Equipping your child with the life skills, habits and tools needed to lead a happy and healthy life is a top priority for parents. True, kids need to know how to solve math problems, read complicated texts and write academic papers in order to be successful in the classroom, but they also need to possess vital life skills that carry them through their everyday lives and tasks.
There are different ways to foster and teach your kids the essential life skills they need to be successful, happy and healthy. Children learn behaviors and experience the world around them starting from their earliest years, so it benefits parents to have an idea of how to gauge a child’s progress and development.
Laying the Foundation
Beginning around age three, kids learn the skills and habits necessary to live a happy, fulfilling and productive life. Your goal as a parent is to teach and foster these skills in a caring and loving way. Understanding when and how to teach your kids these essential life skills is something most parents struggle with, though.
Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development offers parents a framework for measuring the ways children construct a mental model of their world. Piaget suggests that a child’s development is about more than simply acquiring knowledge, it’s about actively seeking out that knowledge. Piaget theorized that children are not passive learners who sit idly by waiting for an adult or parent to provide them with the knowledge necessary to become a functioning adult and member of society. Instead, Piaget accurately assumed that children take an active role in building their knowledge and understanding of the world around them.
According to Piaget, each child goes through the four stages of development, where each stage involves a different type of intelligence. Using Piaget’s theory as a framework, parents can take an active role in fostering that development and growing your child’s knowledge of the world around them.
As your kids grow and move through the different stages of development, you can identify the skills they need and begin their life-skill education. Your child will begin to develop critical executive function skills such as the ability to organize, plan and coordinate their lives.
Here is a list of age-appropriate skills for you to consider as you teach essential life skills every child should know:
- Age 2-5 years old: During these years, kids start to desire to learn how to perform simple daily tasks such as cooking, dressing themself and helping out around the house. Kids are ready to learn the importance of cleaning up their personal items as well as memorizing important numbers, figures and dates. In these years, your child is developing the basic life skills that you’ll later build upon as they reach adolescence and earn more responsibility.
- Age 6-9 years old: Beginning around 6 years old, your child should start to understand money and how it’s used as well as help you cook meals. Children start to become more independent during these years and should be capable of performing simple chores without much assistance or supervision from a parent. Kids should be able to complete tasks such as making their bed, picking out their clothes to dress themselves and making basic meals like sandwiches with little to no supervision.
- Age 10-13 years old: Starting at age 10, kids should be able to independently complete a range of tasks such as preparing a meal with several ingredients, using the oven to cook foods, using basic hand tools like a screwdriver or hammer and operating the washer and dryer.
- Age 13-18 years old: This is the time where your child begins to learn true independence as they prepare to enter the world and leave your home. They should understand the importance of communicating with others in order to accomplish tasks such as interviewing for and getting a job. During these years, your child should possess the essential life skills needed to manage their daily lives by monitoring their money, maintaining a vehicle, holding down a job and planning or organizing their daily life using calendars or other time-management tools.
These are just a few of the age-appropriate skills your kids should be developing as they move through the various stages of childhood, adolescence and into young adulthood. It’s important to keep in mind that all kids develop at different rates, so please don’t worry too much if your child is a little behind or ahead. We’re all unique individuals who learn and develop in our own special ways.
Outlined below are 10 essential life skills to equip your child with as well as some examples of activities you can engage them in as part of their life skill education.
One of the most basic life skills kids need to learn is the ability to communicate effectively. Teaching your kids to communicate effectively equips them with the ability to carry a conversation, build friendships and express their needs and desires in a healthy manner. Communicating with other kids regularly offers a way for them to practice their conversation skills while building quality friendships.
Beginning around age 2, your child starts to develop important personality traits. It is around this age when your child starts to understand spatial concepts in speech plus use pronouns such as “you” and “I” when they speak and communicate with others.
Communicating, planning and organizing are all examples of critical executive function skills that children develop through the years. As they develop and continue to learn the skills they need to lead successful adult lives, you will notice their ability to effectively communicate becomes stronger.
2. Knowing How To Deal With Boredom and Spend Time Alone
Equipping your child with the ability to deal with boredom and spend time alone can be difficult for many parents. One of the most valuable lessons kids can learn is that you and other adults are not there to entertain them for every waking moment. Part of being human is dealing with downtime and embracing those moments as a positive experience. There are actually many hidden benefits to being bored including:
- Boredom often sparks creativity
- Boredom helps build an ability to delay gratification
- Boredom teaches them to find comfort in solitude
- Boredom offers you and them both time to regroup
3. Having Empathy and the Ability to Care for Other Living Things
Teaching your kids to care for other living things instills empathy and responsibility in them starting at an early age. Don’t stress, that doesn’t mean you have to run out and get them the dog they have been asking you for just to teach them the value of caring for other living beings. There are many other ways to foster empathy and care in your kids with smaller, simpler pets such as:
- Hermit crabs
Starting with a pet or plant that requires a small amount of attention and daily care before moving into larger pets that carry more responsibility gradually builds your child’s ability to care for another living creature.
You’ve probably noticed that beginning around 2 years old, your child starts to develop an “I want to do it myself” mentality. This coincides with their desire to help you out around the house with various chores and tasks such as washing dishes, doing laundry and performing basic maintenance tasks. It’s natural to push back against their desire to help given that most parents don’t think of cleaning or household chores as a fun activity. Instead, try to embrace this desire and teach them the value of keeping a clean house and room.
