Essential “dangerous” skills for boys and girls? Talk amongst yourselves.

Silly me! I've got a perfectly lovely copy of The Dangerous Book For Boys sitting here waiting to fly into the hands of one lucky Parenthacker! My intention was to give it away in conjunction with my interview with author Conn Iggulden, but I, um, forgot, so…

Better late than never!

Let's start brainstorming some summer fun: I'd like to hear which skills and knowledge YOU'D put into your own "Dangerous" book for boys or girls. Should every kid know how to climb a tree? Tie a half-hitch? Recite the state capitols? (Moxie started this conversation with growing lists for boys and girls– let's continue it here!) Share your essentials in the comments — I'll choose a random winner on Wednesday morning. Good luck!


  1. Jim says

    1. How to catch all manner of reptiles and amphibians including frogs, lizards, snakes and turtles. Also how to identify poisonous and non-poisonous snakes and reptiles.

    2. How to start and safely maintain and put out a camp fire using various methods.

    3. How to responsibly own and maintain a pocket knife (I got my first pocket knife in 3rd grade).

    4. Related to (3), how to whittle and carve safely.

    5. How to use various tools: hammer nails, use screw drivers and power drills/drivers, cut wood with a hand saw, use a chisel, sand a board, use a ratchet set, use a level… etc.

    6. Basic orienteering with and without a compass. Learn how to identify the North star.

    7. Various methods of fishing including with home-made cane/stick poles, fly fishing, lure fishing, bait fishing, and noodling (catching fish with your hands).

    8. Changing a tire, checking, filling and changing the oil (and other fluids), and replacing a tail light in a car (all while stressing the use and location of the car’s manual).

    9. How to cook on a campfire.

    10. Kayaking and canoeing.

  2. kirsten says

    wow, jim!
    make a fort (outside + inside with blankets, etc.)
    how to start a fire + fire safety
    how to swim
    how to use a compass

  3. amy says

    I can’t wait to read this book! So many great ideas…I think every child should know how to work. A good work ethic is priceless. Parents can start with simple chores around the house. If their first exposure to work is outside the home in high school or college, it is going to be quite a shock.

  4. Hilary says

    1. How to skip a stone
    2. How to identify edible plants, berries, mushrooms
    3. How to make & fly a kite
    4. How to sew
    5. How to ride a horse

  5. Sherry says

    1) How to sort laundry so not all of your clothes wind up gray.

    2) How to rinse dishes so food doesn’t permanently harden on them.

    3) How to replace an empty roll of toilet paper.

    4) How to pick wet towels up off the floor.

    5) How to put the lid back on the toothpaste.

    6) How to not leave an empty milk carton in the fridge.

    Wait, that’s just the Mom in me talking…

    1. How to jump start a car.

    2. How to catch a penny off of your elbow.

    3. How to crack an egg with one hand.

    4. How to be a good loser.

    5. How to be a good winner.

  6. Penny says

    1) How to cook a basic meal – essential for girls and boys!

    2) How to mend a tear & sew on a button

    3) How to safely start and extinguish a campfire

    4) How to catch a bug, firefly, cricket, garter snake

    5) How to swim

    6) How to use a compass

    7) How to fish

  7. Lou says

    - How to talk to adults – respectfully, but unafraid. Children shouldn’t see themselves as automatic subordinates of anyone taller than them, but should know how to converse freely on a one to one basis.

    – How to catch, clean, and cook fish.

    – How to use the telephone

    – First aid for their own injuries (cuts, scrapes, bruises, even broken bones) without panicking.

    – The proper way to treat those of the opposite gender.

    – How to climb a tree (most of my summers between ages 6 and 14 were spent in trees)

    – How to land when falling out of trees

    – How to use a pocket knife safely

    – How to sharpen a pocket knife

    – Learn to identify 20 species of bird in their area – and their calls (pigeons don’t count).

    – learn to identify poison ivy, oak, sumac, etc.

    – learn the names of at least 20 other plants in nearby forests – try to learn as many edible plants as possible.

    – How to swim

    – Canoing/kayaking

    – How to read(!!!)

