If you have children, that’s of course going to factor into your stockpiling. Most people calculate their food needs based upon everyone eating adult portions, even though most of their family is children. That’s a pretty good way to do things, as it provides you with some buffer in your food stocks. Besides, teens, especially teen aged boys, can eat a lot.
Even so, just making sure you have enough food isn’t really going to be enough. Children have special needs, and those need to be taken into consideration. You want to keep them healthy in all ways, so you have to be ready to supply them with the things that they need.
Since we’re already talking about food, let’s start there. A child’s body will metabolize just about anything, so there’s no reason to worry about them not getting enough energy or nutrition from the food you have, at least as far as macro-nutrients are concerned. But children don’t always eat what you want them to, so you have to consider that they may not eat enough nutrition to take care of their growing bodies.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to add children’s vitamins to your stockpile shopping list. Vitamins may make up for some of the shortfalls in your diet or in what your children are willing to eat from your diet. This will help keep them from getting sick, as well as helping them grow.
Children also need a lot of calcium and protein for proper growth. Lack of protein or calcium can stunt their growth. Most preppers do a pretty good job in adding protein to their food stockpile, even though animal protein is expensive, but they may not add enough calcium.
The best common source of calcium is milk. That can be a real problem in a survival situation. The only milk you’re going to be able to keep is powdered milk, which most children don’t like drinking. You can solve that problem by getting them used to drinking powdered milk. You can also solve the problem by adding chocolate powder to the milk. I have yet to find a child who doesn’t like chocolate milk, even if it is made from powdered milk.
This brings us to another important food area, that of comfort foods. Any crisis that is serious enough to put you into survival mode is going to create a lot of stress for the whole family. It will be important to have things that make your family feel like things are normal, just to help them cope with the situation.
Comfort foods are a great way of doing this. Different people like different foods as comfort foods, but we all have them. That’s the food we retreat to when we just want to eat something that makes us feel good. For children, foods like macaroni and cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are important comfort foods. Even though you’re going to have to bake your own bread for those sandwiches, your kids need it.
Your child’s educational needs won’t stop, just because a disaster has closed the school. If it’s only a localized disaster, you can count on school opening up again in a matter of weeks. While that would be serious, it wouldn’t greatly harm your child’s education. But what would happen if your local school was closed for a few years?
Granted, there are fewer disasters which shut things down for a few years than there are that will shut things down for a few months. So, there’s less possibility that you’ll run across one of them. But if you do, you need to be ready for it. Specifically, you need to be ready to home school your children.
That means having textbooks and other materials you can use. Remember, you may be without electrical power, so you won’t be able to use the internet for teaching. You’ll have to resort to good old fashioned school books.
Of course, some of the knowledge and skills that are normally taught in a school may not be as applicable in a survival situation as they are in normal life. Likewise, there will be some skills that your children need to learn, which wouldn’t be considered important in modern civilized society. So, you’re going to have to modify what would be considered normal education to meet the needs that you see your children needing.
When you look at educating your children in a survival situation, you need to be thinking of how long the situation is going to last. If the situation is such where life may never return to normal, such as in the aftermath of an EMP, then you will educate your children to survive in the new world they find themselves in. Learning computer skills won’t be very important, as there won’t be any computers to use. However, gardening will become a very important skill, so that your family can eat.
Short-term survival situations will be much different than those long-term situations where society is forced to change. In those cases, you can pretty much count on life returning to some semblance of normal and your children returning to a normal education. If that’s what you’re looking at, then it will be more important to ensure that your children don’t lose their basic skills and that they will be ready to continue their normal education.
Children of all ages need to be kept busy. In the “information age” a lot of that is through looking at one screen or another. But what would happen if your children could no longer look at a television, computer, tablet or cell phone screen?
Education and chores will take up a fair chunk of your children’s day; but they’re going to need things to do with the rest of their time. If they can’t use their electronic toys, they’ll have to go back to more basic sorts. That might even mean having to teach them how to play with toys that require that they do more than push buttons.
Books and board games are great for children of all ages. Reading stimulates their minds and imaginations, as well as teaching them many new things. Crafts and other manual skills are a great way of using up some of that time, while teaching them skills that have some real-life application. I can remember many a time when my children were in my garage workshop with me, working away at their projects, while I was working on my own.
We always purchased a lot of educational toys for our children, especially toys that challenged their creativity or where they were building things. If children are going to play, and they learn from playing, why not make sure that they have the appropriate toys to play with, to ensure that they learn something?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a parent, it’s that children grow. The clothes that fit them today aren’t going to fit them for too many tomorrows. So, it’s constantly necessary to be buying more clothes for the kids. The thing is, if you are only buying clothing for tomorrow, your children aren’t going to have anything to wear next year.
Prepping with kids requires looking at clothing a bit different. Instead of thinking of what clothes they need this year, we should be thinking of what clothes they are going to need two or three years from now. We should already have the clothes that they need for this year and next year’s as well. But that may not be enough for a long-term crisis.
Granted, there will probably end up being some sort of barter system in place, in the aftermath of any disaster. You’ll be able to trade the clothes your children no longer wear, for clothes that they can grow into. But you can’t really count on that. You need to plan ahead.
The idea is to start building a clothing stockpile for your children, as well as the other items that you are stockpiling. Start by buying the clothes that you expect them to need for next year. By then, they’ll have outgrown the clothes they are wearing now; so they’ll need some new ones. Once you have next year’s clothing bought, start working on the year after that.
