This post is the fourth and final installment in a series covering life skills that are disappearing as our world technologically advances. As young adults find themselves struggling to learn self-care, social, and financial skills later in life, there is now a demand for such workshops and classes at the college-level. In some instances, technology has also created a need for new life skills that weren’t essential before. In this series, we will explore our top life skills and how your child can master them through fun activities. To follow this series, please subscribe to our blog and follow us on social media.
When I was eight years old my mother asked me to make cornbread on my own. Up until that point I had been shadowing her in the kitchen, doing simple tasks like mixing batter, kneading dough, grating cheese and peeling potatoes. I was so proud of myself when the cornbread came out of the oven golden brown and perfectly cooked. My mother showered me with compliments, took one bite, then immediately spit it into the sink. “Mom! That’s not very nice,” I shouted, shocked by her sudden reaction. It turns out that instead of adding a half teaspoon of salt I had added an entire cup’s worth!
My family still teases me about that baking blunder today, but it taught me a very valuable lesson about following directions. I’m grateful to my mother for giving me a chance to learn cooking at a young age, because today I have the confidence to attempt pretty much anything in the kitchen. It’s so important for children to learn basic life skills like cooking, cleanliness and personal healthcare. These are not necessarily skills picked up in school, so it’s up to you as a parent to equip your children with these tools that will eventually help them become more rounded, successful adults.
The Lesson: Cooking
With the younger generations, cooking is becoming much more of a trendy aspiration than a basic life skill. Grocery stores are seeing a rise in ready-made meal sales, and companies like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh are emerging, helping people who a wary of grocery shopping and cooking to make food for themselves. Help your children out by introducing cooking skills early. Sit down and plan out a meal (or several) together. Once you and your child have a set menu, talk about the ingredients needed to make the meal and create a grocery list. Head to the grocery store, and have your child pick out fresh produce, and help younger children to read labels on cans and boxed items. If your child is older, have them find five or six ingredients on their own.
Once you’ve gathered all the ingredients, use your child as a sous chef. Children between the ages of six and nine can help to clean fruits and vegetables, form cookies and patties, utilizing a pizza cutter and can opener, and putting away leftovers. Children ten and older can (with proper training) start to using a chef’s knife and the stove. Make sure to stress keeping a clean kitchen, and have your child clean dishes and utensils during any down time. Once your child has a good grasp of meal creation, have them help you to pack their school lunches. Confidence in the kitchen helps to build competence.
The Lesson: Cleanliness
When I was a junior in college I shared an apartment with a girl who would make her mother do her laundry when she visited. We had a washer and dryer in the apartment but she was unwilling to learn how to utilize them. She was lucky that her mother lived nearby, but not everyone has that luxury, nor should an adult rely on their parents for this very basic cleaning skill. Make sure your child learns how to keep a household clean and organized by involving them in chores as early as possible. Children as young as three years old can help to make their own bed and put dirty clothes into a laundry basket. Kindergarten-aged children can help set and clear the table, take responsibility for a pet’s food and water bowls, pick up their own toys, and get dressed on their own. Some parents offer incentives for completed house chores, such as allowance or extra TV time. Whether you choose to offer prizes, always stress that these skills are very valuable when children head out into the world!
The Lesson: Personal Grooming
As children take responsibility for keeping their house clean so they should also be taking steps to adopt good hygiene habits. Sometimes adult life can be very hectic, but it’s imperative for children to make time for themselves each day starting young. When children are old enough, have them make a list of everything they need to do in the morning – brush their hair, brush their teeth, wash their face, and so on. Explain the importance of keeping their bodies clean. It’s very important that they know how to care for their hair and skin. Not only this, make sure kids have a good grasp of their health needs. Make sure they understand the symptoms of illness and that they know when (and how) to contact a doctor. Basic first aid lessons like how to clean and bandage a wound can also go very far towards living successfully. The best way to teach your child about everyday hygiene is to let them take care of themselves. Try to avoid doing everything for them.
The Lesson: Goal Setting
Goal setting can be a personal as well as professional skill. When kids set long and short term goals they learn that personal responsibility is the key to success or failure. Sit down with your child and ask them what sort of goals they currently have. Is it to master a violin performance? To earn a new belt degree in karate? To be the best soccer player on the team? Have your child formulate goals like this, then get them thinking about what it would take to achieve each goal. Make sure children understand the difference between a realistic and unrealistic goal, but also encourage them to set just out-of-reach goals that encourage focus and perseverance. Make their goals part of the family plan. This fosters an environment of cooperation rather than competition, and reinforces that even as individuals, everyone can come together as a support team. This handy skill will help children achieve personal gratification and even professional success.
The Lesson: Decision Making
It seems like a no-brainer, but some adults struggle with making sound decisions. In fact, many adults struggle with change because that means they’ll be forced to contemplate something different from what they’re used to and might even be required to make a change. Making good choices can affect something as simple as what someone chooses to eat for dinner to significant life choices like making a career move or choosing to marry someone. The absolute biggest step towards an independently thinking child is to stop making decisions for them (barring any major life-changing decisions at a young age). Give children choices instead of telling them what to do where you can. Emphasize that every choice has a consequence, sometimes good and sometimes bad. Encourage them to weigh the pros and cons of each decision, and to think critically. Decision-making is a major part of life. Make sure your child is equipped with the right skills to make major decisions in the future.
Early lessons in basic life skills can go a long way towards making you’re a child a well-rounded adult. Children’s minds are like sponges, and opportunities to teach these lessons are always right around the corner. Before your child flies out of the nest, make sure he or she is equipped with the best tools for a happy life!