Basic Life Skills Our Kids Should Learn Before Reaching Their Teens

In order to become sucessful adults, there are a number of basic life skills our kids need to be taught. While some schools are beginning to recognise that these skills are just as important as some academics, the majority of children will need to learn these skills at home.

There are, of course, dozens of life skill to be learned as we grow, not all of which are important for the pre-teen set to master. Instead, start with these foundation skills. Not only are they essential for success in the future but they will help your kids become more independent in the present.

Basic Life Skills Every Child Needs To Know

Household Chores

No one enjoys cleaning, doing dishes, taking out the trash, or doing the laundry, but someone has to do it. Teach your child how to tackle all of the chores around the home that it’s safe for them to do. The littlest of little ones can start by sweeping and mopping or dusting. Putting laundry in the laundry hamper ensures they not to expect someone to pick up after them while older kids can do the washing and folding of laundry for the family. Not only does this teach them to take care of themselves but it also teaches a child the importance of taking care of others, and how we can work together to help each other.

The Value of Money

Teaching your child the value of money as well as how much it can and cannot buy is a must. Many people live in debt because they don’t know how to manage their money. Not only that, but some people find themselves facing the loss of their home, or even their entire way of life because they are unable to handle money in a responsible manner.

Begin by sharing with your child, the principle of earning money in exchange for work. While there is much debate over whether or not you should pay your kids for doing chores, in my experience, it depends on how you approach it as to whether or not this works.

An approach which many people find sucessful is to provide your kids with an allowance but not to say “If you don’t work you don’t get paid” or “When you work you get paid.” Instead, have a basic set of chores which you expect your child to do and provide a basic allowance – without connecting the two.

Then have additional, one-off jobs your child can choose to do, in exchange for an additional one-off payment.

Teach them how to think before they buy items, to make sure it is a good idea, that they have the money for it and won’t regret it later. Not only that but they should learn how to take care of their belongings, not to take them for granted, and to do something useful with items they no longer want.

Cooking

Cooking is an essential life skill to teach our children. We all have to eat to survive and it’s good for your child to learn how to cook. The trick is, to teach them in age-appropriate ways, and with suitable equipment.

It is also important not to just stick with baking cookies and cakes. While this is fun AND you get to enjoy the spoils of your labour, it often takes place at the expense of other practical kitchen skills.

How to prepare different vegetables, what flavours work well together, and how to select kitchen equipment are all things we have taught our own children. In addition, we teach how to shop for produce, what’s in season when, and how not to get drawn into buying things you don’t need “because they are a bargain.”

Sewing

I never learned to sew as a child and for many years I considered my greatest achievement with a needle and thread was the fact that I was not allowed into sewing classes after three sewing machines in a row failed when I was using them. Honestly, I didn’t do a thing to them, but I was convinced it was a cosmic sign I was never supposed to do “girly” stuff. After all, nothing I touched in metalwork classes broke….

Since then, of course, I’ve discovered that sewing is a great skill to know when you get a hole in your jeans or you have to adjust the waist of your pants because you have a big butt and a small waist and nothing ever fits properly.

I know some schools still teach sewing to help teach kids some basics but even so, consider teaching your little clothes destroyers some basic sewing skills. Then, when they are adults they won’t have to come to you when they need a button sewing on, a repair made to their comforter because it got caught on the chair next to the desk and was ripped when they jumped up to shout at the TV during a 4 am soccer marathon on TV,, or their 22-year-old teddy bears arm sown back on – yes, I’ve been asked to do all of these things.

Physical Activity

In a world full of technology, it can be a struggle to get kids to step away from the screen and do something physical. For their health, and yours, it is important to get up and be active.

So try and find an outlet for your child to get up and play. Whether it be swimming, playing at the park, taking a karate class, just find something that allows them a bit of physical activity a few times to each day of the week.

Then, while you are enjoying the activity together, let them know the physical and mental health benefits of physical activity and why it should form part of a healthy lifestyle.

Personal Care

Personal care is a HUGE thing to try and convey to your child. Begin by making sure to help your child learn that brushing their teeth helps keep cavities and painful visits to the dentist away. Then move onto having them dress themselves, brush their own hair, and so on as soon as they are able.

That’s not to say, of course, that you should chuck a hairbrush at them and leave them to it from then on – carry on supervising or just check in on how they are doing.

Alternatively, you can get ready together, or even encourage your child to help you get ready. Nothing sparks a child’s enthusiasm quite like being given the chance to be in charge!

Sadly not all children learn these skills and have issues later on in life with things as simple as knowing what toothpaste they use.

Small DIY Projects

Letting your child begin to help with DIY shows them that they can tackle projects around the house and garden. Say the water faucet in the bathroom is leaking, let them grab a wrench and help you as they get older. Give them a piece of wood and teach them how to hammer in a nail, things of this nature. That way when they are older they can be a handyman for their own home and projects.

One word of caution. Try not to fire up their enthusiasm too much. If you do, you might just be making breakfast one day and think you can smell paint. Then, the penny will drop that you have all of the decorating supplies on the landing upstairs and you thought the little ones were still asleep. You’ll rush upstairs to find two cheeky looking little boys in PJ’s smeared with white paint. There may also be an area of about two foot high and six feet across your newly painted blue walls that is now patchily covered in white, semi-gloss paint. 20 years later, I can still see their little paint smeared face…….

Time Management

Teaching your child to be on time and aware of how long something will take them is an important life skill that too many people do not have. From getting to work on time to meeting deadlines for school and work, time management is something they will use daily.

Yes, it’s ok to arrange to meet friends at “about 8” and turn up whenever, if that is standard practice for you all. However, getting to work and telling your boss “I’m only ten minutes late” is just not going to cut it in most jobs where the hours are set.

More Basic Life Skills To Teach Our Kids Before They Reach Their Teens

  • Gardening
  • Organizing and decluttering
  • Writing a letter
  • Meal prepping
  • Learning navigational directions
  • Car maintenance
  • Social cues and respect
  • Comparison shopping for deals
  • Treating a wound
  • Healthy habits

I’d love to hear your hints and tips for teaching life skills. I know I have only scraped the surface in this post, so please, feel free to share your own words of wisdom below.

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