In this way, you can always stay a few years ahead of your children, maintaining a stock of clothing for them to grow into. When they need new clothes, you pull them out of the stockpile, rather than go to the store. Then, you start building the next year’s stockpile.
There will probably always be a few things you miss, especially trendy clothing. But that’s okay. The idea isn’t to try and outguess the trends, but to have the basics on hand. I guarantee you, those trends won’t be as important in a survival situation. What will be important is having clothing that your children can wear.
We did this for years, when our children were younger. My wife is a consummate garage sale shopper. She could find the best deals on just about anything. Why, there were times when each of my girls had enough party dresses in their closets to wear a different one every day of the month; and that was just for the size they were wearing now; let alone what was packed away for the next year.
Remember that they will need rugged clothing in a survival situation, rather than cute clothing. They will be doing more physical labor, just like you will. They’ll also need warm coats, along with hats and mittens. Your heating may not be able to keep up, so they’ll need clothing that can keep them warm.
A very important part of childhood is learning how to be a responsible adult. This doesn’t change just because you’re living out in the woods or you’re bugging in after a disaster. Children will still need to learn to be responsible and need to learn how to do the things that are attributed to adulthood.
With that in mind, you should consider adding some “adult” items to your stockpile. No, I’m not talking about pornography here; I’m talking about knives and guns. None of us really knows how long we’re going to be living in a post-disaster life, before things return to some semblance of normal. For that matter, we don’t know if things will ever return to normal. That’s part of the whole point of prepping.
With that in mind, there are some things which will probably not be available after a major disaster, which may be necessary for your child to have as they grow into adulthood. One of these might be a good knife and another might be their own gun. If a post-disaster situation was severe enough to put society back 100 years or more, not having those things could prevent a child from being accepted into society as an adult.
I’m sure that there are other things than knives and guns that fall into this category, but I’m not really sure what they are. Nevertheless, this is one area where you need to do some thinking. Otherwise, you may not have these things available as your child grows into needing them.
Survival is an all-encompassing task and requires the efforts of every family member. So, your children are going to have to pitch in as well.
This isn’t all that common in our modern society, but it was in times past. Today, we consider children’s chores to be cleaning up their room and maybe taking out the trash. But that’s actually a symptom of the affluence of our society. Because we have so much, we allow children to have more leisure time, relieving them of chores.
While I’m not in favor of returning to the days where children were working in factories, I do believe it would be good for our children to have more responsibility. Contributing in a real way to the family will help them with their self-esteem, as well as their understanding of who they are. Throughout most of history, children were required to contribute to the family’s needs, and they were better for it.
In the American Frontier, children were an important part of the family. Most families were ranching or farming families. Therefore, every set of hands was a help in getting the work done. They didn’t have all the farm machinery that a modern farmer has today, so they had to make up with it with animal power and manpower. A large family might have enough people in it to be able to farm 40 acres, in addition to keeping a good sized kitchen garden for herbs and vegetables.
Children were often given the responsibility of feeding the animals. This taught them to be responsible, as well as understanding how to take care of the animals the family owned. Taking care of a horse or cow is harder than taking care of the family dog. Milk cows have to be milked twice a day to stay healthy; then that milk needs to be taken care of, right away, so that it can’t spoil.
Other important tasks that were given to the children of the family were to bring in firewood, stoke the fire, bring in water from the well and gather eggs from the chickens. As the children grew, they were assigned new chores and some of the chores they were doing were passed on to younger children. That way, each child learned a wide range of skills, all of which were necessary for survival on the frontier.
Being responsible for the chores didn’t mean doing it when mom or dad yelled at them; but all the time. Children were expected to get up in the morning and do their chores without being told. Some of those chores had to be done before they could even eat breakfast. If they didn’t do them, they probably wouldn’t be able to eat.
The same would be expected when they returned from school. Each child would know the chores they were responsible for and would be expected to do them, without being told. If the child had to be told what to do, it would mean that they had let the family down by not completing their area of responsibility.
Children were even involved in the defense of the homestead. When attacked by Indians or outlaws, the children would go up to the loft to act as lookouts. Others would get buckets of water ready to put out a fire, should the attackers try to burn them out with flaming arrows (rare, but possible). Older children might have the responsibility of reloading dad’s guns or even fighting beside him. Everyone helped in one way or another.
It’s important to have your children involved in your family’s survival. As I previously stated, this is a great learning opportunity for them, while also helping the family out overall. Teaching your children to take care of some of the simpler tasks can free you up to take care of the more complex ones.
The tasks you select for your child must be age-appropriate. You need to make sure they both have the physical strength and the proper level of responsibility before assigning them a task. Even then, they will need supervision, especially at first. But as they get better at those tasks, you will be able to concentrate less on supervising them and more on other things.
So, what sorts of tasks can they do? Here are a list of some basic survival tasks, which you are likely to encounter in a bug out situation. I’ve ranked them from easiest (at the top) to hardest (at the bottom).
- Gather fuel for the fire
- Filter drinking water for the family
- Build a fire
- Pitch a tent
- Catch fish
- Cook over a campfire
- Find edible plants
- Trap small game with snares
- Hunt for game
You can also teach a child many survival skills that would be more appropriate for individual survival, rather than surviving as a family. Skills such as throwing a tomahawk or building a debris shelter are invaluable, but don’t really fall into the category of “chores.” These may actually be harder to fit into your training, as you’ll have to make time for them, rather than just count on having it naturally occur during a camping trip.