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Skills Over Things – Top Things to Learn and Teach Your Kids


Having written about survivalist and prepper topics for the past few years, I’m often asked about the best backpack, the best EDC knife, or the best pressure canner. That makes sense. People are trying to stock up and be prepared. And yet, I can’t help feeling that some people are missing the forest for the trees. Gear is just a bunch of tools that need to serve a specific purpose. Without learning, training, and practicing different techniques, the tools are going to be useless. So with that in mind, I started compiling a list of the most important skills everyone should learn. This isn’t about just surviving when the SHTF – this is about every day skills that you can and should use to be prepared for anything that life might throw at you.

I’ll also mention one other important element – learning and practicing and mastering skills is actually fun and motivating. Teaching your kids skills that can help them with physical development, that can increase their sense of confidence, and that can help them learn problem-solving takes that enjoyment and satisfaction to a new level. This isn’t about scaring anyone, it’s about enjoying your time together. 

I’ve broken my list down by categories and will look to explore these further as the year progresses.

Top Skills You Should Learn and Teach Your Kids

Water and Food

  • How to make jam
  • Canning and food storage
  • Pickling
  • Foraging for mushrooms
  • Make bread, tortillas, pita bread, empanadas
  • Make a fishing net
  • Collect and purify water

Energy and Home

Garden and Farm

  • Grow an herb garden
  • Grow a vegetable garden
  • How to compost
  • Raise chickens
  • Raise goats

Transportation and Communication

  • Use a CB and ham radio
  • Maintain your car (think oil change, change a tire, fix a headlight, etc.)
  • Use a winch
  • Get your car out of mud
  • How to use a compass and map


  • First aid and CPR
  • Make your own first aid kit
  • Identifying medicinal herbs
  • Make your own toothpaste

To be honest, I didn’t make this list up…I consulted a few of my long-time readers and had then just aggregated their lists. A few had very specific skills, such as “learn how to field dress a deer,” which is probably a good idea, and appropriate for some readers, but not applicable to the many non-hunters. Or “learn how to make kombucha,” which seems pretty niche. A few people also mentioned self-defense, including martial arts, firearms training, and even knife-fighting, but these are for such extreme situations that I decided to leave them for another list. 

Kids Want to Learn

Kids want to spend time with you and they want to learn new things. Remember when your dad taught you how to change a tire, then had you practice in the cold? There’s a feeling of satisfaction that comes with the knowledge that you can take care of yourself in stressful situations. There’s a feeling of confidence that comes from mastering a skill. And there’s a feeling of joy when you get to experience those things with your community, whether it’s a parent, teacher, friend, or mentor. 

So get your kids out for a night of camping. Bring some potatoes and onions and tin foil. And have them set up their own tent and sleeping bag, have them cook pasta on the fire and make dinner for you, show them how to split a log with an axe (it’s hard!), and teach them how to play blackjack or gin rummy.