  8. Candace Prosser says

    1)How to process game, clean and tan ones own leather, and make ones own moccasins.

    Wow, I know the above one is gioing to get some, “why on earth” questions, but my grandfather taught me these things before I was twleve and I am glad to know them.

    Some of the following are already listed, but I do wish to reaffirm their importance.

    2) handi crafts- how to read a pattern, sewing a button, knitting, crocheting, embroidery, and how to use a sewing machine
    3) How to identifty edible flora
    4) How to gather and concot basic natural remedies
    5) How to make a jacobs ladder
    6) how to can fruits and vegatables
    7) how to make jerky
    8) how to make homemade creamsoda, rootbeer, and sasparilla
    9) How to make homemade soap

    Wow, there are so many more, but I don’t want to hog comment space.

    9) Most importantly how to start a relationship with an elder how lived generations ahead of you so that you may gain wisdom from their stories.

  9. Nessa says

    1. How to identify the different plants in your area
    2. How to transplant a plant from a pot to a garden
    3. How to turn a open field into the wild prarie, a christmas tree farm into your own special jungle, and how to survive as “lost kids” with just your cousins and imagination.

  10. Shelly says

    -Make a boat.
    -Take care of plants
    -fly a kite
    -build a fort
    -use a compass
    -identify leaves, small animals

  11. nonlineargirl says

    Two things for every girl and boy:

    Throw a ball. (This one bedeviled me until I figured it out in jr. high.)

    Sew on a machine. (My mom didn’t teach me because she thought it would mean I would be expected to sew. I learned as an adult and it makes me feel so self-reliant.)

  12. Jill in Atlanta says

    Here’s my list of what I think Everyone should know (male or female):
    1. how to clean a bathroom
    2. how to use basic tools
    3. how to cook one impressive meal
    4. how to treat minor injuries
    5. how to do laundry
    6. how to talk to little children and elderly people
    7. how to balance a budget
    8. how to read music
    9. how to maintain a car
    10. how to fight fairly and how to avoid fights

  13. Becky says

    We spent a lot of time on our bikes in the summer, so…

    – how to ride a bike
    – how to wear a bike helmet correctly (didn’t wear one as a kid, but it’s an essential now)
    – minor bike maintenance and repair (pumping up tires, putting chains back on, etc.)
    – basic rules of the road/bike path/sidewalk
    – navigation skills, so you can get where you want to go and find your way back home
    – telling time, so you can stay out of trouble by making it home in time for dinner!

  14. Amanda says

    I’ve really enjoyed reading through this list of comments, but I would say that (as the mother of still-little-ones) anything that falls into the category of ‘how to entertain yourself’ is on my list.
    -how to make kites
    -how to find good deals at the thrift store (on hot days)

  15. Uly says

    How to identify a number of common, edible plants – I had one kid once try to tell me mulberries were poison! I ask you!

    How to use natural dyes on fabric. That’s just fun :)

    How to make a solar oven. That’s both fun and useful. Bonus points if it includes a recipe that can be cooked with said solar oven. Double bonus points if this solar oven can be made with junk found around in the event of a natural disaster.

  16. MamaChristy says

    The most important thing that I’m trying to teach my son that will help him get along in the world is good manners. Saying please and thank you, opening doors for others – and then letting someone else go ahead when you want to rush through yourself – and sharing nicely are some of the most important and useful skills one can have. No matter what it is you want or need to know how to do, someone else knows how to do it. Most people are will to teach you if only you know how to ask and express your gratitude for their time and knowledge.

  17. Kristi says

    How to treat a snake bite.
    How to change a tire.
    How to sew on a button and mend a seam.
    How to grow tomatoes.

    And, of course, I’m loving the above suggestions, too!

    I’m really looking forward to reading this book, whether I win a copy or buy one. :)

  18. Karen says

    This is not necessarily “dangerous” but I do believe it is essential for boys:

    Making loud farting noise using your hand in your armpit.

    My 7-yr-old son joined the soccer team this year and many a practice ended in an armpit-fart session. I was sorry to discover that my son needed remediation in this area. We shoulda started younger.

