If the pandemic has taught parents anything, it’s that homeschooling isn’t for the faint of heart. Because if just getting your child to and from school was hard enough, actually having to put in a full day of instruction while struggling to do everything else (like, you know, work) has made it even more challenging. But if you’re ready to just give your kid an A for the rest of the school year and call it a day, just know that there are ways in which you can keep the learning going longer that doesn’t require Google Classroom and Zoom meetings. In fact, these life skills you can teach your child at home get in all the learning — without all the stress or homework.
Life Skills You Can Teach Your Child At Home
1. Cooking & Baking
If you’re finding it harder to find flour lately, it’s not your imagination. Many parents have turned to the kitchen to school their kids in the way of culinary arts. You might want to teach your child anything from how to hold a knife safely, to how to turn on the stove, or even how to measure ingredients. “Baking is a great way to learn math skills,” says Leigh Anne O’Connor, IBCLC. “In fact, cooking in general teaches great math and science skills.” All of these skills can keep your child safe in the kitchen…and hopefully inspire them to whip you up a snack sometime.
2. Doing Laundry
You’re not alone if your laundry lingers in the basket longer than it should instead of being folded and put away. So give your kiddo a basic home ec lesson by teaching them how to do laundry. “Doing laundry is a great way to teach sorting and colors for smaller children and life skills for older children,” says O’Connor. So dump out the basket of dirty clothes on the floor and have your child sort their whites from their darks. And if you’re up to doing a science experiment (and you have a once-white shirt that you no longer want), show your kiddo what happens when one red sock makes it way into the white load.
3. Yard Work
Sure, growing a garden is glorious, but it can also be a grueling amount of work, too. That’s why you can have your child put on their gardening gloves and help you outside. Not only will they soak up some Vitamin D, but they’ll also learn some important skills, too. “Yard work is great source of physical education as well as developing organizational skills, like raking, weeding, bagging,” says O’Connor.
Let’s say that you noticed that your child grips their spoon in an awkward way when they’re eating their cereal. Now is the time to give your child a cotillion lesson of sorts and show them how to use their utensils properly. “Etiquette and social skills can be taught at home as well,” says O’Connor. “Planning ‘formal’ dinners with the table set and perhaps creating a menu teaches kids how to behave in social situations.” Plus, they can break out their crayons and craft a cute menu for mealtime.
When school was in full swing, it was hard for kids (and you, really) to be able to catch your breath, much less meddle in mindfulness. But now that things are somewhat slower, you can take advantage of the time to practice deep breathing with your babes. “Start a routine of meditation with high energy exercises like running, jumping or even shaking,” says Andrés Restrepo, the founder of Vibras Meditation, a free live-streamed kid-friendly meditation class for kids 4-11. “Do this for 8-10 minutes to shake off any nervous energy. Then, use positive affirmations at the same time that your child is building up their energy. “They can say things like, ‘I am great!’ or ‘I am kind.’”
Next, kids should channel their energy through breathing. “Channel the energy through breathing: To use energy to your advantage, you must learn to focus it. This is done through the breath,” says Restrepo. “Stop the exercises and take deep breaths through your belly – this is called diaphragmatic breathing. Start breathing quickly and then more and more slowly while holding the breath longer and longer in between the inhale and exhale.” Do this for 3-5 minutes daily, and you will all feel better.
Knowing how to feel grateful isn’t always a given. So you’ll need to teach your child what it means to have an attitude of gratitude. Since big emotions are something that kids understand easily, it can help them to ease into meditation—and gratitude. “Pick a positive emotion, such as love or compassion, and imagine it expanding outwards as a big sphere of energy (the energy we built up earlier) from the heart,” says Restrepo, who advises doing this for 3-5 minutes. And then encourage your kiddo to express their happiness and gratitude. “Allow them to share love, compassion or whichever positive emotion you chose with someone or something (e.g., a pet) by sending it out through the heart,” he says. “This will make the kids immensely happy and teach them that they are powerful to help others.”
7. Parallel Play
At this point, you’re either homeschooling your kids, playing with them—or both. But there’s nothing wrong with your child learning how to give you your own space while still staying connected. “Engaging in parallel activities is a wonderful way to create a safe and comfortable environment for children,” says Dr. Lilach Saperstein, an audiologist and parenting coach. “For example, your child can have crayons and paper to draw, while you sit with their notebook to journal, to work on anything from your meal plan to a budget, or drawing, too.” Although you and your child might not be interacting directly, you’re still present for each other while you work on a similar task.
8. Play An Instrument
Not to toot your own horn, but you’re a pretty awesome parent. So give your child some instruments that can help your child develop their love of music and even improve memory and literacy skills. “Playing musical instruments is also a wonderful way to learn about so much more than meets the ear,” says Dr. Saperstein. “Depending on the age of the child, drums, tambourines, and maracas, (or pots, clinking silverware, and glass cups filled with varying levels of water) make it fun to learn about pitch, rhythm, loudness and cooperation when more than one kid is involved.”
9. Learn Chemistry Through Cooking
Yes, cooking can teach kids about math and measuring, but it can also cue up some chemistry skills, too. “Kids can learn chemistry by making homemade ice cream, homemade Play-Doh, or even crystals,” says Rivkie Berger, OTR/L an occupational therapist. “As an OT, I’ve been making sensory bottles with my kids with glitter and water, corn syrup and beads, and making snow globes by gluing little figurines on the lid inside.” So look at some of the products you have in your home to see how you can add a bit of learning while still having fun cooking or crafting.
10. Get Some Exercise
Since you’re now your child’s PE teacher, you’ll need to help them get some movement into their day. You can help your kiddo score some movement by looking for ways to fit phys ed into your schedule. “Physical fitness and every aspect of health studies should be a breeze when everyone is discussing hand washing, mental health and the right amount of sleep to grow healthy brains,” says Dr. Michael Ungar, Ph.D., a Family Therapist and Canada Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience at Dalhousie University. “An exercise routine and downtime from being online is all part of a good educational program at home.”
11. Boost Language Skills
Of all the life skills you can teach your child, reading comes in at the top. And while reading to your child is a great way for them to learn literacy, there are other options as well. “To perfect language skills, reading together with little ones, or keeping a daily journal or online blog if a child is older are great ways to get children reading and writing,” says Dr. Ungar. “So too are letters and emails to extended family members when visits aren’t possible.”
If your kid has popped more buttons off their pants than you can remember, it might be time to take out some needle and thread and teach them how to sew. “Teaching kids to sew is an amazing way for kids to learn a myriad of skills as well as to believe in themselves and their abilities,” says Trixi Symonds, founder of Sew a Softie. “Sewing is a life skill, and can help a child develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.” And the pride that your child will feel when they’re empowered to sew on their own will hopefully make them want to sew even more.
Knowing which life skills you can teach your child can not only help prepare them for the future, but also make the quarantine more memorable as you do fun bonding activities together. And while it’s important for kids to learn what’s on the curriculum, take some time while social distancing to help your child learn (and master) new skills that will last them a lifetime.