If you are a parent, raising your children to be able to take care of themselves should be one of your most important goals. For many parents, this means helping your kids get a good education so they can support themselves when they are adults. However, for a prepper, teaching your children to be self-reliant goes far beyond that.
Preppers need to teach their children skills that will not only help them in normal everyday life but also things that can keep them alive during an emergency. These skills should be taught as early as appropriate since you never know how long you will be around.
Here is a list of 30 skills that every prepper should teach their kids. These skills can help them be successful independent adults while times are good and help them stay alive during a disaster.
Skill 1: Money Management
Teaching your children how to manage their money will make their lives much easier. According to research by Northwestern Mutual, 44% of those interviewed cited money as their dominant source of stress. This far surpassed those that cited relationships (25%) and work (18%) as their dominant source of stress.
I taught in public schools for 8 years, and I know from experience that traditional education does an abysmal job of teaching children about money. Because of this, parents must do this themselves.
To teach your kids good money management, it is best if you can model it yourself. However, even if your finances are a complete dumpster fire, there are still things you can do.
Teaching your kids basic things like how to make a budget spreadsheet and how compound credit card interest can impact them would be tremendously helpful.
Skill 2: Good Hygiene
Another skill that every prepper should teach their kids is to have good hygiene. This is important for several reasons.
First, the stinky kid always gets picked on. Later in life, they will also have a hard time landing jobs. No hiring manager wants to put someone who smells like a garbage truck in their office.
Good hygiene also promotes good health. Taking care of their teeth, bathing properly, and being sanitary will prevent many illnesses and diseases.
It is also important that a prepper teaches their kids how to maintain good hygiene during an emergency. Teaching your kids how to bathe, take care of their teeth, and manage waste when water utilities and trash services are absent could save their lives.
Skill 3: How to Fail Gracefully
WHAT?!?!?! I know what you’re thinking, and honestly, this is hard for me too. We all want to protect our children from failure, but by never allowing them to experience it, we may be creating bigger problems later in life. Knowing how to fail gracefully is something that every prepper should teach their kids.
Culturally, we are trained to avoid failure at all costs and to look down on those who experience it. Unfortunately, when someone doesn’t know how to handle failure properly, it can be very harmful.
This is especially important if you have a child that is an overachiever. Kids that are used to success often have a very hard time processing failures. Many times, they will view failure as a reflection of themselves and freeze up, which could cause them to spiral.
Preppers should recognize that life may throw curveballs at us and our children. Prepping, after all, is about dealing with some potentially huge problems. Knowing how to deal with setbacks will allow your kids to continue to function even in really bad situations.
Skill 4: Faith
One of the most important things that preppers should teach their kids is faith. Doing this will bring you closer together as a family and give your children a powerful tool that they can use during bad times.
One study after Hurricane Katrina found that 99 percent of survivors used some type of positive religious coping. This is just a fancy way of saying that almost everyone represented in the study relied on their faith to make it through a terrible situation. This reduced their risk of PTSD and other problems.
Skill 5: Navigation
Another important skill for a prepper to teach their kids is how to navigate. This includes how to navigate in the wilderness and on the road.
Teaching your kids how to navigate in the wilderness will help prevent them from getting lost. This could save their lives or at least prevent some severe discomfort like what happened to my cousin when he got lost boating on a river. The mosquitoes loved him…
When teaching your kids how to navigate, they should know how to use modern GPS as well as more primitive ways to find their bearings.
Knowing how to use modern technology for navigation is almost idiot-proof. Your kids will probably know how to use this before you even show them, but going over it with them is still a good idea.
However, there is a lot more margin for error when using a map and compass. In addition, teaching your kids how to use the sun to determine directions is essential as well.
Skill 6: Offensive Driving
When teaching their kids how to drive, a prepper should also expose them to offensive driving tactics. I’m not advocating showing a 16-year-old hormonal boy how to force someone off the road. However, teaching them to be proactive on the road rather than reactive is essential.
Many people are familiar with defensive driving. If you have ever received a ticket, you may have taken a course over it to have the ticket removed from your record or to have the fine reduced. There are many good things about defensive driving, however, it teaches people how to react to situations rather than avoid them.
Offensive driving, on the other hand, teaches people to anticipate what could happen and how to avoid it. This can include changing lanes to avoid cars turning into or out of a parking lot or positioning the vehicle to protect against potential carjackings.
Skill 7: Situational Awareness
Many people fall victim to a crime or accident because they didn’t know what was going on around them. Because of this, every prepper should teach their kids situational awareness.
