Wilderness-Proofing Your Child

Wilderness-Proofing Your Child
Getting lost outdoors is not something you anticipate, but it may happen to you. If you get lost while hiking, you may rely on your cell phone or map-reading abilities to get you back to where you want to be. Wilderness-proofing your child is an important step to take when hiking or camping with youngsters. They usually do not carry cell phones and may not have maps or know how to read them. Teaching your child how to act if he thinks he is lost may prevent a tragic end to your outing.


Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Fanny pack
  • Trail mix
  • Whistle on a chain
  • Orange trash bag
  • Canteen
  • Water
Step 1
Help your child understand what it means to be lost. Outdoorsman and aboriginal living skills instructor Cody Lundin urges parents to teach their children that being lost simply means wanting to return to mom or dad and not knowing how to accomplish it.
Step 2
Pack a wilderness survival kit for your child. Place a large orange trash bag, a Ziploc bag of trail mix and a whistle on a chain into a fanny pack. Attach a child-sized canteen to the pack. Instruct the child that whenever he walks away from you to explore, he must wear the fanny pack around his waist and make sure the canteen is filled with water.
Step 3
Teach your child how to use the items in the fanny pack. If he becomes lost and he gets cold or it starts to rain, your child must poke a hole in the trash bag's bottom and wear it over his body with his face sticking out of the hole. He must ration his trail mix to tide him over until you find him. He is to periodically blow the whistle three times in succession.
Step 4
Show the child how to hug a tree and stay put. The Hug-A-Tree program teaches lost children to find a tree, hug it and stay near it. The child may speak to the tree and snuggle up against it. It prevents children from moving around in the wilderness after realizing that they are lost. Searchers have a better chance of locating a stationary child than someone on the move, who may cross into territory searchers already covered.
Step 5
Model how to scare away wild animals with the whistle. Your child may get scared if he hears noises, especially after dark. Teach your child not to run away from the tree he picked, but instead to use his whistle to make a noise for each noise he hears. Animals may be scared away by the loud sounds of the whistle, and if rescuers are making the sounds they will have an easier time finding the child.
Step 6
Modify your teachings of stranger danger. You most likely taught your child to never go with a stranger and not to talk to anyone he does not know. Amend your teaching by explaining that there are some strangers who are safe. They include firefighters, police officers, forest rangers and rescue workers.

Tips & Warnings

Practice wilderness-proofing in your backyard or the neighborhood park. Hands-on practice makes it easier for the child to remember how to act when he needs real survival skills.

Article Written By Sylvia Cochran

Based in the Los Angeles area, Sylvia Cochran is a seasoned freelance writer focusing on home and garden, travel and parenting articles. Her work has appeared in "Families Online Magazine" and assorted print and Internet publications.

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