Growing up in rural America meant we did not have organized play dates at the local bounce house nor did we have parents who would fork out a wad of cash and drop us off at the mall. For my brother and me, we simply had our backyard and our imagination to keep us entertained. Looking back, those were not only the good-ol’ days, but they were also the times we began learning some basic outdoor skills such as making a fire, building a shelter, identifying animals tracks and more.
Statistics show the number of kids getting outdoors has been on the decrease for several decades. The good news is it is never too late to let your kids experience the outdoors. Summertime is the perfect time to introduce a child to the outdoors because kids are out of school and many are desperately looking for ways to combat their boredom. Plus, by mid-summer most parents are seeking inexpensive ways to keep the kiddos entertained. A few backyard survival games may just be the ticket.
Rules, Rules, Rules
Safety must be the number one goal at all times. The age of the child must be heavily considered before doing certain games such as fire building. A responsible adult must not only be present at all times but must be willing to monitor all games. Respect for others and for the environment also need to be strongly emphasized at all times. Additionally, kids need to be taught how to responsibly and safely handle the gear they will be using for games.
Quick Start Challenge
Who can gather the material needed such as tinder, kindling and sticks to safely start and make a fire with matches? After kids have learned which types of materials start a fire, throw in the challenge of making one without matches. This is a great time to show them some fire starting methods that do not require matches or a lighter. Fires must always be built in a safe location. Old baking sheets or pans make great places to start small fires. This challenge is also a small lesson in science because all fires require the same four basic elements; spark, tinder, fuel and oxygen.
Building or finding a shelter is a key element when it comes to surviving outdoors and teaching kids how to build one may save their life someday. Start by showing them examples of how to make different kinds of shelters such as natural shelters, lean-to shelters and teepee shelters. Then let the games begin as you encourage the kids to look for natural shelters such as low hanging limbs or a hollow log for starters. Then move on to having a competition to make a lean-to shelter with items they have gathered from the yard. Finally, give them a few items such as a couple yards of duct tape, two yards of rope and a poncho, for example, and see who can build the best shelter from the materials they have on hand.
Regardless of where you live there is usually some type of animal track to be found such as raccoon tracks or even bird tracks. Give each child a paper (print off some examples from the Internet) with some of the tracks they might find in their area and see who can identify the most tracks.
There are tons of other games such as scavenger hunts, how to identify wild edibles or how to use a compass, for example. The whole idea of backyard survival games is to not only teaching your child a thing or two about some basic survival skills but most importantly the goal is to try to plant the seeds of learning and exploring the outdoors all while helping them build their confidence.