  19. robyn says

    Along with “How to use a compass” I’d add “How to read a map” and then “How to draw your own map”

  20. Leslie says

    1a. How to handle bullies. ( that skill will be useful your whole life)
    1b. How to defend yourself and others in the face of adversity.

    2. How to spend your money wisely. The art of delayed gratification.

    3. Music, art, and literature appreciation.

  21. Tina says

    We live in “the country”, so I’d like my boys to know what to do if they’re lost in the woods (make shelter, find water/food, start a fire), and what to do if they come across a bear.

  22. Steve says

    Looks like a bunch of great suggestions but I don’t see much dangerous stuff other than pocket knife skills.
    What about the real dangerous stuff kids want to learn? Like:
    How to burn a match all the way without burning your finger.
    How to put a candle out with your fingers.
    Lighter fluid cannons made out of tennis ball cans.
    Play swords made out of scrap wood.
    Rubber band guns.
    How to throw a tack so it sticks in the wall.

    I can think of a lot of activities that I could have used some guidance in when I was a wee lad.

  23. adrienne says

    1. Finding the courage to speak for what is right and defend others, even when it opposes popular opinion.

    2. Believing in yourself, your ideas, and your abilities even when it opposes popular opinion (junior high jumps readily to mind).

    3. Learning how to introduce yourself to strangers and make friends in unfamiliar circumstances.

    4. Caring for others even when it means you might get hurt in the process. (I don’t mean this in a dysfunctional, codependent way. I’m thinking of friends, “Foster Parents of the Year,” who care deeply for the many children they welcome to their home and family- knowing all the time that these children will most likely leave and return to lesser/horrible circumstances. That’s real courage, real love, and real pain.)

    5. Shooting targets (bb guns) and responsible gun handling.

    6. How to “read” a river or other moving water for speed, depth, and hazards.

  24. White Roses says

    How to break into your own house.

    And not by breaking a window or causing other damage.

  25. HopefulNebula says

    -How to make forts and other things out of tubes made of newspaper sheets
    -How to deal with bullies in a constructive way
    -How to sew (yes, even boys need to know how to fix a busted seam or fallen button.)
    -How to properly fill and tie a water balloon (or forty)
    -The infinite number of uses of cardboard boxes (Calvin and Hobbes, anyone?)
    -The difference between “you’re” and “your,” as well as “they’re,” “there” and “their.” (Not so much fitting for that book, but a personal soapbox of mine. Somebody think of the apostrophes!

    For older kids:
    -How to correctly perform CPR (which is something that barring extenuating circumstances everybody should learn *anyway*)
    -At least basic finances (again, I think it’s terrible that public schools don’t require finance classes for graduation)
    -For the drivers, how to change a tire and one’s own oil

  26. Kim says

    I haven’t read others’ suggestions or the Dangerous Book, but here are a few off the top of my head:

    -How to find and cook duck eggs.
    -Where to hide your journal/other sacred property where your siblings won’t find it
    -How to boobytrap your doorway so that you can tell if someone’s entered while you weren’t there
    -How to build temporary forts with rolls of newspaper and masking tape
    -The different types of seed/food that will attract different wildlife to your backyard
    -How to make “dribble” sand castles (nobody taught me this until I was 20!)
    -How to ID poisonous snakes, and how to hold a non-poisonous one safely

  27. Misty says

    I’m planning on getting a copy of this for my 10 year old brother-in-law. Sounds so great!

    I’ve really been enjoying your site since I found it about a month ago.

    Things I think should be in any must-know book for youngin’s:
    1) How to make a budget
    2) How to cook simple, inexpensive meals
    3) How to do laundry (especially for guys)
    4) How to write a thank you note
    5) How to jump-start a car
    6) How to listen (to a date) so that s/he feels valued
    7) How to clean a fish
    8) How to make dandylion salad
    9) How to write a resume
    10) How to interview well

    poushes at gmail dot com

  28. Mommyprof says

    How to pack a suitcase
    How to improvise things when you don’t have them (can opener, corkscrew, ice scraper, screwdriver come to mind…)

  29. Jeremiah says

    1. How to whistle through your thumb and index finger, and how to use your power judiciously.
    2. How to shuffle cards and make that bridge thing.
    3. How to maintain a conversation.
    4. How to protect yourself from injury when falling down.
    5. Yoga, baby, yoga!

