5 Easy and Fun, but Forgotten Boy Scout Games that Teach Kids Survival Skills
by Brandon Hunt
Bushcraft skills. Once they were the cool thing. Once they were essential. Once they were taught in boy scouts.
And bushcraft skills could be necessary once again.
If you do any sort of emergency preparation, then you probably understand how skills, such as silently stalking and tracking, could be beneficial to you and to your kids.
And You don’t have to be a mountain man or pioneer to teach your kids bushcraft skills. You can actually begin teaching such skills through games kids will love. Any time you're outdoors camping, hiking, or just out to enjoy nature, use your surroundings to teach campcraft skills.
With a little imagination bushcraft skills can be adapted and applied to urban environments.
The games I list in this post are taken from the Boy Scouts Handbook: The First Edition, 1911. This book is packed full of the good old stuff, the kind of knowledge I wish had been taught when I was in the boy scouts.
Whenever I look through my copy, I realize all of the practical skills I missed out on. Though I may have missed out during my youth, I plan on utilizing the 1911 handbook to teach my own kids skills that are mostly overlooked nowadays.
There’s a lot of great stuff in the handbook. It covers the basics of scouting and goes through woodcraft, campcraft, identifying tracks, first aid, and so much more.
I’ll say it again: if you deem emergency preparation at all, then acquiring any skills to increase your chances of survival are necessary. Such skills are often found in the remnants of the past.
Preparing for disasters is more than just having enough supplies. You have to obtain the skills to survive, and you have to teach the younger ones the same skills.
I can’t help but think that boys were more resilient and competent in the early 1900s — more so than they are now. When you read through the first edition of the boy scout handbook, you’ll be struck by the differences in scouting between now and then.
I recommend adding the 1911 Boy Scout Handbook to your library. The knowledge it contains is applicable to any one, no matter the age.
The instructions for the games are quoted directly from the handbook. So, the language and style of writing is a bit different than it is today.
Stalking and Reporting
The umpire places himself out in the open and sends each scout or pair of scouts away in different directions about a half a mile off.
When he waves a flag, which is the signal to begin, they all hide, and then proceed to stalk him, creeping up and watching all he does.
When he waves the flag again, they rise, and come in, and report each in turn all that he did, either by handing in a written report or verbally, as may be ordered.
The umpire meantime has kept a lookout in each direction, and, every time he sees a scout he takes two points off that scout’s score. He, on his part, performs small actions, such as sitting down, kneeling, looking through glasses, using a handkerchief, taking hat off for a bit, walking round in a circle a few times, to give the scouts something to note and report about him.
Scouts are given three points for each act reported correctly. It saves time if the umpire makes out a scoring card beforehand, giving the name of each scout, and a number of columns showing each act of his, and what mark that scout wins, also a column of deducted marks for exposing themselves.
Instructor acts as a deer — not hiding, but standing, moving a little now and then if he likes.
Scouts go out to find, and each in his own way tries to get up to him unseen.
Directly the instructor sees a scout, he directs him to stand up as having failed. After a certain time the instructor calls “time,” all stand up at the spot which they have reached, and the nearest wins.
Demonstrate the value of adapting color of clothes to background by sending out one boy about five hundred yards to stand against different backgrounds in turn, till he gets one similar in color to his own clothes.
The rest of the patrol to [is] to watch and notice how invisible he becomes when he gets a suitable background. E.g., a boy in a gray suit standing in front of dark bushes, etc., is quite visible but becomes less so if he stands in front of a gray rock or house.
Make a patrol sit with their feet up, so that other scouts can study them. Give the scouts, say, three minutes to study the boots. Then leaving the scouts in a room or out of sight, let one of the patrol make some foot-marks in a good bit of ground. Call up the scouts one by one and let them see the track and say who made it.
Hare and Hounds
Two or more persons representing the hares, and provided with a large quantity of corn, are given a start of several minutes and run a certain length of time, then return by another route to the starting point, all the time scattering corn in their path.
After the lapse of the number of minutes handicap given to the hares, those representing the hounds start in pursuit, following the corn and trying to catch the hares before they reach the starting-point in returning.
The handicap given the hares should be small, depending on the running abilities of the hares and hounds. The fastest runners are usually picked for the hounds.
Siberian Man Hunt
One scout as a fugitive runs away across the snow in any directions he may please until he finds a good hiding place, and there conceals himself. The remainder, after giving him twenty minutes head start or more, proceed to follow him by his tracks. As they approach his hiding place, he shoots at them with snowballs, and everyone that is struck must fall out dead. The fugitive must be struck three times before he is counted dead.
Those are just a few games that emphasize stalking and tracking skills. The 1911 handbook contains many more games that impart similar bushcraft skills.
The first edition handbook is well worth it. The knowledge contained within it is applicable to anyone interested in bushcraft or survival skills. If you have the chance to get a copy, do so, you won’t regret it.
As we approach spring and summer, and you make plans to get outside more, consider using games and activities to teach essential skills to your kids. Knowing how to stalk and track could serve them well in many ways.
Add these skill building games to your next campout this summer.
Let us know what you think about the above games.
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Until next time.