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EDC for Kids: Here’s What They Should Be Wearing

If you are a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, chances are you are concerned about the safety of the children in your life. As children get older, they spend less time with a trusted adult and more time at school or with their friends than when they were little. You just cannot possibly be with them all the time. So, how do you make sure that the kids in your life can get through those emergencies that life may throw at them when you’re not around?

One of the best ways to keep your child safe is to teach them early on about the importance of everyday carry (EDC) and to give them the opportunity to experience the confidence of knowing they can handle life’s little emergencies. By teaching your child from a young age to rely on themselves and their EDC items, you are preparing them to act based on instinct feven when you aren’t around. Instead of sitting and waiting for help to arrive, your child will be more likely to respond quickly and in a SHTF situation, a quick response could be the difference between life and death.

So, you know you want your child to have an EDC kit, but they can’t possibly carry everything you do. So how do you decide what items belong in an EDC for kids? The first thing to do is to evaluate your child based on their age and other factors such as:

  • Developmental level
  • Maturity
  • Previous Experience
  • Amount of Time Spent Away from Home or Parents

Infants (newborn to 18 months)

Infants should be under the direct supervision and care of an adult 24/7. Depending on their age, you could give them toys that resemble EDC items, like a key chain rattle, but I can’t think of anything functional that would be safe for an infant. Any EDC item you give them should be infant safe and will really be more just to get them used to the concept, not for actual EDC use.

Toddlers (18 months-3 years)

If you have a toddler and you want to get them in the habit of having an EDC, you can start them off with just a few things. Toddlers love to mimic adults, so if they see you putting on your EDC before you leave the house every morning, it’s a great opportunity to instill a habit that could save their life.

Give your toddler a few safe items to carry such as a small bandana or perhaps the Opalray Clip-On Hands-Free Flashlight. Small batteries can do serious damage to a child if swallowed so make 100% certain your toddler cannot swallow the flashlight or the batteries.

Again, in this age range the idea is not for them to keep themselves safe with their EDC, that’s your job as the adult, but begin to get them in the habit of carrying certain items daily. You can emphasize the importance of certain clothing items which keep them warm such as socks, shoes, jacket, hat, gloves, etc. You can talk to them about the items you carry every day such as your keys, purse, etc. You can let them get used to carrying “play” items such as a phone and keys. This age is a good time to teach them simple safety rules and habits that will serve them as they grow older.

Simple safety rules such as “only go outside with an adult” or “look for cars before crossing the street (while holding an adult’s hand of course) can be ingrained with your guidance. You can also begin to teach them the importance of organizing and having a place for everything and how to be observant of their surroundings.

Point out when things are out of place in their room or when you notice a change in the weather for example. Saying something as simple as “are there any toys in your room that need put away?” can help them notice things that not where they should be. Or pointing out a loose step or mentioning that “it’s getting colder, we need to get our jackets” can help kids learn to be alert and take steps to prevent illness or injury.

PreSchool Age (3-5 years)

At this age, kids are naturally curious about their environment. They are watching everything you and others around them are doing. Kids learn to function in our world by watching others, especially parents. Your preschool child can learn a lot about EDC just by watching and mimicking you.

Teach them about the importance of carrying certain items by talking to them or explaining every time you have occasion to use one of your EDC items. When your child witnesses you using your EDC items regularly to open packages, cut snagged shoelaces from a bicycle chain, or to find lost items in the dark, etc. they will naturally want to mimic that.

Preschool age kids should still be under direct adult supervision most of the time. They love to have things in their pockets or a little purse they carry with them. Their EDC can consist of things that they can use to explore their world and be comfortable as well as a few things they can use to care for minor scrapes and scratches. The following are some good items to consider for preschoolers:

  • plastic magnifying glass
  • a keyring or lanyard with a whistle on it
  • a bandana
  • a plastic compass
  • flashlight or Kids Headlamp (make sure batteries are inaccessible)
  • paracord bracelet
  • ziplock bag of trail mix or granola
  • Band-Aids
  • Wallet or change purse with a dollar and maybe quarters (if mature enough not to swallow change)
  • Theo Klein Toy Swiss Army Knife
  • Comb or brush
  • Chapstick
  • Hat, mittens, and scarf in cold weather

Elementary School Age (6-8 years)

These are the kids who may be away from parents for several hours during the day. They may ride a bus to school every day, or they may be playing outside without direct supervision if they check-in often. Kids this age can handle a little more responsibility and can have incidents where they get into a jam when parents aren’t right there to solve the problem.

