Fun ways to teach kids outdoor/survival skills

I have three kids ages 7(female), 10(male), and 12(female). I grew up in boy scouts and loved learning different skills such as tying knots, camping, starting fires, cooking, etc…

What are some fun activities that I can do to get these kids off the couch and teach them a skill that can maybe save their life someday, create memories, and get their little brains working?


  • Comments (24)

    • 7


      Also was a Boy Scout. Due my age bracket, the troop was Army WWII surplus equiped. I’m sure Ron in Maine and Winston in S.C. remember this era.

      What I do/did was use glossy-picture books and the subject matter such as 4 lengths of different kinds of rope (for variety; getting their attention).  Make, for example, a taunt line hitch and a sheep shank. Ask kids to make the same. “Mess around” a little with ’em.

      Did the same for weather.  Got a glossy-picture book with clouds and lightning pictures. Next: outside.

      Get some various size (They won’t go to waste in a prepper’s household !) ZipLoc bags and ask kids … age appropriate … to assemble some bags with eg 2 each Granola bars, 3 ea Clif bars, 6 ea “Wet and Dry” napkin envelopes.

      Consider joining a 4-H club or your area’s equivalent for some “third party” activities. Here, the 4-H clubs place emphasis on hurricane prep. 


      • 6

        That’s a great idea to do things with ropes. I remember learning lashes and knots and building little shelters, flag poles, and A frames with large sticks and rope. 

        I think kids will find it interesting to build a structure that they can stand on with only using rope and sticks.

      • 4

        Great idea Bob and Dragoon! I’ll have to go into the basement and see how much rope I have. 

    • 6

      Hate to say it, but I don’t think you will have much luck.  I grew up when there were only 3 channels on TV and the only kid programs were on Saturday morning… and you can sure bet we watched those shows.  Besides those few shows, there was nothing to do inside, so we all spent our time outside.  Weren’t a lot of organized activities besides scouts and baseball, which most everyone joined, so we all went out & enjoyed nature.  Our dads, being of the greatest generation, like to get together especially for hunting.  Some of my fondest memories of my dad are us together hunting & fishing.

      Nowadays, kids are the opposite.  There is something inside to attract their attention 24 hours a day.  Most dads don’t belong to hunting clubs anymore.  Heck, nowadays rural kids don’t hunt or fish like their dads did.  How do you compete with all their shows, chat, messaging, games, etc. ?

      You can’t make kids love what you love.  With all the modern distractions & both parents working, most families haven’t learned how to be a real family.  With all these distractions, kids don’t need to go out & learn how to enjoy the outdoors.

      Sorry to be a bummer but my wife & I work with the church youth, so I have some experience with the youth of today.  Even when sitting around a fire at night, they all take out their phones and play.  They do enjoy going down to see the horses & chickens, and love taking turns driving the Gator, but they constantly have to be entertained.  They simply don’t know how to just chill and be still.

      My suggestion, especially as this is a prepper forum, would be to find a rural piece of land, without cell service, and take the family on weekends.  You simply can’t compete with all these distractions your kids deal with.  IMO, for short periods of time, you need to let your kids disconnect… so that they can then connect with themselves and with nature.

      • 5

        I agree, we are in a fighting battle against Disney, Facebook, and YouTube. They have much flashier things and more money to throw at distracting our kids. 

        I appreciate your honest opinions and thoughts. I think if I start it off somewhat slow and not expect too much of them at once, I can slowly work my way into distracting them with things that I think at least have more substance.

    • 6

      Expose them to the outdoors.  Take them hiking and camping, relatively easy at first and then progressively more demanding.  have them sleep in their very own tent for a night or two, etc,…

      • 5

        I think a great way could be to do a boating day at the local lake once things warm up. It is a fun and adventurous activity, gets them outdoors, but won’t be too demanding or hard on them. Having them bring a friend along can also help them to have more fun and create memories.

    • 9

      If they have phones you can incorporate that into somethings outside like see who can take the best picture of an animal, or who can take the most pictures of different plants.

      Camping out in your backyard can be fun as well as long as it’s pared with some smores!

      • 4

        Every kid loves taking pictures of things. Great idea Conrad

      • 2

        Old post but Geocaching is another great app that gets kids excited to go out adventuring. The more difficult finds can incorporate map skills and require hiking into difficult terrains. Both naturally need some types of prepping and it can be a “gateway” activity into lowkey prepping. 

      • 2

        I haven’t seen this post in months, so thanks for bringing it up again. 

        I’ve been geo caching once as a surprise date activity with my wife. It didn’t go very well and we spent like 20 minutes on an easy find. It was around a utility power box and was behind a false panel that looked like it was screwed onto the box. We didn’t want to get electrocuted or mess around with people’s power so we just couldn’t find it. Ended up having to email another geo cache user who had previously found it for a tip. 

        I can see ones in the mountain might be easier because you are able to look for the man made object among the natural environment. Thank you for the idea, we will have to go make a family activity of it and whoever finds the most gets an ice cream surprise, but then we will all end up getting ice cream on the way home.

    • 3


      For the smartphone / IT kids, National Weather Service has many links to study weather.

      After the weather basics, ask why umbrellas and poles with metal tips (Show ’em a fiberglass dome tent pole) are dangerous in some storms. Get kids to show you answer on the NWS website.

      • 7

        Super great idea Bob! I love it!

        They can be little storm chasers and have cups out to measure how much rain we got overnight.

