32 Important Life Skills to Teach your ChildAug 23, 2023
Are you a parent of a child between the ages of 6 to 14? Isn’t it glorious? You don’t have to dress them. You don’t have to change diapers or wipe their bottom. You don’t have to buckle them in the car. You don’t have to cut their food and pretend the fork is an airplane going in for a landing. And also: you aren’t yet worrying about driver's education or what college they are going to get into. It really is a sweet spot of smooth-sailing parenting. (and, if you find that this isn’t the case, check out our parenting course).
While sailing through this sweet spot, it’s easy to forget that this is a prime time to be teaching our kids important life skills. This is the age that they are both: willing to help, and able to help and learn. Let’s harness that!
First of all, you may be asking: What exactly are life skills? They are the everyday tasks that are necessary for a fully functioning adult life. Life skills are also wayyyyyy easier to manage if you have been taught, and practiced, how to do them before you were fully responsible for them! I remember taking a home economics class in high school. We were once responsible for bringing a shirt that needed a button sewn on. In haste the morning the project was due, I grabbed one of my dad’s shirts (which was NOT missing a button) from his closet. While sitting in class, I cut off a button, but GASP, also managed to cut an inch and a half long hole in my dad’s pristine work shirt. I very clearly remember my teacher’s wide eyes as she witnessed the shirt mangling, probably picturing an irate email from an angry parent in her future. However, she calmly sat next to me and showed me how to repair the hole AND sew the button back on. Now, to this day, whenever there is a hole in a beloved stuffed animal, or a rip in a security blanket, I think back to that day and am so thankful for that mini-life lesson (and, have since passed on that lesson to my dentist-husband, who once approached an “injured” stuffed animal with his suture kit in hand).
Our best tip for teaching life skills is: when YOU are doing an important life task, bring one of your kids in with you. Be descriptive in what you are doing and why and encourage them to practice alongside you. This also serves as excellent quality time with your kid.
Now, just like we highlighted in our chores blog (read it here), when your kid is “helping” you with these tasks, it most likely will not actually be helpful. The goal is to teach them a new skill, not to make the task go quicker. However, this means you must be selective of when you teach these skills to your kids. If you are in a hurry or have already used up all your patience for the day, carry on with the task solo. There will be another opportunity.
So, let’s get to it. Here are some examples of life skills you can begin teaching your kids, broken down by category.
Cooking and Meal-Related Skills
- How to plan a meal (for example, that many meals include a serving of a protein, a serving of a carbohydrate, and two servings of vegetables/fiber)
- What food items are helpful to always have in the pantry
- How to plan the grocery list
- How to navigate the grocery store
- How to prepare and put away food after the grocery store
- How to chop fruits and vegetables (we sometimes have our kids watch videos for how to cut unusual items)
- How to prepare non-cooked meals like sandwiches
- How to cook simply cooked meals like eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, soup, or pasta
- How to use the stovetop and oven safely
- How to use the grill
- How to sort the mail
- How to pay bills
- How to keep and maintain a budget
- How to replace air filters
- How to replace batteries in smoke detectors
- How to sew holes in stuffed animals/pillows/clothes
- How to sort laundry
- How to get stains out of laundry
- How to wash, fold, and sort laundry
- How to clean a bathroom
- How to clean the floors
- How to dust
- How to mow, edge, and take care of the lawn
- How to change the oil and check fluids in the cars
- How to pull weeds
- How to take care of the garden or plants
- How to treat for bugs and pests
Community-Based Life Skills
- How to navigate your city (it can be important to teach major highways and streets)
- How to ask for help in a store
- How to make conversation with the check-out clerk
- How (and why) to put postage on mail
- How to pump gas and check tire pressure
Is there anything you’d add to the list?
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