Prepping with Children

Here is the presentation from the Prepping with Children class held at the 2023 Gun & Preparedness Sportsman’s Expo.

For many of us, our families are essentially the reason for our prepping. We want to do everything we can to make sure they are safe, no matter what happens in our lives. When it comes to our children, especially young kids, there are a few needs we should ensure we address.


Often, as we are starting out with food storage, we stick to the bare essentials and we may overlook the real nutritional needs of our children in particular. A good multivitamin can help bridge the nutritional gap when we’re feeding our children strictly from our food storage. It isn’t a permanent solution, of course, but it can help. Growing bodies also need a lot of protein and calories.

Kids eat a LOT of food, all references to childhood obesity aside. When our boys were teenagers, they each had nearly zero body fat, yet at dinner we might as well have just tipped the refrigerator directly into their mouths. While we sometimes poke a bit of fun at how much teenagers eat, the reality is their bodies need that food to grow. Be sure you have ample food stored for your family.

Also, don’t forget that kids can be the pickiest eaters on the planet. Granted, push comes to shove, they’ll eat whatever you put in front of them if they are hungry enough. But, going through the arguments about how they liked potatoes just fine two days ago and it makes no sense that they now can’t stand them will accomplish nothing other than increasing stress in an already stressful situation. Provide variety in the foods you store and don’t overlook a bit of junk food or treats here and there.

The thing is, it makes zero sense to stock up on food that nobody in the house likes to eat, no matter how cheap it was. Stick with things the family enjoys eating and that also has a decent shelf life as well as minimal preparation needed.


Imagine being stuck at home for several weeks after a disaster hits. Faucets aren’t working, so no running water is available. Height of summer and no air conditioning due to no electricity. Each day you and your family are working hard in the garden as well as making any necessary repairs or improvements to the home itself.

You are all constantly sweaty, dirty, and disheveled.

And there’s also an infant in the family going through several diapers a day.

A stink like that will get into your very soul.

You know how you can tell a male child has truly hit puberty? The clouds of body spray that fill the entire bathroom hallway. Face it, kids can just plain stink. Plan ahead for providing a means of washing up regularly.

With the youngest children in the family, don’t overlook diapers and wipes, as well as a means to either clean or dispose of them. Even those parents who are die-hard users of cloth diapers might consider investing in a box or two of disposables. In some disasters, it will be easier to dispose of them than it will be to use possibly precious water resources to clean reusable ones.

Stock up on feminine hygiene products, even if your daughter hasn’t quite reached that stage yet. I wouldn’t say you need to do so when she’s 3, of course, but once they start encroaching on puberty, it wouldn’t hurt to have some stuff on hand, just in case.


Every parent dreads rainy summer days, waiting for the inevitable, “There’s nothing to do!” Now, imagine being cooped up for a week, two weeks, or even longer without the Internet, possibly without power at all. Invest in some cheap board games, toys, books, and other distractions and keep them boxed up until they are really needed. Do what you can to update that box from time to time to keep the contents age appropriate. The eye rolling from a fifteen-year-old being presented with Chutes and Ladders may prove to be deadly.


If you are planning for extreme long-term scenarios, don’t forget to plan for the education of your children. Invest in homeschooling texts and other resources in the basic subjects like math, science, and history. Stock up on extra notebooks, pens, pencils and other supplies during back-to-school sales. (Yes, I know many of you already homeschool your children. Obviously, this is meant for those who do not.)

Kids and the Outdoors

One of the greatest gifts you could possibly give the next generation is a love of nature and the outdoors. Sometimes it seems as though we get so busy with the hustle and bustle of our daily lives that we forget there is a big wide world out there, just waiting for us to take a walk through it.

The health benefits of spending time out there are numerous, from fresh air to exercise. Not to mention the peacefulness that can fall upon you as you sit and admire the beauty of the trees, the fields, and the critters.

Safety First

Every child old enough to operate one should have a whistle with them when they head into the wilderness. The sound of a whistle carries much further than that of a screaming voice. The whistle is the first line of defense, so to speak.

From the time they are just old enough to understand the instruction, teach your child that if they ever get lost in the woods, to stop and hug a tree. That isn’t necessarily meant literally, of course, though if that helps get the point across, go for it. The idea is to stay put as that will make it easier for searchers to find them. A moving target is infinitely more difficult to locate, especially in bad weather or at night.

As the child gets older and is able to take on more responsibility, add to the emergency gear. A flashlight is beneficial in many ways, from providing a calming illumination at night to helping searchers spot the child in the dark. A chemlight or glow stick can also serve well in this regard. While the dollar store ones are okay, Cyalume Snaplights are far brighter and last longer.

