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9 Age-appropriate survival skills to learn as a family

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

Adventure with confidence

Before heading into the great unknown, make sure your little campers know how to pull their own weight with these useful outdoor and age-appropriate survival skills.

Thousands of families march into outdoor family fun every year, and the adventures almost always go off without a hitch. Sometimes, though, outdoor adventures go wrong. Here are the nine things that kids of all ages need to know, should they find themselves in a less-than-desirable outdoor adventure.

1. Read the sky: Ages 5-7

The sky can tell children what time it is, which direction they're headed and whether or not bad weather is approaching. All children need to know what the sky is trying to tell them so they can prepare accordingly.

2. Tie a secure knot: Ages 7-9

Proper knotting can help children pitch tents, build shelters and even hang clotheslines. The trick is knowing which knot to use in each circumstance and how to tie it securely. Check out Animated Knots for step-by-step instructions on knot-tying (and a guide for when to use them).

3. Climb a tree: Ages 5+

Some children are natural climbers and some are not. But all kids need to know how to climb a tree. Tree climbing can remove them from the danger of some predators, and it can also give them a bird's-eye view of their surroundings so they can find their bearings if they're lost.

4. Start a fire: Ages 3-7

Ideally, kids should know how to build a fire in both good and bad situations. Teach your child about firewood, kindling, matches and fire safety (start teaching fire safety as young as age 3, and add in instructions on building a fire as he or she grows older). It's also a great idea to teach him or her how to start a fire without a match to prepare for emergencies.

5. Cook on an open flame: Ages 9-11

Kids need to know how to cook on an open flame to boil water or safely prepare food. Once they're old enough to be responsible with it, show your child how to build flames, how to know when the fire is ready for meal prep and how to tell when food is fully cooked.

6. Dress for the weather: Ages 5-6

Exposure to the elements is a huge safety concern for camping and adventure sports. Coach your child on the importance of dressing in layers for variable weather. If the weather is hot, your children should wear light clothing with full coverage to limit exposure to the sun. If it's cold, teach your kids to wear three layers of clothing: a base piece for insulation and moisture removal, a middle piece for heavy insulation and a top piece for wind- and waterproofing.

7. Pitch a tent: Ages 6-8

Store-bought tents have variable instructions, so make sure your child is familiar with your tent's setup by requiring him or her to assist in the assembly each and every time you go camping. It's also a good idea to teach your kid how to build a hardy survival shelter should an emergency arise when a store-bought tent isn't handy.

8. Find clean water: Ages 5-9

Not only should children know how to find clean water if it's available, they should also know a) when water isn't clean and b) how to clean it. Coach your child on filtering and boiling water to ensure it's not germy before drinking. Teach younger kids to avoid questionable water and how to use a personal filtration device, and teach older kids about the boiling technique.

9. Stay in place: Ages 3+

If a child is lost in the woods, he or she needs to ignore the survival instinct that says "go and find help!" It's really important for lost kiddos to stay in place so that adults can find them in a logical location. Otherwise, they may just wander deeper into the woods and further from help.

In all likelihood, your child won't need to use these survival skills without your help, but a little bit of knowledge can go a long way toward putting everyone's mind at ease.

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