To be clear, when I say very young children I’m thinking about children that are toddlers are younger, let’s say three years of age or less. I should also state that my children are getting older (almost 8 and 11 now… and going on 15 and 18 in attitude) and so I haven’t really had to consider these particular problems in quite a while. That said, I bring it up here because obviously some of you DO have very young children that you need to prepare for and because we recently began watching our nearly two-year-old nephew a few days of the week.
He’s at that age where he’s far more dangerous to himself than anything is to him. He can barely walk across the room–in reality he runs everywhere–without tripping, he’s still in diapers, and knows what he wants but can’t always express it and, more importantly, throws a fit when he doesn’t get what he wants. Other than that he’s a real joy.
Here’s four problems that are specific to very young children:
Things That Go In (aka., Food)
All growing children seem to need more food than you think whereas my kids can eat more than I thought possible. 😉 Babies, in particular, must have milk since they can’t eat solids yet. Fortunately, the best source of sustenance for babies is breastmilk, but even this “food” isn’t free. The mother must consume more food than normal in order to create and maintain a milk supply; you know, she’s still eating for two. With this in mind, you should plan to be able to feed a nursing mother more food than you might otherwise allot for an adult female.
That said, there are some instances where breastfeeding either isn’t possible or feasible in which case formula is the only viable answer. If formula is your answer then, like any other food source, be sure you have plenty on hand at all times. The good news is that babies don’t stay babies forever and, therefore, you won’t need to stock years upon years of formula. You CAN calculate it out to something like a year’s worth of milk on average.
As children begin to grow their diets certainly change, often to mushy foods. In this case you can stock something like Gerber baby foods as a supplemental option but you can also make most foods consumable by small mouths with few teeth with a little effort. For example, instead of attempting to feed a toddler with few teeth an apple slice you can, instead, puree it. Of course, learning to eat and chew foods we eat as older children and adults is a part of the process so it’s not like you’ll want to go overboard with pureeing or mashing up everything you eat. Use some common sense here. Once they start getting several teeth then children should definitely be eating what you would eat, how you eat it.
Things That Come Out (aka., Diapers)
Without a doubt, children learn to potty train at different ages, sometimes as much as a year or more! This could be a big, big deal in any long-term situation. Think about how many diapers get used up in a year? Several hundred if not thousands for sure. While you could choose to stockpile enough diapers to see you through–being sure to adjust diapers sizes as the child grows–you would need to dedicate the better part of a room to storing enough diapers to sustain a typical baby through their toddler years. And what do you do if you have more than one in diapers? Guess it’s time to move to a larger house. 😉
Another option would be to use cloth diapers. We did this for both of your children and while it worked, to be honest, if it were up to me to clean and launder the diapers my kids would have wound up in disposable disaper very quickly. And, if you’re not washing them every other day or so then the smell can be quite “powerful” if you will. Beyond that, we are talking about human urine and feces so the diapers would need to be cleaned very well, probably boiled in an off-grid situation, so you’re going to be in for some work just keeping your children in diapers.
Of course, there are some more drastic options. For example, it’s customary for some African societies to simply carry their children around completely naked and let them “do their business” wherever they are. I would imagine the mothers get very attuned to whether their child needs to go potty or not real fast. To me that’s not an option. Another idea is to attempt to potty train a toddler on your own terms rather than to let them do so on their own. My wife actually read a book titled something like “Potty Training in a Day” which is an older book that worked very well. She can’t remember the exact title and we can’t the find book as we probably gave it away. Regardless, potty training in a day won’t work on an 11-month old but it could work on any toddler that’s beginning to have some control over their bladder and bowels. It’s worth researching not only for a SHTF scenario but for normal life too.
Things That Make Noise (aka., Toys and Children Themselves)
This problem is actually a much bigger concern than most of us realize. You see, one of the tenets of preparedness is OPSEC and a major part of that is minimizing noise. I for one have never met a toddler (or baby) that isn’t capable to making a ton of noise at the most inopportune of times. In fact, nearly every toy children have are created to make noise–this must be a punishment to parents–and even if they’re aren’t designed to make noise the children will figure out how to do so, even if it means banging the toy relentlessly against the floor. Granted, children don’t NEED toys and they certainly do not need toys that make noise either but I’m willing to be that if you have young children then most of those toys make a lot of noise. Perhaps you should purposely consider toys that can be quiet. Can anybody say stuffed animal?
Beyond toys, very young children themselves are walking noisemakers. They often yell, talk loudly for no apparent reason, cry incessantly, and just don’t know how to be quite when you most want them to. Older children, such as my boys, can be told to and expected to be quite. They’re plenty old enough to understand what it means and what is expected of them. You children, on the other hand, often cannot be reasoned with. I’m sure I could tell my nephew (who is barely two) that he simply MUST be quite but he doesn’t understand, doesn’t care what I want, and will simply make noise if he feels the need, especially if he’s upset.
Now, how much of problem can you see this being if you REALLY had a good reason to have everyone be quiet? Perhaps you hear a strange noise outside the house (e.g., people snooping around) and the last thing you want is to make noise and indicate that there are people inside. You could reason with older children but younger children probably won’t listen. Sure, you could “force” them to be quiet by purposely covering their mouths but they wouldn’t understand that either, will likely fight it, and who’s to say you could effectively keep the child quiet enough even “forcing” them to be quiet?
Perhaps another option is to purposely train them to be quiet. Maybe take a few minutes out of each day and have “quiet time” so they understand what it’s like to be quiet. I don’t know… never tried that one.
Things They Can’t Do
There are, no doubt, many things very young children can’t do. For example, they can’t walk very far at all, let alone be able to trek the wilderness on a bug out. So, you’re probably going to have to carry them. In this case, it might be wise to have a baby carrier or sling for babies. We had a baby carrier that was barely used a handful of times at best but the sling, on the other hand, was used extensively.
Well, I’m sure you know the rest. They’re unable to do darn near anything useful to a survival situation, including setting up shelter, foraging for food, purifying water, cooking meals, mending clothes, performing first aid, or even pulling guard duty. And, yes, I am being silly here. The point is that they’re the most “dependent” of dependents you have in your family. They will need a lot from you!
What can you think of? What did I miss?