When nice weather hits, the call of the wild follows. Kids can’t wait to jump outside and explore. That means they will wander to the creeks, the wooded areas and grassy patches. Hidden in all those wonderous uncharted territories are ticks, poison ivy and even sink holes. We can’t bubble wrap our kids and expect them to grow up as independent, go-getter adults. Let them venture, but teach them these quick survival tips before they go:
1. Directionality: In a world of GPS and digital navigation systems, an innate sense of direction is rare. But it’s such an important skill. How many times has your phone lost its GPS signal and you are left screaming at it? Your kids should always know how to mark their way home from the woods, be it a tie around a few trees or an old tire–teach them to note how they came in. Now, if they lose themselves in an intense game of tag or protect the fort, knowing how to find north and which way home is in relation to it will always help. A great way to teach them the cardinal directions is a game of Simon says. Assign the walls their proper direction. Call out a direction and have them run to that side of the wall. The real key here is switching up their orientation. Make them face different ways so they learn to use the directions, not rote memorization.
2. Identifying Poison Ivy: Print out some pictures and play explorer with your kids. Make sure you show them the actual plant in its natural habitat. When singled out, the weedy plant may be easy to notice. However, against the rest of the vegetation it may get lost. Here are the key characteristics of poison ivy:
- “Hairy” vines
- Smooth or subtly toothed almond shaped leaflets that are sometimes irregularly lobed
- Often in clusters of 3 leaflets
3. How to treat a sting or bite: If they are young enough they will surely come back to the house in tears to have their mom treat the wound. But some rough and tumble kids may prefer to just “deal with it.” Rather than telling them to rush home and induce panic, show them what to do for some of the common stings and bites. You’re not teaching them how to “treat” the problem but how to react to it. Take a bee sting for example:
Bee Stings: Depending on their age, they can remove the stinger themselves. Be sure to tell them why they should fight their instincts to pinch or pull at the sace: the venom sac attached to the stinger. Demonstrate how to remove the stinger using a fingernail, swiping horizontally. Explain why you will be using a blunt object like a credit card as opposed to tweezers (the go-to for every other small sliver) which would puncture the sac.
Swelling & Irritation: Teach them how to control swelling with ice and other household anti-inflammatories like apple cider vinegar. Sites such as WebMD suggest keeping your children’s fingernails short as this will reduce the risk of further infection from itching. Check out these other ways to treat the pain and swelling from a bee sting here.
If any bite is in or around the mouth, tell them to immediately run home as the swelling could block their airways.
4. How to Dress for Adventuring: This goes hand in hand with our advice above. Make sure they are as covered as they can be and in proper shoes. Also, don’t send them out with sweet scents or food in their hands. Bright patterns, sweet smells and foods invite trouble. It may be beneficial to encourage wearing lighter colors: grays, pale yellows, even whites as you will be able to detect ticks and other parasitic bugs easier.
5. Go over what’s edible and what’s not: If you watch any of the survival shows, you learn in desperation what is edible and what is not. However, when your children are off on their own and get a game of dare going…the possibilities of what might be digested are endless. Take a look at your surrounding greenery and cover what you know won’t harm them and what will. Check out Discovery’s Guide to Common Edible Wild Plants here.