As parents, it’s our job to teach our kids the life skills they need to make it in the world. That’s easier said than done, though, because trying to figure out which skills are most important or age appropriate and then deciding how to actually teach them can be tough. Don’t worry, we’re here to help!
10 Life Skills Every Kid Should Know
There are endless things your child can and should know, but these 10 life skills are some of the most important and are the ones that will help them become successful adults, able to handle the basics.
1. How to Cook a Basic Meal
First and foremost on my own personal list of life skills for kids to learn is how to cook. The value of being able to whip up a meal from base ingredients cannot be underestimated! Unfortunately, it seems this is a dying art in families these days. Many families eat out or get prepared meals from the store, but that can actually cost a lot more.
When you teach your kids to cook, they have a valuable skill that will serve them for the rest of their life. But, there are advantages for you, too. Tired of constantly trying to find something your kids will eat? They’re more likely to eat something they made. Better yet, they can take over meal prep and even cooking sometimes. My 10 and 11 year old boys frequently make dinner when I’m dealing with deadlines or if I’m ill.
Kids as young as 1 can start learning to cook. Obviously, you’re not going to put a toddler at the stove, but they can mash avocado or help stir things. My kids were making eggs at age three, with close supervision.
How to teach it: Pick some basic meals and start getting kids to help. Good options for starting out include scrambled eggs, toast with avocado, and oatmeal from scratch for breakfast, sandwiches and casseroles for lunch, pasta or rice with hamburger and salad for dinner.
2. How to Wash and Fold Clothes
Clean clothing doesn’t just magically appear, as moms know, but all too many kids get to college only to discover that they have no idea how to wash their clothing. You can make sure they master this essential skill early on and make sure they have clean clothes no matter where they are in the world.
How to teach it: Start with the basics, sorting colors. Even fairly little kids can do this. Your children should also know how to choose a setting on the washing machine and read a laundry label by the time they’re a teen. Make sure they also know how to fold efficiently so they can put their stuff away neatly. They should also know how to treat a stain and how to wash delicates.
Bonus skill: Teach them to wash by hand, in case they’re traveling and can’t get to a laundromat.
3. How to Swim
Growing up on an island, swimming was an essential life skill for me. However, my sons have had very little exposure to the sea or any bodies of water, so swimming is high on my list of things for them to learn. Why is this such a valuable skill? Because there are any number of situations in which someone might need to be able to swim. Imagine if your car goes off a bridge. If you can’t swim, you’ll drown even outside the car. Falling overboard on a ferry or cruiseship requires swimming and there are many non-emergency reasons, too.
How to teach it: Swim lessons are an excellent option in this case, because they teach strong swimming skills and build up to what your children need to know. However, if you have access to water, you can teach your children to swim yourself, too. Start with getting them comfortable in the water, then have them dip their face in the water and blow out air. From there, you can teach them to float and finally, to propel themselves across the pool by swimming.
4. How to Ride a Bicycle
Another skill that may not seem terribly important, but it is. Bicycles are an excellent alternative form of transport and they are also more eco-friendly. Teaching your child to ride a bike gives them the freedom to go further and faster than they could have otherwise, even without a car. Add to this that it’s a great form of exercise and you have the perfect family activity.
Of course, it’s very important that your child understand the value of being safe. Using a helmet is not optional and they should also understand the rules of the road in order to stay safe.
How to teach it: Make sure you have a bicycle that fits your child and start them off learning to pedal and steer while you hold the bike up (alternatively, you can use training wheels). As they begin to balance on their own, you can let go and step back. Just be sure to use a helmet!
5. How to Negotiate
This is a double-edged sword, but definitely something your kids should learn. Just don’t be surprised when they try it on you!
The ability to negotiate is something you’ll use over and over in life, if you know how. Unfortunately, most people never learn and when they’re caught in a situation where it’s appropriate to negotiate, they are uncomfortable adn end up not doing much at all. It’s tough to learn this skill later in life, so make sure your kids have it down.
