These Are The Life Skills To Teach Kids, According To Experts

You put away your child’s sneakers so that you don’t stumble over them, and you faithfully nuke those nuggets every night. To say that you do almost everything for your child isn’t an understatement, and in your defense, it’s understandable since your kiddos couldn’t do those things (like slicing a strawberry) when they were a toddler. But as they get older, it’s important to teach kids some life skills that will help them be more independent — and give you some peace.

Knowing that you need to instruct your child in the fine art of self-reliance is easy in theory. In practice? Not so much. While you might want to channel some of the more mind-numbing chores onto your child (tying shoelaces, anyone?), it’s not as simple as that. You might find that you actually (gasp!) miss making those PB&J sammies or ensuring that your child’s soccer uniform is clean in time for their Saturday game. It means that your child is maturing and that they are, ever so slowly, needing you less and less. And that, friends, can be a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s one step towards independence, which is really the goal.

So if you’re looking to help your child help themselves, these are the life skills that they need to know.


Learn How To Use A Knife

While the idea of your child yielding sharp knives might make you shudder, it’s important for your kid to have the know-how on how a knife works. And it starts earlier than you might think, according to Samantha Barnes, the founder of Raddish, a monthly cooking kit for kids. “Kids as young as three can learn and keep honing their culinary skills through their teen and even adult years,” says Raddish, who believes that by the age of 2, littles can start learning their cutting skills by tearing lettuce for salads. Kids can also use craft scissors on food like veggies, deli meats, or herbs. And when your child shows signs that they might be knife-ready, you can always give them a plastic one or even butter knives as they develop the proper dexterity.


Know Their Home Address & Your Phone Number

It might make you shudder to think of your child lost and wandering down an unfamiliar street. Unfortunately, it can happen, and that’s why teaching your child their home address can help keep your kid safe. Allison Carter, a parenting expert, advises turning it into a tune. “Make both learning their home address and phone number into a song,” she says. “Kids learn better by singing a song with a predictable beat and will be able to recite it more easily.”

Practice Tying Their Shoes

Raise your hand if seeing your child come off the school bus with loose shoelaces makes you crazy. Although making those bunny ears can get boring real fast, what can be worse is seeing your kid trip and fall flat on their face because they never learned how to tie their shoes. “We forget how important it is to tie shoes and the awesome fine motor skills it hones because it’s hard to find shoes with laces for kids now!” says Carter. “But the skill is actually really great developmentally for the problem solving and fine motor part of their brain.” Sure, it requires a lot of patience, but once they learn how to master making those loops, it will all be worth it.

Learn How To Type

If it feels we’re texting all day every day, well, that’s pretty accurate. Touch screens and texting aside, though, there’s another tech element that is a good life skill to learn, and that’s typing. More and more schools are using laptops as part of daily instruction, which is why showing your child how to asdf jkl; is important. “Kindergarten is usually the first time kids use a keyboard, and it’s associated with a beginning of the year assessment which is not really all that fair for kids that have never used one before,” adds Carter. Grab an old keyboard and let your child explore all the letters — and it helps with fine motor skills, too.

Make Their Own Breakfast

Sure, some days you just feel like breaking out the cereal bowls and calling it a day (when it’s only 7:00 a.m.) But according to experts, you shouldn’t really be making breakfast for your babes once they’re in elementary school. That doesn’t mean you should have your 5-year-old frying eggs for a sunny side up breakfast sandwich, but they can learn to do simple things like buttering bread with a pre-approved knife, or slather some already-sliced avocado onto toast with a spoon. It might get messy but letting them prepare their own breakfast might inspire your kiddo to taste test new foods — and is one less thing for you to do during the morning mayhem.


Improve Reading Skills 

There’s a reason why educators want kids to read, read, read. Literacy unlocks doors to new worlds, but it can also affect your child’s earnings potential in the future as well. “The most practical and effective thing parents can do with their children is to read and write to them and with them every day,” advises Kathryn Starke, an urban literacy specialist. “This includes reading books, reading the news, reading recipes to cook meals together, reading ingredients and labels in household items, and reading the mail.” You can encourage your kid to write thank you letters for gifts, or even write their name in chalk on the sidewalk. Even 10 minutes of reading or writing can go a long way in building lasting literacy skills.


Master Money Knowledge

It’s never too early to teach your Mini Me about money, and that’s especially the case for older kids. If you’ve got a tween or teen living in your house, it’s time to break down how money works, in both dollars and cents. “Set up a mock spread sheet that shows them how they will budget in the future,” says Dr. Melanie Ross Mills, a relationship and parenting expert. “You can even explain to them what happens post college in terms of money, such as the cost of living, car payments, insurance, and so on.” You can take the conversation one step further by connecting how their current grades, goals, and aspirations will factor into their future finances.

Learn How To Do Laundry

Laundry is a life skill that can be taught at almost any age. Start by having your child learn to sort clothing based on colors, explaining what lights and darks look like. Let them see you load the laundry into the machine, pointing out that overstuffing the machine means that the clothes won’t always come out clean and that the machine might break. They can help you pour the laundry detergent into the washer as you explain how bleach works and why it should only be used on white fabrics. And above all, your child will learn why a red shirt in a white load is no one’s friend.

Learn How The House Works

Yes, your child lives in your home, but do they really know how it works? Probably not. So take them on a tour of your house so that they can see all the systems that are in place to make it functional. Explain how the circuit breaker works, how your home is heated (and the part that thermometers play in keeping your house at a toasty 71 degrees). Equally – if not more important — is doing a safety presentation where your kid can learn where the first aid kits as well as the fire extinguishers are.

Learn How To Care For A Car

A flat tire can happen anytime, which is why you should create an automobile class for your kid. Get your little grease monkey involved by showing them how to gauge tire pressure, how to do an oil change or add washer fluid. Above all, teach them how to change a tire, and why having a donut (not a chocolate frosted one) makes all the difference.

Learn How To Communicate

For kids who have “Face In Phone Syndrome,” in person communication can feel uncomfortable. So teach your child the fine art of communication by engaging in role play. You can pick topics like a mock job interview to how they can chat with your next-door neighbor. As they practice the back-and-forth convo, you can offer tips on how to make sure that they feel comfortable and confident in what they’re saying and how to engage people by talking about a topic that interests both of them.

There are so many life skills to teach kids, and they’ll change as your child gets older. And even if you get that wistful feeling as you watch your kid doing the very things you’ve done all these years for them, just remember they’re always going to need you for love and emotional support. And that’s worth more than cutting the crust off your kid’s sandwiches.

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