“Life hacks” have become the new fad for today’s kids and adults. People on many social media apps are sharing ways to make life easier by showing how they have found more efficient ways of doing everyday things. Teaching life skills for kids before they learn life hacks is important. In this article, we’ll take a look at just a few of the basic life skills children of different ages should learn.
Toddlers and preschoolers should learn how to communicate well, clean up after themselves, and be exposed to books at a young age. School-age children are old enough to learn home responsibilities (chores), healthy eating, and wise use of their time.
Teens should be learning time management skills, planning their goals, and basic cooking techniques. As your kids get ready to fly the nest and become adults, teach them about money and budgeting, how to communicate in the workplace, and how to deal with disappointments.
Life skills for toddlers and preschoolers
Toddlers are sponges. They soak up a lot of information and then spit it back out as they learn how to be little humans.
One of the most important life skills you can teach your toddler is how to communicate by helping them learn not to whine or throw a tantrum when they don’t get what they want. You usually can’t expect to carry on a 2nd-grade conversation with a 3-year-old, but you can instill some basic communication skills:
- Look at your child when you talk to them. This will help them see your facial expressions and let them know they are important in your world and that you want to actively interact with them, not just talk over them.
- Teach your kid a new word every day. Increasing a child’s vocabulary will give them years of knowledge. Have an object or a picture of the new word to help them with association.
- If your child yells at you, calmly turn around and walk away. Don’t engage in the temper tantrum or yell back. This will help your child to learn that anger doesn’t produce results.
Spend time teaching your toddler how to clean up after themselves. Simple clean-up songs can make this activity fun while teaching toddlers the importance of putting their toys away so they can find them later and no one steps on them! Help them learn this responsibility by providing them with organization tools, like totes or bins they can keep their toys in. Better yet, make personalized storage units with your kids by letting them paint or color cardboard boxes.
Teaching your kids how to read should not be the job of just your local school system—reading success has to start at home by reading to them and reading with them. A study from the Ohio State University shows that kids whose parents read to them at home can be exposed to millions more words by kindergarten than children who aren’t read to at home. Kids with this kind of exposure will develop reading skills more quickly.
Life skills for children
Giving children chores to do will make them feel like they’re part of the family, and this practice early on will help them develop team-building skills. This life skill will also begin to teach them independence, which will be a huge benefit as they get older.
School-age children are old enough to learn how to do simple chores such as:
- Fold and put away their own clothes
- Empty smaller trash cans into a bigger one
- Help make a snack or pack their lunch
As your child participates in making meals or snacks, you can teach them the importance of healthy eating. Every visit to the grocery store or a restaurant is a teachable moment. Help them understand nutrition labels, portion size, and the importance of drinking water to their health. There is a really cute, kid-friendly app called Plant Nanny which can help kids track their water intake by taking care of plants. It’s really fun and engaging!
Your school-age kid can easily become overwhelmed and even avoid school if they don’t learn the life skill of being wise with their time. Between schoolwork, homework, extracurricular activities, and the chores you’ll be handing out, your kids can feel like they need to be cloned in order to function without anxiety. Help them learn to tackle those things they don’t necessarily like to do first so they can have more time for the activities they enjoy. Another app, Choiceworks Calendar, helps kids with anxiety better manage their time and activities.
Life skills for students
As your child gets older, the need for effective time management increases. With the demands of more challenging schoolwork, after-school jobs, and tons of time needed for studying, providing your teen with practical tools for time management can help them live in a world of successful, not stressful, task accomplishments.
Along the same lines as time management is goal planning. What does your teen want to do after high school? Have they looked into what it will take to accomplish that goal? Setting goals helps teens gain focus, find motivation, and work on the sense of direction for their lives. One handy app is GoalsOn Track. It was developed to help students make goals that are SMART, that is, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
An important thing to remember when helping your teen learn the life skill of goal setting is teaching them how to deal with disappointments. Sometimes there will be things that stand in the way of a goal being achieved through no fault of your teen’s. During these times, it’s important for your child to maintain a strong sense of self and realize they are still empowered to reach other goals.
Cooking is one of the most important life skills you can teach your teen. Learning the basics of moving and prepping in the kitchen, buying groceries, planning a menu, and making more advanced dishes will engage your teenager in one of the ultimate life skills. Cooking can be a great medium for artful self-expression on top of teaching more time management, healthy eating habits, and serving others.
Life skills for adult children
As you’re preparing for your teens to fly the nest, there are vital life skills they will need on their path to becoming adults. The majority of these skills were once taught in the public school system but have since been pushed aside by the demand for high test scores and all that goes along with that philosophy.
Nevertheless, these skills will ensure your adult child’s success as they move out from your care:
- Make sure your teen knows how to type. Either teach your teen through a computer program or have them take a class at school or a local community center. Typing skills will not only save them a tremendous amount of time but also help them master necessary means of communication—emails, correspondence, and reports.
- Teach your teen about money management. Educate them about checking and savings accounts and what it means to debit and credit from those accounts. Help them learn about taxes and the implications for their paychecks. Introduce them to the different types of retirement accounts and emphasize the need to understand how insurances work. Help them open at least a savings account and provide them with tools for managing their funds.
- Help your teen learn how to deal with disappointments before they become adults. The life of a young adult is often confusing and difficult. As parents, we want to shield our kids from harm, but they need to learn from disappointments as much as they learn from achievements. Listen to your adult children’s woes, help them understand their role in the disappointment, and, if they ask you to, help them come up with a plan to avoid future disappointments. However, don’t try to solve every problem for them.
Life skills for toddlers, preschoolers, school-age children, teens, and young adults aren’t all that different. As parents, our job is to instill a desire for growing and becoming a better human being each day by using teachable moments all around us.
From keeping a chore chart to teaching how to properly chop an onion, the time you spend with your younger kids in developing helpful life skills will propel them into a future as teens to get ready to be on their own as young adults.
Engaging with your teens to show them how to set goals and reach for them can benefit them as young adults when they may have to accept disappointment but still learn from it.