Being situationally aware is basically not having your head stuck in the clouds. This is a big challenge for kids, especially teenagers who like to play parking lot Frogger while looking at Instagram on their phones.
While situational awareness is obviously a concern for older kids, especially when they start going out on the town and driving, it is important for younger children as well.
Most parents teach their children the idea of “stranger danger”. This is important, but a prepper should take this a little further. Due to the prevalence of shootings and other types of violence, kids should be able to spot strangers in their neighborhood and school.
They also shouldn’t be afraid to (discreetly) let you or a trusted adult know if they think there may be a problem.
Skill 8: How to Swim
One of the best things that my grandfather did for me was taking me to swimming lessons. He decided to do this after some relatives tried to teach me to swim by throwing me into a pool. After threatening to beat them with a baseball bat, the next thing he did was schedule swimming lessons.
Knowing how to swim is an essential skill for any person. Because of this, every prepper should make sure their kids are confident swimmers.
Even if you don’t live near water, teaching your kids how to swim is still important. You never know when they may go over to a friend’s house that has a pool or out on the lake. Knowing how to swim will give them a skill that they can enjoy that could save their life in an emergency.
Skill 9: How to Find Water
Finding water is another skill that preppers should teach their kids. While many people think of finding water as an issue in a wilderness setting, it is also important that kids know where to scavenge for water in an urban environment as well.
Your kids should also know which sources of water to avoid. Water sources that are heavily contaminated by chemicals may be very difficult to purify.
Skill 10: Water Purification
If your kids are able to find water, you need to make sure that they know how to purify it. They should know how to remove chemical and biological contaminants.
This includes teaching them how to use water filters, such as those made by Sawyer, or even creating their own from natural materials. If you have a home-based water purification system, such as a Berkey, you can teach your child how to fill it up and clean it.
A prepper’s child should know what different methods of water filtration and purification accomplish. For example, boiling water will kill biological contaminants but won’t remove chemicals.
Skill 11: Knot Tying
Knot tying is an essential skill that many people, even adults don’t have today. However, it is an excellent skill for preppers to teach their kids.
Being able to tie knots properly is important for a few different reasons. First, it makes life a lot more convenient. If you have ever had to undo a very tight knot, then you know how frustrating it can be. Most properly-tied knots, when used in the correct situations, are generally easier to untie.
Properly tying knots will also help your ropes to last longer. When knots are tied or untied the wrong way it can cause kinks in the rope which will reduce its strength.
Knowing which knots to use in different situations and how to tie them could also be a lifesaver. Ropes can be used to rescue people and even free stuck vehicles. Tying rescue or climbing knots improperly could result in death.
Here are some good knots for a prepper to teach their kids:
- Square knot
- Overhand knot
- Overhand loop
- Double overhand
- Sheet bend
- Two half hitches
- Clove hitch
- Taut line
You can learn how to tie these knots using the Knots 3D app. You can find it and other great apps for preppers by clicking here.
Skill 12: Finding and Making a Shelter
A prepper should also teach their kids how to find and make shelters. This is true in the wilderness as well as in urban environments.
The most basic example of this is how to set up a tent. It amazes me how many people nearly injure themselves just trying to set up a basic dome tent. If someone can’t do something as simple as this, they are probably doomed if they have to make one out of a tarp and/or natural materials.
Children should be taught how to make basic primitive shelters, such as lean-tos. They should also be taught to recognize natural structures that could act as shelters, such as caves and even fallen trees that are still connected to their trunk.
The SAS Survival Handbook does a great job illustrating how to make various types of emergency shelters. You can find it by clicking here.
It would also be a good idea to teach your kids how to shelter temporarily in an urban environment. They should know where to take shelter from the elements while also avoiding potential human threats.
Skill 13: When to Listen Without Question
Kids, especially older ones, will argue with their parents at least occasionally. However, a prepper should teach their kids when to listen without question, especially when it is a matter of life or death.
This is one thing that I instilled in my students when I was a teacher. And yes, it even worked with middle school students. I taught it to them when we were doing drills for emergencies, especially the ones for active shooters.
Parents have different thresholds for how much they allow their kids to negotiate or even argue with them. However, every parent regardless of their parenting philosophy should raise their children to know when not listening could get them or others seriously injured or killed.
I taught my students that if I had a psycho look in my eyes like I was going to kill someone and started barking orders like a drill instructor, that they had better listen. It was effective because, even though I was normally strict, I didn’t turn into a rage monster all the time. (I did have my moments…just being honest.)
