Survivorman Les Stroud by a fire
Photo by Laura Bombier

Survivorman Les Stroud is today’s guest editor. He shares with us his experience in teaching children survival and wilderness skills.

After showing our children how to hold a spoon and cross the road, we later teach them how to interact socially. We teach our kids how to learn. And we teach them how to build a life. We teach them how to find a mate. But isn’t wilderness survival an adult’s game? Isn’t it based on life-and-death situations that children shouldn’t find themselves in? Survival shelters are a fun game, but shouldn’t the making of a fire be left to the strong and experienced hands of an adult?

Don’t Provide the Fear

As adults with our kids around, we think we are the heroes out in the bush. Yet, with the exception of perhaps fearing the dark of night, most kids don’t have any particular set of fears, at least not the very young. We parents have yet to give those fears to them. Most kids will happily pick up a leech or a spider or a snake—that is, until the day their parent shows them fear. So they are by nature ready and willing and fearless students in the world of wilderness survival. Taught properly, the concepts of venomous creatures, finger-freezing cold, or how to handle the scorching embers of a fire all become concepts to respect, not fear.

What we are doing when we are teaching our children life and survival skills is teaching them how to live without the teacher. Whether camping, fishing, boating, hunting, hiking, or practicing survival, kids get bored if the adults do all the work, subsequently giving the kids no way to contribute. They may moan, especially the teenagers, but just watch them puff up with pride when they, instead of dad, get the dinner fire going.

Survivorman’s 12 Tips:

  • Teach knife skills to the young by using a butter knife and mushrooms to chop.
  • Never forbid kids from chopping wood—teach them how.
  • Brush up on your own skills so that you can be an effective teacher.
  • Show kids stoicism and forbearance in the face of trying circumstances, like hordes of mosquitoes.
  • Work together with them on their first fires and shelters to show them success.
  • Allow them to fail at all these skills, assuming nothing is dangerous or life threatening.
  • Work on these skills in the backyard or local bush area—you don’t have to go to the Amazon to learn outdoor skills.
  • Get as many of their friends out there with you – they will soon ask you to leave them alone to handle it themselves.
  • As your children get older, and if you’re not an experienced teacher yourself, enroll them in a good and reputable survival school or course.
  • Remind kids that survival is for real—it is not a game—it’s not a recreational activity. These are real life lessons worth learning.
  • Sleep outside with them at first until you are comfortable they can spend the night on their own—even if it is in the backyard.
  • Use my book: Survive! Skills and Tactics To Get You Out Of Anywhere Alive, like a textbook of sorts to walk through the lessons.

Wrapping Up

Your kids need that familiarity with branches and bushes, with snakes and frogs, with insects (including the ones that bite and sting), with big furry animals, and birds in the air. With that familiarity they will remember their roots as a species: If, indeed, they have built fires and shelters in their youth, if they have taken off their shoes and walked across streams and happily and gently pulled off little leeches from their feet; if they have coughed when smoke from a fire wafted into their faces and breathed in deep when a breeze has wafted across a lake; they will consider all of these and a thousand more experiences and sensations to be familiar, and they will either stick with them throughout life, making them healthy and strong, or they will desire to come back to them—knowing that the wilderness is a place where they’ll feel young again. To feel at home.

This article is from Survivor’s Edge Survival Experts Handbook 2018 Special Edition Magazine. Grab your copy at

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