The outdoors is a truly wonderful and freeing space, that can connect families, and put you back in touch with your wild side. Children relish the outdoors and skip through fields, chase each other by rivers and climb any rock face available. But it can also be a scary space, especially if adults and children are unequipped with knowledge or facilities.
Would your child know what to do if they suddenly found themselves in the middle of nowhere, having wandered too far or in a slightly different direction? At what age would you start teaching them skills for survival? I know it may seem like an extreme question, but children can all too often surprise us with how quick they can be at disappearing.
Thankfully, we have not been through a situation ourselves where the children have got themselves into trouble, but they did wander off without us the other week and they scared themselves into thinking they had lost us. So, we had a conversation about what to do if they did get lost.
The Kids Guide To Getting Lost Outdoors.
The main thing we tell our children, is to stand still. If they start walking around, we can miss each other in passing and the situation will only worsen.
Shout. Shout as loud as they can for us, by our first names if they can remember to do so. As long as they are standing still and shouting, we can follow their voices, as well as other passers by who may want to help. Calling us by our real names will help drown out other children who may be calling for their parents.
Pack a Backpack
Have an emergency pack on them. Recently, it has come to my attention, that if any of the children were to wander off, they could be in real trouble. Especially if we are in our normal environment across moors or large open spaces. The weather can change pretty quickly, from one extreme to another.
So, now I make sure that they have a mini first aid kit each, a foil blanket, an emergency contact card, water and snacks.
At the harrowing thought that we could not locate them, they can sustain themselves while the search party commences.
As I delve deeper into thinking about these situations, I realise that there are a handful of apps that can be useful in these situations. Most children are handy with technology from a pretty young age nowadays, so can be taught how to use the apps in an emergency.
Our eldest son has his own mobile phone, so I have downloaded OS Locate. As soon as the screen opens, the grid reference of their location is right there. All they have to do is read out the numbers on the screen. This is better, in my opinion, if the children aren’t brilliant with reading. This app can also take them to OS maps and if they are handy with a bit of map reading, they may be able to source some shelter if needed.
Some other useful bits you may want to think about are;
- A whistle (some first aid kits come with these, but you may want different ones for the kids). They can use these instead of shouting, if they prefer.
- An ID bracelet. Pop your contact details inside and the kids can wear them on their wrist. If they get lost, somebody can get in touch straight away. I like these from Little Trekkers.
- Most coats now come with reflectors on, but in case yours doesn’t, you can get reflective laces. I like these as they’re pretty nondescript for older kids, but a safety feature too. You can get these from Blacks online.
- Glow Sticks are easy to use, most kids can open and crack them, and they will last for a few hours. They are also light and will sit in a bag for months, without having to worry about batteries or going out of date.
Talk and Teach
Don’t be afraid to have these conversations with your children. Teach them basic map reading skills. You can find some great resources online, such as the GetOutside Hub, from Ordnance survey. There are some brilliant guides for children such as Map Zone.
When you are out walking, make a note of talking about your surroundings, where you are and what notable structures you pass. This may help if a child wanders off, they can recognise where they are and maybe retrace their steps.
Teach them basic first aid, they’re never too young. Teach them to administer it to themselves and how to deal with their emotions in an emergency.
If they have access to phones, allow the children to phone emergency services if needed. Pop a list of numbers in their backpack for mountain rescue, emergency family members and of course, your phone numbers.
So, those are my top tips for getting lost outdoors. I pray it NEVER happens, to anybody. But, if it does, hopefully we will all be prepared for the situation and can handle it as best as we can. Children and adults alike.
I am always welcome to suggestions, if you have anything extra to add.
Let me know in the comments, or on Facebook or Instagram. Thank you for reading!
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