How to teach it: Give your kids the basics of negotiation and let them watch you negotiate. You can talk it over with them, as well. However, the best option is to just give them a chance to negotiate with you. They want a later bedtime, what are you going to get out of it? Remember that negotating should be beneficial for both parties.
6. How to Shop
Buying clothes, food, and just about anything else is a life skill that very few people have early in life. It’s one of those things you tend to learn as you go, but if you teach your children how to shop early on, they will have a head start on life. Imagine if you knew about price and ingredient comparison when you left home? It’s a valuable life skill to have in your arsenal.
I often have my boys plan out meals for the week, make up a shopping list and then we head to the market and the store to purchase the food. They have a budget and need to account for sales and track their spending. It’s an excellent way to show them early how to properly stick to a budget.
How to teach it: Take your kids shopping with you. This may be the nightmare of many a mother, but it’s worth it in the long run. Make sure you talk about what you’re doing and why you are choosing the items you choose. Teach your kids to look for sales and coupons and how to spot the “fake” sales that some places do. They should also learn to break down prices and determine if it’s cheaper to purchase a larger box of something than the smaller box, or if it would be best to buy two smaller boxes. These life skills are ones that too few people have these days.
7. How to Write a Letter
The days of letter writing have given way to text speak and video chats. While technology is pretty awesome and I will never say you
shouldn’t use it, the art of letter writing should never be lost. Your children need to know how to write a nice business letter or thank you letter. It’s an essential life skill that can be used forever.
How to teach it: Start out with having your children write little thank you notes for their gifts at birthday parties and Christmas. From there, you might have them write a letter to a company or even the newspaper. The more practice, the better! Whether you make them write it by hand or type the letter, be sure to double check the format before it’s sent.
Bonus idea: Why not find a pen pal for your child and have them write to each other? This can end up being a great way to build friendship and writing skills, as well as life skills.
8. How to Wash Dishes
When it comes to running a household, dishes are a huge part of it. Get your kids in the habit of washing dishes now and they’ll be less likely to leave things in the sink until they mold once they’re older and living on their own. And when I say wash dishes, I don’t just mean teaching them to use the dishwasher. While they should certainly know the ins and outs of the dishwasher, it’s particularly valuable to teach your children to wash by hand. If they can do this, they’ll be in a good position no matter where they are in life.
How to teach it: For younger kids, start with plastic dishes and cutlery. Older kids can wash glasses, mugs and china plates with supervision and care. Teach them to use hot soapy water and when to change the dishcloth or sponge. They should know how to rinse properly, as well. The best way to teach this is to simply have them do it.
9. How to Save Money
Did you know that more than half of Americans don’t have even $1,000 in their savings account? That’s a dangerous position to be in and one you mostly likely want your children to avoid. The best way to do that is to teach financial accountability at a young age. Start your kids young with savings and help them learn to put away a chunk of any money they receive.
Good financial habits will follow your kids and help them handle money better as they get older. Ideally, they’ll be even better with their money than you are.
How to teach it: Set up a bank account for your child and help them decide how much they should put into it each time they receive money. You might suggest 25% or 50% and then help them do the math to figure out how much they will have if they put away a certain amount each month. Older children will grasp the concept of interest and saving goals, so you can work on a plan, such as saving for a special toy or something similar.
10. How to Pay a Bill
Bills are part of life and for many parents, these are things that kids don’t need to concern themselves with. After all, childhood is time for enjoying life and focusing on learning, not worrying about finances. As your child gets older, however, it’s a good idea to teach them how to budget and pay bills, which are essential life skills. While you don’t necessarily need to teach your three year old how to pay the gas bill, your preteens and teens should definitely know how it works.
How to teach it: Start by letting your kids go with you when you pay the bills, or, if you pay online or automatically, let them watch you check the accounts. You can explain what the bill is for and even explain how it works. For example, the electric bill varies, depending on how much electricity is used. As kids get older, you can have them calculate savings for turning things off or budget out the entire household. They should have a good idea of how much is spent on each bill and can eventually help you out by taking the bill in and paying it.
What life skills do you think are most important for children to learn? How are you teaching your kids life skills?