Life skills to teach your children this school year

BUCKHANNON — Children and parents are likely getting settled into a routine following the return to school last week. However, learning does not just take place in the classroom. “Very Well Family,” a publication devoted to family health and more says, “The school year is a perfect time to teach your school-aged children plenty of life-skills.”

“Very Well Family” reports that practicing new life skills can help children manage transitions and emotions and can even aide with their social, emotional and cognitive development. One of the most valuable lessons is developing a consistent routine and practicing good sleep hygiene especially upon the return to school. 

Experts have long-studied and agrees that children learn best by playing, exploring and by utilizing hand-on activities. One example from “Very Well Family” is, “Kids will benefit more from a third-grade math lesson that takes place in the kitchen over a boxed mix of brownies versus a math lesson that happens in a textbook.” 

Of course, everyone is different and you can use your own ideas of how to teach your kids. But it can be as simple as having your child help you sort laundry, recycle boxes and plastics or chopping an onion. These are all things that will continue to be a valuable lesson throughout life and it can be personalized and made fun. 

It is also acknowledged that depending on the age or skill of your child, certain life skill tasks can be independent while others may require your supervision or assistance. No matter what, teaching something like a life skill can also be a bonding experience and create special memories that you can look back on.

“Very Well Family” provided a detailed list of some recommended activities based on age groups. It can be seen below and for more details or information on family health and parenting visit

Preschoolers (Ages 2 to 4)

Cleaning up: Put your child’s sorting and identifying knowledge to work. Ask them to put their toys in the appropriate bins after they’re done playing, sort their books by color on the shelf or line up their stuffed animals on their bed by size. You can even invite them to help you sort the laundry.

Knowing emergency numbers: Does your little one know their numbers? Teach them your home and/or cell phone numbers, as well as how to dial 911. Also, see if they can memorize their street address, town and state. You want to be sure they know how to contact close family members or friends should an emergency arise. Keep a list of numbers in a prominent place and have them practice with your supervision.

Picking out clothes: Only in the mind of a 3-year-old do polka dots coordinate with plaids, but you need to choose your battles here. Learning how to get dressed appropriately involves checking the weather and talking about what the day’s activities will include, which is a great way to do a little morning circle time.

If your kids are back in school, have them set out their clothes the night before. This builds a predictable routine, saves precious morning time and teaches them how to be prepared.

Setting the table: Looking for an easy way to introduce numbers, counting and symmetry? Look no further than a table setting, which offers a chance to lay out matching sets of silverware, plates and cups, along with spatial and procedural memorization. Also, allow them the freedom to add a few custom touches to the table, like handmade place cards or little pictures for each family member. They will feel proud of their work and look forward to dinner time.

Little Kids (Ages 5 to 7)

Performing basic cleaning tasks: On top of wiping down sinks and light vacuuming, ask your child to help sort the trash and recycling. Learning which materials are recyclable leads to good conversations about climate change, taking care of the environment and producing less waste. What’s more, your kids might get really excited about finding things that are recyclable and making sustainable decisions.

Preparing and sorting laundry: Teach kids how to separate light and dark colors. Ask them to empty pockets before putting something in the washing machine and talk about why that one red sock will turn an entire load of whites pink. Aside from helping you with a never-ending chore, you’re teaching Properties of Matter 101!

Making the bed: This skill is often overlooked during the school-year rush to get out the door in the morning, but if your kids are learning from home, you may have more time to teach them how to make their beds. You could even develop a morning routine that includes making the bed as part of getting ready for the day. Incorporating this chore regularly instills a lifelong habit that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Developing cooking skills: Stirring, mixing, shaking, whisking—all these activities are hugely popular with kids. Also, popular? Cracking eggs, using the blender (with supervision) and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Look for ways for your kids to help with making meals. Consider allowing them to assist in the meal planning for the week.

Big Kids (Ages 8 to 10)

Mastering intermediate cooking: You can probably teach your kids to scramble eggs, boil water for pasta and make pancakes at this age. You can also teach them fractions by setting out measuring cups and asking them to double, triple or even quadruple an easy recipe. And, if your kids are particularly skilled or interested at this age, allow them to make a family meal (with your supervision, of course).

Learning to garden: Gardening is one of the single best ways to blend life skills with science. For instance, talk about how much sunlight tomato plants need to grow. You could even work in a discussion about photosynthesis. Also, talk about the different types of soil and what is best for plants to grow. And make sure you talk about those creepy crawlies invading your garden and eating all the zucchini.

Using common tools: Hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches—most of these tools require physical coordination, but they also require some math or physical science element in the form of angles, force, momentum and speed. Look for opportunities for your kids to help out around the house using tools. For instance, have them tighten the screws on the towel rack in the bathroom or help hang a framed photo in their room.

Loading the dishwasher: Believe it or not, you need some spatial intelligence to load a dishwasher, so everything fits and actually gets cleaned. Tell your kids it’s just like playing Tetris. Plus, making the task of loading (and unloading) the dishwasher a regular chore shows kids the importance of contributing to the efficient operation of the household.

Tweens and Teens (Ages 11+)

Managing money: This is math, obviously. While it’s important to teach your kids how not to overspend on their income (from allowance, gifts or a part-time job), they also need to know several other related skills. This might be calculating interest payments on credit cards and loans, comparing prices on purchases, establishing a budget and filing a tax return.

You could even give them a set amount of money they can spend each month and encourage them to establish a budget on how to spend it. They will quickly realize that money does not go very far.

Learning household maintenance: Can your teen change a light bulb? Pump gas? Unclog a drain? Mow the lawn? If not, it’s time for them to learn. One day your kids will be living in a dorm or an apartment while in college or working and they will need these basic skills. So, there is no better time to learn them than now. Also, be sure they are participating in family chores like cleaning.

Mastering personal responsibility: There’s a lot to unpack here, but older kids need to get comfortable making phone calls, setting up appointments ordering food, planning meals and budgeting their own time. In other words, stop hounding them to clean their room so they can go FaceTime their friends; encourage them to set a weekend schedule that leaves time for both.

Likewise, if they have some routine doctor’s visits coming up, like going to the dentist or getting their yearly flu shot, have them make the calls. Learning these skills now will establish the importance of caring for their bodies and engaging in preventative health care in the future.

Managing hygiene: If you’re still hounding your teens to shower regularly, use deodorant and properly care for their skin, it’s time for them to take charge of their hygiene. Let them choose their own products, decide what time of day they want to shower (a.m. or p.m.) and maintain a haircut or style of choice. Giving them some autonomy here will go a long way toward motivating them.

It may seem overwhelming to start teaching your children life skills right now and you don’t have to add these to your daily schedule if you already have too much going on. However, “Very Well Family” recommends looking at it as an investment. By teaching your children some of these skills now, it may save you time later. Helping your children to become more independent can save your both time and energy in the long run.


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