Winter Survival For Kids: What Your Children Should Know

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Child walking away in snow, winter survival for kids

How much do you know about winter survival for kids? I know my children usually have their sleds lined up by the garage door by Thanksgiving in anticipation. And I love to watch them play in the snow and ski down a (slightly elevated) hill.

But the Survival Mom in me wants to make sure they also have some winter survival skills. Here’s how I make sure they know what to do if ever they find themselves in trouble.

Specific skills and knowledge I want them to have

The following list includes things that are important to me that my kids know. I’ve included some links to other Survival Mom articles which, while not specifically geared towards winter survival for kids, outline general survival principles that you can adapt to your child’s age and abilities.

Also, for circumstances where your children won’t be with you, impress on them the importance of letting an adult know where they are going and the approximate time they’ll return. The search begins faster and rescue occurs more quickly with this information.

Basic skills and knowledge like these can make the difference between a winter filled with icy fun and bright pink cheeks and noses and one with injuries and accidents.

Other important things about winter survival for kids

In addition to those specific skills and knowledge, I also want them to carry a survival kit and a survival mindset.

Pack a basic winter survival kit

When there’s a chance they’ll be out of my sight, say, when they’re skiing or tramping through the woods, I want them to have a small survival kit with them. Just in case.

Once kids are on their December break, putting together individual winter survival kits is a sure-fire activity to keep them occupied. They’re small enough to be carried in backpacks or fanny packs, and kids love having something important that is all their own.

Winter survival for kids is about more than just the survival kit, though. It’s also important to keep in mind that an essential piece of survival equipment is knowledge.  Make sure your kids know what to do with each item if they’re ever in an emergency situation. Here’s what you’ll need to make up these kits.

  • a bright colored bandana or similar size cloth
  • a whistle (This one blows 100 decibels!)
  • a small, powerful flashlight or headlamp
  • 2 hand-warmers and 2 toe-warmers
  • 2 high-calorie energy bars (We reviewed “survival bars” in this article) or trail mix if the bars might freeze
  • a small bottle of water (Once it’s empty, it can be filled with snow for more drinking water.)
  • a lip balm
  • a couple of bandaids
  • a large black trash bag or survival blanket (use as an emergency blanket or shelter)
  • a pocketknife
  • a small packet of tissues (emergency toilet paper, runny noses, etc.)
  • a large zip-lock bag or small nylon sack to store everything in

In no way is this meant to be provisions for long-term survival! It’s filled with just enough essential items to help a child signal for help and stay occupied until rescue arrives.

Additional items you might include for older kids

For older kids, you might add a firestarter, a few tablets of over-the-counter pain medication (in case there’s been an injury), and additional food and water.

You could also teach them to make an Altoids tin survival stove or a Buddy Burner. They’re fun projects that are surprisingly effective at providing short-term heat as well as being a makeshift stove.

Remember, though, that it’s critical kids also pack a survival mindset.

Mindset is the most important skill

Survival isn’t about gear and gadgets, ultimately. For all of us, from children through mature adults, it really is about common sense and making good decisions. One way to nurture that mindset during the winter months is to model those thought processes aloud.

Modeling common sense and good decision making for survival situations

Here’s an example of how to do this.

If reading a story about a wild animal trapped in an icy pond, you might say, “That’s a scary situation. I’ll bet that little deer was afraid, but look how the rescuers are being so careful to not fall in the ice. If they fall in, they won’t be able to rescue the deer. It’s a good thing they didn’t just rush right out onto the ice.”

If I first asked my own kids, “What would you do if you saw that a deer had fallen into a pond covered with ice?”, my soft-hearted kids would almost certainly respond, “I’d run right out and get it!” But when I model a more common sense and less emotional decision, I’m teaching them to do the same.

Following this discussion, I could then ask, “So what’s the smartest way to help a person or an animal who has fallen through the ice?” Notice I’m emphasizing the word, “smartest” and again, rehearsing this scenario as modeled by an adult will guide a youngster toward decisions that are far more likely to result in survival.

Using stories in the news and from children’s literature are excellent ways to do this without raising fear levels needlessly. Do this for all sorts of situations not just situations dealing with winter survival for kids.

Sometimes parents have to be sneaky in order to teach their kids what they must know. Now that winter is in full swing, take advantage of the colder weather to teach important survival skills your kids will never forget.

What’s important to you about winter survival for kids?

8 thoughts on “Winter Survival For Kids: What Your Children Should Know”

  1. I must admit, the DS has kept my son entertained when we needed it the most. Great survival bag item. Sorry Lisa, had to throw that in there since your son started it. 🙂

    Bob Mayne

  2. Fantastic ideas, i do love reading your website, you make me think about things i would never consider – thank you :0)

  3. Pingback: Great Homeschooling Links: Survival and Emergency Preparedness

  4. Pingback: Winter Survival for Kids | The Survival Mom™ – Wilderness Survival Tips

  5. Another item is lip balm with no petroluem jelly in it. Its better for cracked lips, keeping lips from cracking, etc. We spend alot of time outdoors in the snow and cold. Chapped lips from cold/wind is miserable.

  6. I live in Alaska and we have been setting some new records in my parts. It's been at about 20 below F ambient temp and 40 below windchill. I took the kids out this weekend to try out there new winter gear and the new snowmachine. About an hour and a half and the little one (8 years old) was cold enough to call it quits. We have rules about not leaving the house without full winter gear, hat, gloves, facemask, snow pants, etc. I HAVE to know where they are at all times in this tempature and am trying to instill in them how dangerous it would be for either of them to get lost, or be out in it for long.

    Just a suggestion on the energy bars, they get hard to eat if they are frozen, trail mix or the like you can eat frozen. Batteries in a flashlight would freeze if left out, so maybe a head lamp in an inside pocket of the coat would be better. Again we live in Alaska so it is pretty much dark when we leave in the morning and dark when we get home. So headlamps are pretty important for outdoor chores.

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