Middle School Age (10-14 yrs. old)

Kids at this age are spending more time away from home and without the direct supervision of an adult. They are often with friends or out in the neighborhood or even the woods rather than just in the backyard. This is about the time that most kids begin to experiment with building or making things on their own or with friends.

High School Age (15-18 years)

Kids at this age will often push the boundaries of their new-found independence. They spend a good deal of time away from home at school or work. They also spend increasing amounts of time away from parents, either home alone or in the company of their peers. Whether we as parents like it or not, kids at this age are learning how to be an adult.

This means they may sometimes be faced with adult dangers when parents are not around to protect them. It’s a crucial time for kids to be prepared to protect themselves, not just from minor scrapes and bruises but real dangers like assault, rape, car accidents, and accidental trauma. Every child from a young age should be taught the basics of personal safety around things such as water, power lines, guns, drugs and alcohol, strangers, and traffic.

  • Wallet or purse with identification, emergency cash, and some change
  • Whistle
  • Flashlight
  • Spacepen or Tactical Pen
  • Paracord bracelet
  • Wrist or pocket watch
  • Cell phone with Otterbox
  • Compass
  • CPR Mask and latex gloves (if CPR Trained)
  • Keyring or Carabiner with Keys
  • Flashdrive
  • Multi-tool
  • Chapstick
  • Paperclip wrapped in scotch tape or electrical tape
  • Tissues
  • Individual First Aid Kit
  • Bobby Pins or hair tie
  • Inhaler if applicable
  • Feminine Hygiene items if applicable
  • Sharpie marker
  • Leatherman Freestyle Multi-Tool
  • Portable charger/power bank
  • Pocketknife
  • Pepper spray or mace (legally allowed in 33 states w/o restrictions but check your state laws carefully)

The Maxpedition Micro Pocket Organizer is a great place to store those items that kids want to carry but can’t take to school. They can keep everything together until after school and weekends when they can carry it in their pockets. For toddlers and preschool age kids, look at something like Mini Backpack for those times when they don’t have pockets. Older tweens and high school kids may prefer to carry EDC items in a wallet, purse or even a small messenger bag.

For kids of all ages, you need to make sure their extremities are well-protected. Kids ten and older may resist wearing sturdy shoes or warm boots to school if they aren’t “stylish.” I’ve gotten around this by having a rule that they must take the sturdy shoes, warm jacket, hat, gloves, etc. in their backpack just in case they need them. However it works in your house, your child should be wearing or have immediate access to a good sturdy foot protection. Consider high-quality hiking boots, shoes, or hiking sandals from Vasque or  Keen depending on the climate and season.

Merino wool socks are a great way to keep feet warm and dry during wet or cold weather. Wool holds its insulative properties when wet and dries quickly. Thinsulate brand mittens or gloves are best for keeping kids hands warm and dry in cold weather and in extreme temperatures you can add Hothands hand warmers to the EDC list for older children so they can use them as needed for extra warmth.

The last thing for any child’s EDC kit which applies in my opinion for all school age children who regularly carry a backpack to/from school is a bulletproof insert in their backpack or messenger bag. It’s sad that now this is something that even must be considered but from a safety standpoint, I would be remiss not to mention it. As a parent, you can determine at what age you explain that the insert is there and train them to turn their back or how to position their messenger bag for best protection in the event of a school shooting.

It’s best if you can include your child in the process of creating their EDC kit. Get their input and feedback on what items they feel might be needed. Use your judgment about what to insist they carry and what they can choose to carry. Take advantage of the time you spend with them to explain why you feel specific items are mandatory.

Most importantly, make sure you take the time to not only explain the importance of EDC to personal safety and provide plenty of opportunities for them to practice using each item enough to feel comfortable using it in a crisis. Response time is critical to survival in an emergency. The more instinctively your child responds, the better their chances of survival.

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