  30. Shauna says

    *How to give a speech (it’s not dangerous per se, but public speaking is one of the most common fears that people have!)

    *How to cook a meal on a campfire after first learning how to build the fire

    *What to do if you meet up with a bear, moose, mountain lion, or other wild animal while hiking (I live in Colorado)

  31. CLF says

    1) how to cook, clean, sew & iron
    2) how to start a campfire
    3) how to build a treehouse
    4) how to read a map

  32. Brian says

    How to blow stuff up. It’s very important to understand the difference in the size of an explosion from a firecracker, M-50, M-80, M-100 especially if you’re planning on becoming a scientist. Parental supervision is highly recommended.

  33. Whitney says

    1. How to treat ladies respectfully- and sisters
    2. how to climb a tree
    3. How to cook at least one meal

  34. Whitney says

    1. How to treat ladies respectfully- and sisters
    2. how to climb a tree
    3. How to cook at least one meal

  35. Lisa says

    To THINK. Whether it be to form an intelligent opinion, solve a logistical problem, or determine the consequences of an action.

  36. jeff says

    1. How to make a bow and arrow out of sticks, a bottle cap, and a piece of twine.
    2. How to rescue the princess in Super Mario Bros. (after which any other video game should come naturally)
    3. How to throw a knuckleball.
    4. How to throw and catch a frisbee.
    5. How to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
    6. How to clean and bandage a wound.

  37. Spencer says

    1. Build a fire
    2. put out a fire
    3. build a trap
    4. Nice penmanship
    5. respect for younger kids and elders

  38. Patricia says

    a) How to engage into a great chat with your grandfather or an older family member
    b) How to make a good grill
    c) How to fix broken toys
    d) How to fall from a tree/fence etc.
    e) How to swim
    f) how to play with younger and older fellas

    And last but not least they should know to kiss their moms good night and also to call mom or call home when they grow.

  39. Amy says

    how to flip a pancake
    how to whistle really loud through your fingers
    how to juggle
    how to compliment a lady

  40. weedragon says

    -Bike maintenance (oil a chain, change a tire, install a headlight, add footpegs or a basket, etc.)
    -Change a tire, oil, etc. on a car
    -Basic sewing
    -How to identify edible plants
    -A familiarity with exotic creatures (snakes, iquanas, birds, large insects, etc.)
    -How to fall and not get hurt
    -How to talk to people, especially adults
    -How to write in a secret code (I invented one as a kid, it was fun sending messages to my friends)
    -How to handle a bully, and how to stand up for yourself and others

    the list goes on :)

  41. Laura in L.A. says

    Yes! to the person who mentioned shuffling cards and the bridge. I would also add basic sleight-of-hand/magic tricks. These aren’t really dangerous, but the fourth-sixth graders in my class think that kind of manual dexterity stuff is pretty cool.

  42. Mark says

    How to build a bike ramp.
    How to build a snow fort.
    How to take apart (and put back together) various electronics.
    How to hide.
    How to throw darts.
    How to burn things with a magnifier glass.
    How to stop a bike with no breaks.

  43. Amy says

    I vote for various camping skills… starting a fire, fishing… we just taught my son to properly use a hatchet.

  44. Jocelyn Smith says

    How to cook a few simple meals
    How to use a compass
    How to fold a fitted sheet

  45. Marina says

    First Aid!

    After all those “Dangerous” things that they’ll do, it would be good to know exactly what to do if something not-so-good happens…

  46. Katie A. says

    How to cook things that don’t come in boxes.
    How to manage their time.
    How to manage their money.

  47. Sarah @ To Motherhood and Beyond says

    1. How to manage some sort garden or to just learn how to plant something and watch it grow.

    2. How to fix a hem or sew on a button.

    3. How to keep fish in an aquarium.

    4. How to keep a journal of some sort.

  48. Logan says


    Many an evening at boy scout camp was spent in the tents playing penny poker with the other boys. And from it I learned that I’m bad at card games but am obsessed with “beating the game” – a financially dangerous combination. I’m glad I learned early and only lost pennies instead of later in life with significant money and significant consequences.