    • 10

      Encourage them build their own survival kits.  Allow them to think it through and include the items they think they’d need.  Maybe even watch some wilderness survival type show or movie and have them imagine themselves in that scenario.  When I was a youngster, the movie The Earthling got me really excited about the idea of surviving in the wilderness.  There have to be others out there suitable for kiddos.


      • 6

        I’ve never heard of that movie before, but it looks really good, thanks for sharing. Our family likes watching the old episodes of Dual Survival, my kids love Cody Lundin and his barefoot living. 

        That would be fun to go to the dollar store and give them each $10 to make an emergency kit out of and then camp in the backyard with the items they bought from the store.

    • 7

      Great topic! 

      So far my most successful idea has been to take my kids and some of their friends on a short hike (2-3 miles) and collect materials for bird’s nest tinder bundle. You might teach them a little bit about finding sapwood or sources of tinder. Once we get home I’ll have them build the bird’s nest and light the tinder with a ferrocerium rod. Kids seem to really like using a ferro rod. 

      • 5

        I can just imagine kids having a blast doing that. Hey, i’ve gone on walks before just to do that and I had fun. 

        Great way to teach a valuable skill.

    • 7

      What a great thread amidst all the bad news! Thanks for starting this, Jay 🙂

      Single dad of two boys under 10 living in NYC (yeah yeah), and we spend every possible moment scaring locals in the park or playgrounds if we aren’t out of the city on weekends in the wilds of New York State. It can be done, but can’t be forced. 

      Especially for younger kids, try to let them have as much control/say in an outing as possible. We often head to the park with all our flintknapping kit (I’m a shitty knapper but trying I swear), but they’ll end up wanting to tromp off and build a lean-to or do some imaginative play while I’m destroying spalls. If I tried to force them to knap the whole time, they’d be annoyed. But giving them as much freedom as possible creates a positive experience, which creates incentive to come out again. 

      I’m also letting my boys try out different activities and skills without forcing them to commit to one. I don’t mind if we spend one weekend fishing and then don’t come back to it because next weekend they want to hunt rabbits with the trainer bow and after that they want to practice fire building. Again, letting them drive the experience so they have positive associations with outdoors activities is my primary goal. I want them asking me when we can go do ____, not the other way around. 

      Hatchet and My Side of the Mountain are great, classic wilderness stories that are great read alouds for kids. 

      There are some decent shows that garner their interest, such as Alaska: The Last Frontier (some really horrible hunting practices, heads up) and Primal Survivor (kinda hokey but a cool idea and gets them interested). 

      My kids are also little gear heads, so they love building their own kits and getting new tools. Now that they are super interested in bushcraft/etc, we can have the “once you can do _(skill)__, then you will get _(tool)_” conversations, which drives motivation/excitement. And whining, truth be told. 

      @Redneck, I agree that devices tend to sap the attention and make this kind of engagement harder. But as a teacher, I truly believe that the natural environment/wilderness provides the perfect level of stimulus for humans of any age and, given the chance through repeated positive experiences, any kid can learn to enjoy time outside. 

      • 6

        I never heard of the book Hatchet until I was an adult and getting into prepping, but have since read it and loved it!

        I’m glad that you are able to have so much fun with your kids.

      • 6

        Real good events.  You’ve got a quality program for the kids !  

        I always knew the nation still had some teachers around.

        Within NYC (I think it is ) can’t we call Jamaica Bay part of the wilds ?!

    • 3

      I have many  nice memories of looking at birds through binoculars with my grandma. She was into bird watching and had bunches of books on them. She used to tell me their different calls and what their names were, but I have forgot all of them. 

      I would like to take an afternoon though and drive up to the mountains and just enjoy nature and look at the birds in memory of her again. 

    • 4

      Lots of good ideas shared! We started tent camping, hunting, and fishing with our boys when they were babies, so it just became a treasured part of summer. Also, did many long road trips to Grandad’s farm. Both activities required lots of gear & food, which they always helped choose & pack, and challenging, grubby housing at the destination which often included various wild critters. A particularly funny incident included us accidentally releasing a bunch of baby garter snakes in Grandad’s house, and hearing him complain in the later months of finding snakes eyeing him in random places (alarmingly, they thrived in there, & likely helped with the mouse problem).

      We were nearly always either without cell service or it was very limited, which I think is key, as it serves two purposes: teaching how to be consciously independent of grid, and free of electronic distractions. The kids always had as much responsibility as they could safely handle, and we did our best to have lots of fun and free play time. It was always a complete change from normal life, with some discomforts and iffy hygiene, which I think is an important prep concept, and very memorable for kids.

      They now as adults love the outdoors and are confident in their various abilities, which include many solid prepper skills, whether they’ll admit to it or not. We just had our first tent camping with toddler grandson, and he took to it like his daddy. A final note, if extended family or close friends come along, it really enhances the experience, assuming they also enjoy it. 

      • 4

        Isn’t that funny how lack of cell service changes how we think? When I drive through an area that I know doesn’t have service, I feel so vulnerable and unprepared. And it’s not like I’m calling for help all the time either.

        Watching old tv shows like Seinfeld reminds me of the time when we had to hunt for a pay phone and wait for people to come pick us up. And if they were late, we just waited. Now if a friend is a minute late I’m texting them where they are. Oh how times have changed. 

      • 2

        So true, Carter. Try leaving your phone at home on a grocery/errand run, you’ll feel so unprepared 😂