You might go so far as to look at classes held at Nature Reliance School or Campcraft Outdoors, both in Kentucky.

Let’s look at a few activities that are geared toward making sure kids are having fun outdoors. If they enjoy themselves, they are obviously more likely to come back for more, right?

Cooking Outdoors

While on a winter hike a few years back, my wife and I crested a forested hill and found a father and his two daughters sitting at the side of the trail. He had obviously been pulling one or both of them on a sled through the forest. They were taking a break and he was heating water on a small jet stove to make each of them a cup of hot chocolate. I’m fairly certain those girls will remember that little adventure for years to come, based on how excited they were at the prospect of sipping hot chocolate in the forest.

Any time you couple food with the outdoors, it is a winning combination. Even a simple backyard campfire over which you roast some hot dogs and marshmallows makes for great memories. Take it a step further and put together some hobo meals for everyone. These are simple and easy. Just aluminum foil packets filled with a hamburger patty, potatoes, and some vegetables. Seal them tightly and toss them on the hot coals to cook. If you search “aluminum foil packet cooking” online, you’ll find hundreds of variations.

Getting the kids involved with preparing food outdoors teaches them valuable cooking skills. Almost anything you cook in the kitchen can be prepared outdoors, given sufficient planning and preparation. Some favorites include pancakes, eggs, hamburgers, and, of course, s’mores.

Scavenger Hunt

Most children like to play games, so put together a scavenger hunt next time you’re going out on a hike. Make a short list of things that the child is likely to see or be able to find. Examples include:

  • Bird feather
  • Animal print or track
  • Pine cone
  • A bug (bonus points for correct identification)
  • Spider web

This not only makes the trip to the forest more fun for the child, it teaches them to be observant. This is a habit that has lifelong application.


This one requires either investing in a handheld GPS unit or, more commonly, downloading the app to your phone. Basically, the way geocaching works is someone will hide a container (the cache) somewhere outdoors and post the GPS coordinates of the location to a website. Others download those coordinates, travel to that spot, and try to find the cache. It is sort of like a combination of hide and seek and a scavenger hunt.

Inside the cache, small trinkets are usually placed. We’ve seen everything from marbles to action figures to plastic flowers. The tradition is the person who finds the cache is allowed to remove something from it, but then also has to contribute something in return.

There is also usually a sign-in log of some sort where you can enter your name and the date you found it. You can also log your find at the Geocaching website. Many people make a note as to the condition of the cache, so the person who owns it can maintain it as needed, such as replacing a wet notepad or adding another pencil. Once you have some experience with finding caches, you might consider setting up your own.

Caches come in all sorts of sizes, from pill bottle containers to small plastic totes. There are even caches that aren’t containers but rather just destinations. Keep in mind that, as a general rule, the smaller the container is, the more difficult it will be to find. When your child is just starting out with geocaching, maybe encourage them to go for the larger containers first, so they gain some confidence with their searching ability, before they start looking for the micro caches.

Geocaching not only encourages trips outdoors, but it helps you and your children learn navigation skills, increases your observation skills, and have lots of fun doing so.

Be Good Stewards

Children emulate the adults around them. If you routinely toss trash out the car window, that’s what they’ll do when they get older. Conversely, if you always bring a bag when you hit the trail and pick up trash you find so you can cart it out, they’ll learn that behavior.

Human beings, as a species, are slobs. It is rare to go for a hike and not find evidence of those who came before you. Footprints, sure, but also cigarette butts, soda and beer cans, candy wrappers, and other detritus. Take a moment and pick these things up when you see them. Mother Nature and her critter denizens will thank you for it.

One more bit of advice. Don’t overdo it. You cannot reasonably expect a young child to be ready to tackle a hike of several miles without at least some experience first. Take it slow and let them set the pace. And bring lots of snacks.

Above all, get your kids involved with prepping. Don’t make it a mystery to them. At the appropriate maturity levels, teach them skills like canning, tracking, shooting, first aid, and fire building. If you have active Scout troops in your area, they can be a great way to help your kids learn wilderness skills. Obviously, there will be some things you want to wait until your children are much older before you share with them, such as perhaps the extent of your food storage. It takes a while before young people truly appreciate the importance of keeping things low-key.

Let them help with packing their own Get Home Bags, plan and prepare meals, and build snow caves. Teach them actual skills in addition to basic sentence structure. Show them how to change the oil in the car, then have them do it next time while you supervise. Get them involved with home projects so they learn how to turn a screw and cut a board. Make them understand that the best meals don’t go from a box to the microwave. These are all real-world survival skills.