I also explained to them that when I started behaving this way, it wasn’t because I was mad at them. They understood that when I was in that mode, I was only concerned about their safety. This greatly reduced the number of hurt feelings. They also knew that if they were difficult, it wouldn’t be pleasant.
In order for this to work, you must have a positive relationship with your kids. If you are always yelling at them, they will never know when to take you seriously.
Skill 14: Firecraft
Firecraft (how to build and light a fire) is another essential skill that preppers should teach their kids. This skill will make them a rockstar on camping trips and could save their lives.
When building a fire, kids should know what materials make good tinder, kindling, and fuel. Here is a breakdown:
- Tinder: Material that is very easy to light with a match, lighter, firestarter, or by other means. Examples include fatwood, dry grass, and cotton balls soaked with vaseline.
- Kindling: Small pieces of material that are caught on fire by tinder. They allow the fire to become strong enough to burn fuel. The most common example of kindling is small, dry, sticks.
- Fuel: Larger pieces of material that sustain the fire for long periods of time. A fire’s fuel usually consists of tree branches or trunks that have been cut and split to manageable sizes that are still large enough to burn for a duration of time.
Next, your child should understand how to arrange these materials so that once they light a tinder bundle it will be able to catch the rest of the materials on fire.
When it comes to lighting the fire, kids should know how to use lighters, matches, magnesium bars, and fire steels. It is also a good idea to teach them how to use primitive fire starting methods such as the bow drill and fire plough.
Skill 15: Fire Safety
A prepper should also teach their children proper fire safety techniques. This includes fire safety in the wilderness as well as at home.
In a wilderness environment, kids should be taught to position the fire so that it won’t spread beyond where they want it to. Cleaning the area around the fire and keeping gear (especially tents) away from the fire is essential.
Kids also need to know how to put out a fire. They should understand that a fire that has been “put out” can come back to life and make absolutely certain it is out before they leave it.
At home, kids should be able to safely handle candles, lanterns, fireplaces, and other sources of open flames. Items such as these cause countless burns and house fires every year.
The next aspect of fire safety that a prepper’s kids should understand is how to put out a fire should one happen. This includes how to use a fire extinguisher (aim at the bottom), and what to do when fires break out in the kitchen.
Skill 16: Cooking
Every prepper should also make sure that their kids know how to cook at home and over an open flame. If your kid only knows how to use a microwave they will be in big trouble if they have to cook something without power.
When teaching your kids to cook at home, spaghetti is a good first dish. It is simple to prepare but will teach a child how to prepare ground beef and noodles. Spaghetti was the first dish that I learned how to cook. It is also a good opportunity to show them how to properly take care of cast-iron cookware.
When you start showing them how to cook outside, start simply by showing them how to prepare food on a gas or charcoal grill. This will help them learn how to cook over an open flame but with less chance of them knocking something into the flames.
Once they master cooking indoors and on a grill, then show them how to cook using a fire that they built themselves. This is a good thing to do on a hunting or fishing trip with critters that they harvested themselves. It will give them a greater appreciation of it and make the memory stick a little better.
Skill 17: Firearm Safety
There are almost 400 million firearms in the United States. Because of this, every prepper, regardless of how they feel about firearms and other weapons, should teach their children how to handle them properly.
Even if you don’t have a gun in your home, your child will probably go visit the home of a friend that does. Young children should know to never touch a gun that they find but instead, go find an adult. They should also know to get away from a friend who has a gun in their hand and go get their parents.
Older children should be taught basic firearm handling techniques to ensure they can use them safely if necessary. However, you should make sure that they understand your limits on when they can handle a firearm and respect them. Having a gun safe is a good way to prevent accidents regardless of how old your kids are.
In addition to firearms, it is also a good idea for a prepper to teach kids how to use other types of weapons. Things such as bows and crossbows are fairly common. It is also easy for someone to injure themselves with them if they don’t know what they are doing.
I would rather show my son how to use my crossbow rather than a friend who forgets to tell him to keep this thumb down. (A crossbow has enough power to rip someone’s thumb off if it is in the way when the string comes forward.)
Other items that aren’t necessarily weapons but could be used as one, such as machetes and axes, should be introduced as well. Using them improperly could easily injure your child or someone nearby. Your kid isn’t the Highlander so they shouldn’t be swinging the machete like they are.
