, kids soak it up and retain the knowledge for later. So make it a family effort to get prepared for disasters, and then rest easy that all members of your family have the tools they need to survive.