Creating Future Campers: How to Teach Kids Camping Safety

preparing-campfireKids can learn a lot from a good camping trip. From applying basic navigational abilities to playing LED flashlight tag, there are a plethora of useful skills to be gleaned from a family camping expedition. An important one is how to remain safe when out in the wilderness. Below are suggestions for how to teach kids about camping safety.

Educating Youngsters on How to Pack for Camping

Packing for a camping trip teaches kids excellent organizational skills. It might be helpful to begin with a family brainstorming session to create a list of items to pack. Your children may surprise you with outlandish packing suggestions, such as “Let’s bring the Xbox!” Here’s where a parent can teach lifelong lessons on limiting screen time and packing light. For instance, you might explain that camping is your special time to make shadow puppets on the tent instead of getting lost in the latest shoot-’em-up video game. Both for recreational purposes and for safety, make sure you bring an LED flashlight or LED headlamp for each camper.

While you pack, discuss basic wilderness tenets, such as dressing in layers so as to be prepared for any weather conditions. Make sure you double-check any bag your kids pack to ensure that they have enough warm clothing. You’ll also want to bring sunscreen and hats, of course. This kind of careful packing preparation heads off various camping hazards, from sunburns to hypothermia.

Teaching Kids about the Importance of Drinking Clean Water

Ask your kids to help you plan your family’s camping adventure. If you’re headed to a car campground, ask them to help you figure out if there’s clean water available. Kids will learn even more from a backcountry expedition. You’ll have plenty to explain as you describe giardia, a painful intestinal parasite that causes bloating, cramps and a low-grade fever. Nothing ruins a family camping trip faster than a case of giardia infection, so be sure you bring iodine tablets or other methods of water purification if you’ll be drinking from wild rivers, streams or lakes.

Understanding how to filter and purify natural water may transition into a “teachable moment” about the importance of clean drinking water. You may even find an LED headlamp or two nodding in agreement as you sit around the campfire, talking about how important it is to protect your drinking supplies.

Explaining Camping Self-Protection Methods to Kids

The plain truth is that camping emergencies happen. No matter how careful you are as a parent, something unexpected might occur. Although such unexpected circumstances can be alarming, they are part of why camping is so valuable for children – it teaches them how to respond to the unexpected.

To keep your tiny campers safe, give each of them a whistle on a string, and require that this string be hanging around their necks at all times. That way, if something scary or dangerous happens, kids will be able to call for adult help ASAP by blowing their whistles three times, the international signal that help is needed. As you set the ground rules for this emergency procedure, explain that whistles are also great for getting the attention of rescue workers, so all campers should carry them.

Likewise, you can allay children’s fears about bears and other wild creatures by educating them on the precautions campers must take to protect themselves. While stringing up your grub for the night, explain that bears can’t reach food supplies if they’re dangling from a high tree limb, and that it’s much safer to store food this way than keep it in the tent or car.

Finally, teach kids to always carry an LED flashlight or LED headlamp when camping. Not only will these torches inspire a sense of safety, they’re also handy as emergency tools. Nothing gets the attention of a rescue party quite like the beam of an LED headlamp or LED flashlight.

Avoiding poisonous plants and insects

Before you leave home, make flashcards of the most common poisonous plants and animals in the area where you’ll be camping. Tell kids to study these cards so they know what to avoid. Pack an antihistamine in your first aid kit in case an emergency situation crops up. If little Timmy gets his first bee sting on your camping trip, for instance, you’ll want to be able to give him antihistamine to reduce potential swelling until you can make it to the hospital.

The tips above represent a good starting point for teaching kids about camping safety. As your children become more experienced campers, you can add lessons on subjects such as navigation, selecting and setting up a campsite, and foraging for food.


[ Photo by: preparing-campfire by marinakvillatoro, on Flickr via CC License ]

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