When I began my preparedness Journey (and my family’s whether they wanted to or not) I started looking for fun ways to practice practical preparedness skills in our everyday lives. As I’ve mentioned before, I was a Cub Scout for less than a year, I don’t have military training, I never went camping growing up…I basically was starting from zero. With 2 young kids and a full time job, there is very little free time that our family can dedicate to another activity. With this in mind I’ve had to get creative in what skills to practice, when we practice them, and how to practice them.
My solution is to try to mix the practice with something that will excite the kids. Practice can be “a science experiment”, “a game”, “an adventure”, or new “big kid responsibilities”. Sometimes it can be challenging to come up with a fun idea, but I have to remember that kids are usually excited to spend time with Mom and Dad, and having a fun activity is a bonus. Since this seems to be a sentiment shared by other parents I’ve spoken too, I’m going to start posting some of the activities that we do, and hopefully our community will find them beneficial.
With Halloween upon us we made our annual family trek to the local pumpkin patch last weekend. As with most pumpkin patch trips the goal is to secure the perfect pumpkins (or the most perfect pumpkin that you can actually carry to your car without having to practice some type of first aid). Our pumpkin patch has lots of activities that the kids enjoy outside of the pumpkin patch itself. They love the farm animals, the train, the boat ride (yes, our pumpkin patch has (boat and a train), and the hay bale slide.
Comms Training in a Corn Maze
Of all of the activities, the one they look forward to the most is the corn maze. The last 2 years we’ve gone, I’ve used this opportunity to do a little Family Preparedness Training. Now there are lots of skills that you could train in a corn maze, but I took the opportunity to let our kids get familiar with real handheld radios or walkie-talkies. Like most kids, they have toy walkie-talkies, and they have played with them in house and in the yard, but the corn maze blocks the sound of voices pretty well. So once they are a few feet away, they can’t hear our voices and we can’t hear them.
The corn maze provides some additional elements that will be helpful in an emergency.
Using Real Walkie-Talkies
In an emergency, we won’t be using toys, and this gives the kids the opportunity to use the real equipment that we’ll be relying on in a disaster. They learn how to turn them on and off, change channels and volume, and most importantly how to push the button, talk, and release the button to listen.
Being Descriptive – Having Situational Awareness
During this activity, we let our kids and their group of friends go ahead of the parents in the maze (with clear parameters…don’t leave the maze, be respectful of other people in the maze, etc.). We check in with them every few minutes and ask them questions that require them to describe their surroundings to us. Who are they with? Where are they now? Have they made it to a new objective (there are 5 stamps hidden through out our maze, so we ask if they’ve found any new stamps or circled back to one that they already have)?
The kids take turns running the radio, which gives them the opportunity to work as a team:
- Everyone else needs to be quiet when the operator is talking and listening.
- They may need to help decipher what they heard depending on how clear the connection is.
- They have to rely on each other to pool information when they communicate back to the parents.
If you don’t have a corn maze nearby, or you want to do this out of Halloween season, you can try to find another location that provides similar opportunities and circumstances, just make sure you and your kids feel safe being “on their own” wherever you pick. when you’re done, make sure that everyone involved (kids and adults) knows how to use the walkie-talkies and answer any questions that arise during the activity. Most importantly, have fun…you’re running through a corn maze with your kids and walkie-talkies afterall!