Skill 18: Self-Defense
Signing your kids up for self-defense classes (and maybe joining in with them) is a good way for preppers to teach their kids how to defend themselves. Martial arts classes also have the added benefits of instilling discipline into their students and helping them get in shape.
It is important to note that not all self-defense classes are equally effective at teaching people how to protect themselves in the real world. Because of this, I recommend something like Krav Maga. It teaches techniques that would be useful in a real defensive situation while being suitable for students of different ages.
Skill 19: Changing a Tire
Another skill that every prepper should teach their kids is how to change a flat tire. Imagine that your kid has a flat tire in the middle of nowhere with no cell reception. Do you want them to have to walk miles in the dark to get help?
This is a skill that should be taught to a child long before they are ready to drive. Knowing how to change a flat tire may be necessary if they are traveling with a relative who is physically unable to due to age or illness.
Here are some things kids should know about changing tires:
- Do it as far away from traffic as possible and keep an eye out for cars while working. (Vacant parking lots or driveways are preferable.)
- Loosen lug nuts a little before lifting the car with the jack.
- Be sure they understand where to place the jack and how it works.
- Remove lug nuts using a criss-cross pattern and replace them the same way.
- Tighten the lug nuts as much as possible before lowering the car.
- Make sure nothing is in the way when lowering the car.
- Tighten the lug nuts fully once the vehicle is on the ground.
Skill 20: Replacing Car Batteries and Headlights
While not everyone can be a mechanic, they should be able to perform basic vehicle maintenance such as replacing a car battery or changing out headlights.
This can be a challenge, especially when vehicle manufacturers are making cars so complicated that you almost have to be a mechanic to do the simplest of tasks. However, being able to do these things will allow your kids to travel safely and save some money.
A kid should also know how to use jumper cables before they are allowed to drive on their own. A dead battery is something that every driver will experience and it is important that kids know how to deal with it. (Be sure they have jumper cables in their car.)
Skill 21: How to Use a Knife
Every once in a while I am horrified when I see an adult who has no idea how to use a knife. It usually happens when I am at a restaurant and see someone trying to cut their steak. The only problem is that they look like a kindergartener attacking a library book with a crayon.
Every parent (especially preppers) should teach their kids how to handle a knife safely and use it properly. This is true whether the knife has a fixed-blade, such as a steak knife, or is an assisted-opening folder.
Knowing how to properly cut into different types of materials and where to point the knife could prevent serious injury to themselves or someone else. Carrying a knife (or even scissors) the correct way is important as well as where to position their non-cutting hand.
When using folding knives, children should know how to properly open them and shut them so they don’t get cut. The most obvious example of this would be keeping their fingers clear of the blade as it closes back into the handle.
Skill 22: How to Hunt and Fish
Many people teach their kids to hunt and fish as a way to bond with them and make them more self-reliant. They are also valuable skills for preppers to teach their kids.
Knowing how to hunt and fish will give your kids another way to feed themselves and their loved ones if grocery stores are shut down. These skills can also expose them to the proper methods of processing various types of wild game.
Hunting is also a good way to teach your children how to handle various types of weapons, such as firearms and bows. Good knife handling can be demonstrated while filleting fish and skinning animals.
Skill 23: Gardening
Knowing how to grow a garden is another skill that every prepper should teach their children. This is true even if you don’t have a lot of land.
For families that live in apartments, growing a tomato or pepper plant in a pot or bucket on your porch is a good way to start. Even small yards may be able to support a small garden and even a couple of fruit trees.
Knowing how to raise plants for food will teach a child responsibility and self-sufficiency. Even if you have to start small, the knowledge that they gain could allow them to grow a larger garden in the future from a seed bank. This could give you and your family a good longer-term food source in an emergency.
Skill 24: How to Forage for Food
A prepper should also teach their children how to forage for food. Knowing what edible plants that are common in their area could allow them to feed themselves in an emergency.
On the other hand, knowing which plants are poisonous, especially those that look like edible ones could save their lives by teaching them to steer clear.
The best way to teach them this skill is to take a class with them from a reputable instructor in your area. Books are good for a lot of things, but considering how many poisonous plants look like edible ones, getting expert guidance is a smart move.
Skill 25: Open a Can With or Without a Can Opener
Thanks to electric can openers and pop-top cans more and more people have no idea how to use a manual can opener. Even fewer know how to open a can with no can opener at all.
Every prepper should teach their kids how to get food out of a can regardless of the tools they have at their disposal. Being able to open a can with a multitool, spoon, or even by scraping on concrete can prevent them from wasting food or even from being injured.