  49. Beth B. says

    1. How to wash dishes
    2. How to hard-boil an egg
    3. How to do your own laundry
    4. How to whistle
    5. How to throw a football
    6. How to fly a kite

  50. Shannon says

    •How to blow through your thumbs to make a blade of grass buzz.
    •How to make a daisy/dandelion chain.
    •The importance of good manners.

  51. John says

    So many good suggestions already!

    How to make a survival kit.
    How to tie a few simple knots.

    I plan on having some fun summer activities with my girls where we do the following:
    How to tie-dye.
    How to make homemade floam and slime.
    How to make homemade ice cream.
    How to make homemade play dough.

  52. Vicki says

    1. How to pee in the woods
    2. How to get the most out of a slip and slide, with and without modifications
    3. belly flop techniques for various types of pools
    4. methods for eating ice cream without sharing with the dog and sharing with dog

  53. RobboK says

    On the subject of DANGEROUS … I’m surprised this one hasn’t come up yet:

    1. How to know when you’ve had enough to drink.

    Of course, this is not for boys, but for young men. The way my dad put it was “How to hold your liquor:” how not to become a jerk, a slob, an embarassment, or a danger to yourself or others. How NOT to get into a car with a drunk driver. How not to pickle your liver and flunk out of college. Et Cetera. Haven’t had to teach this one myself yet, but I’m sure it will be tricky….

  54. Gillian says

    1) How to swim
    2) How to type
    3) How to drive a standard/5-speed car
    4) How to sew (incl how to tie a proper knot in thread)
    5) How to build forts inside and outside (and snowball igloos!)
    6) How to light a fire and keep it going
    7) How to bake
    8) Identify footprints in snow/mud
    9) Identify different garden plants before they bloom

  55. Laurel says

    When you teach your child how to use his or her new penknife, be sure you tell her/him not to take it to school. My son was suspended for 6 weeks when he had a Swiss Army knife.
    He’d been using the screwdriver and the wrench as a techie for the school show, but it was considered a weapon. Zero Tolerance leaves no discretion to the schools that know the kids, so even though my son had never fought, or done anything wrong, he was suspended.

  56. Anthrodiva says

    The Secret Garden had a lot of neat stuff, but one I remember was roasting potatoes in the embers of a fire. Various things I learned as a child:

    How to shoot both a gun and a bow (and what not to shoot at, people, animals, etc).

    Bake bread.

    Churn butter.

    Make ice cream – you can do it in a ziploc bag:

    Care for pets including dogs, cats, horses, birds and rabbits.

    Make shooters using baking soda and vinegar.

    Invisible ink with lemon juice.

    Ride a bike, ice skate, roller skate.

  57. Charlie says

    I started teaching my kids to fence with foil, epee and saber as soon as their heads would fit in the smallest size fencing mask.

    At age 6 I start teaching proper use of a knife for cutting, whittling etc.

    Once they’ve mastered knife safety and sharpening, I start ‘em on a nice lightweight (Fiskars brand) hatchet, and as soon as they’ve got that I start ‘em on the axe.

    Blades require study and practice, you should make sure your children can use them safely and effectively.

  58. Amy says

    From younger boys to older….

    what the opening in the front of boys underwear is for (my son learned this when he was 6 and the ladies at daycare the next day said that he taught everyone because it was soooo cool).

    how to wait til you get home from that bike wreck before you start crying.

    to keep a watch strapped on the handlebars of your bike so that “I didn’t have my watch” is never said when asked why you are late coming home.

    how to wake up with your alarm clock, how to set it, and reset it.

    how to tell your mom that your friends’ single dad wants to ask you out (that one came up this weekend, and wow, was that a strange conversation!).

    That takes me up to 11 years old, god knows what else I’ll come up with in the next few years!

  59. Don Marti says

    How to solder

    All the knots in “Dangerous Book for Boys” plus taut-line hitch and trucker hitch.