On the docu-drama American Blackout, a man severely injured himself trying to open a can of peaches with a large kitchen knife. (His electric can opener didn’t work due to the blackout.) Having a manual can opener or some basic knowledge could have prevented this.
Skill 26: How to Use Tools
Another important thing for preppers to teach their kids is how to use hand and power tools. To start with, being able to use tools will allow your kids to help you with projects. In addition to free labor, working on projects together is a good way to bond.
Teaching your kids how to use basic hand and power tools will also allow them to prevent or at the very least reduce damage to their homes. Being able to board up windows quickly before a storm could prevent thousands of dollars of water damage. It will also allow them to reduce further damage by being able to quickly make repairs.
In addition, being able to use tools to fix and build things will make them more self-sufficient. This can help them be more confident and save money on repairs.
Skill 27: First Aid and CPR
Every person, including kids, should know basic first aid and how to perform CPR. In addition, they should also know how to use an AED (automated external defibrillator). A prepper could help their kid learn these skills by taking a class with them. You can find classes near you by clicking here.
Knowing basic first aid will allow your child to treat various types of injuries. It will also give them the knowledge they need to determine if additional help is necessary.
Knowing how to perform CPR and use an AED are skills that could save someone’s life. Although I have never needed to use my training in this area, I know multiple people who have. Some have even needed to use it on multiple occasions.
First aid, CPR, and AED training are all things that can be useful in everyday life as well as in a disaster. If your child is unable to get medical help immediately, this knowledge could allow them to treat wounds in a way that avoids infection or keeps someone alive long enough for help to arrive.
In some states, having this training may also help them avoid lawsuits if they attempt to help someone. Laws vary by location, but having an extra layer of protection in an increasingly litigious society is never a bad thing.
Skill 28: Knowledge of History
In my opinion, many of the problems that we have in our country are at least partially due to an ignorance of historical events. The phrase “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it” is validated more and more in the news.
Every prepper should teach their kids history as a way to protect them from deception and to encourage them to think for themselves. There is a big difference between being an independent thinker and a conspiracy theorist. Knowing history gives people, including kids, a clear lens to look through when making decisions.
Proper knowledge of history will also enable our kids to vote more responsibly when they are of age. Knowing the dangers of certain types of government and how tyrants have risen to power can help future generations avoid the mistakes of our past.
It is important to note that while history is taught in schools, many times, it doesn’t receive as much attention as other subjects like math and reading. Individual teachers, regardless of their political ideology, are likely to reflect their own biases in their teaching.
Skill 29: How to Stay Warm or Cool
Another skill that preppers should teach their kids is how to stay warm in cold environments and cool in hot environments. Extreme cold or heat can kill someone much faster than dehydration or starvation.
Teaching your kids how to layer their clothes or light a fire could prevent them from getting hypothermia. Showing your kids how to stay hydrated and how to do things such as place cold rags on cooling spots (neck, back of knees, temples, etc,) could prevent them from suffering heatstroke.
Skill 30: Sewing
Another skill that many people overlook teaching their kids is how to sew. It is also a skill that is taught less and less in schools, making it an important one for preppers to teach their kids.
Being able to sew will allow your child to repair clothes and gear. If they are in a situation where they have to make do with a torn sleeve or sleeping bag, a little thread, and a needle could help them stay warm.
Another advantage of being able to sew is that your kid will be able to make their own clothes or gear. They could even barter this skill for items that they need that someone else has.
When Are Kids Ready to Learn These Skills?
One of the most important things about teaching these skills is knowing when it is time to do so. Teaching some of these skills too early could be frustrating or even dangerous.
The two most important things to consider are your child’s physical and mental maturity. For example, it doesn’t make sense to try to teach a 3-year-old how to shoot since their little hands probably won’t be ready. It also wouldn’t make sense to teach an immature 13-year-old how to shoot either.
Many skills, such as sewing and cooking, can be taught in their early stages through observation or your kid being your little assistant. Even if they don’t have the dexterity to measure ingredients, they can still hand you a box of pasta.
All of that being said, a good indicator that a child is ready to begin learning a skill is when they show interest. Even if they aren’t ready to learn everything about a given subject, you can at least expose them to it.
One of my favorite memories from my early childhood was my grandfather letting me “drive” the lawnmower while I was sitting on his lap. He still had control of the lawnmower but he let me feel like I was a grownup by driving something.
In addition to being a prepper, I am also a dad who was a teacher for nearly a decade. I have taught and volunteered with kids in diapers all the way to seniors in high school.