Cleaning teaches your children to care for their personal space and offers them a sense of responsibility for their environment. This is important to foster as they move through the various stages of cognitive development. Cleaning alongside your child is a great life skills activity in itself as it teaches them through demonstration and performance. When they clean with you, they’re taking an active role in the household, which in turn teaches them to take an active role in other areas of life.
For example, around 2 or 3 years old, you can have them wipe up their own spills, dry small dishes such as cups or spoons and progressively give them more responsibilities from there.
5. Saving and Counting Money
One of the most essential life skills kids can learn is how to deal with and manage their money. Start with teaching them to count money, make change and understand different monetary denominations. Once they have a firm grasp on the concept of money and how we use it in our daily lives, then you can move into managing money. Teach your kids the value of saving their money including best practices, making sound decisions regarding how they spend their money and techniques for building wealth.
Saving and counting money from an early age also fosters their math skills. Counting money is a life skill activity that enhances their math skills, especially when it comes to learning fractions and percentages. Start by giving them a piggy bank to hold and save their money before moving into bank accounts and debit cards in their early teen years.
Having good manners prepares your child to navigate and conduct themselves throughout their daily lives in society. Possessing good manners yourself is an excellent way to teach and demonstrate to your kids how you expect them to act. There are different types of manners that you can teach your kids including:
- Table manners and mealtime etiquette: Proper use of utensils, placing their napkin in their lap, taking small bites, chewing with their mouth closed and not sipping or slurping their mealtime drink are all examples of table manners you can teach your child at home.
- Handshakes and greetings: Teaching your kid the value of a firm handshake while making consistent eye contact as they meet or greet someone equips them with a valuable social tool moving forward in life. The times when a solid handshake and greeting are useful include introducing themself properly in job interviews and meeting new important people such as other parents or future in-laws.
- Conversational manners: Using terms like “sir” or “ma’am” shows manners and respect for others. Teaching your kid other conversational manners such as speaking in turn, not interrupting others while they are speaking and using proper names to address adults such as “Mr.” and “Mrs.” are tools they will use for life. Other manners such as saying “please” and “thank you” are often taken for granted, but it’s important to teach your kids the value of using these two simple phrases when conversing with others.
- Social norms and behaviors: Teaching your kid social norms and behaviors such as opening and holding the door for others plus quietly and patiently waiting their turn in line are important social manners and behaviors that will equip your child for life outside of the home.
Good manners and etiquette are important personality traits that will help your child as they mature and leave the nest. Having good manners is an excellent way to endear ourselves to others and gain acceptance. You can teach good manners to your children by consistently practicing them yourself and stressing the importance of behaving correctly in and out of the home.
7. Dressing Themselves
Teaching your kids to dress themselves typically begins around age 2 or 3 when you can let them start to pick out their own clothes. In fact, teaching kids to take an active role in dressing themselves at an early age has many benefits that foster their development including:
- Developing fine and gross motor skills: Operating zippers, buttons and balancing one’s self to put on pants or socks.
- Developing cognitive skills: Understanding the order in which pieces of clothing are put on and having patience for the process.
- Developing a sense of time and location: Realizing the importance of dressing at a certain time for different occasions.
These are just a few of the critical executive function skills that your child develops through performing a simple, mundane daily activity such as getting dressed for the day. You’ll also instill a sense of individuality by allowing them to make their own decisions by letting your child dress themselves.
8. First Aid
First aid training is incredibly beneficial for your child. Knowing how and when to provide first aid is a vital life skill that teaches children to care for themselves and recognize emergency situations. You should start teaching your child about first aid when they begin to play outside by themself around age 4 or 5. Examples of basic first aid skills you should teach your child include:
- Applying pressure to a wound
- Using ice to calm swelling
- Running cold water over minor burns
- Applying bandages and antibacterial ointment to cuts, scrapes and burns
Teaching them first aid empowers your child with potentially life-saving skills and knowledge. You can start by teaching them the above basic first aid techniques before moving into more in-depth skills such as CPR. Part of teaching about first aid is informing them what they need to do in dire emergency situations. You’ve likely heard stories in the news where a young child calls 911 emergency services in order to save the life of a parent, grandparent or a sibling.
9. Basic Cooking
Understanding basic cooking techniques is an essential life skill that kids will use daily as they mature into young adulthood. There are many benefits to teaching your kids to cook from an early age including:
- Learning to be independent: Cooking their own food and feeding themselves without any help from a parent teaches kids independence and self-reliance.
- Developing healthy nutrition habits: Cooking meals at home is healthier than eating fast food or processed frozen foods that require simply operating a microwave.
- Building their math skills: Learning to interpret recipes and measure ingredients for cooking their own meals passively builds their math skills.
- Building their communication skills: Reading and interpreting recipes teaches them to follow directions as well as procedures.
10. Imagination and Humor
Our ability to use our imagination to create and tell stories is part of what sets humans apart from other living beings. Once your child can communicate effectively, parents should start to foster their storytelling abilities and encourage them to use their imagination as much as possible. A sense of humor is developed alongside their storytelling ability. Think of your child’s favorite book, cartoon or movie and consider what about those is so captivating to your child. Many times, it’s the imaginative and humorous aspects of these that appeal to a child.
According to research conducted by the University of Rochester Medical Center, children should be able to use their imagination to tell stories using complex and compound sentences starting around age 5. This age also corresponds with their ability to rhyme and describe objects or people. These are all components to effective storytelling, using their imagination and developing a sense of humor.
Using their imagination to tell stories fosters their creative thinking skills as well as their communication skills. Effective and entertaining storytelling is an important personality trait that will help your child as they move into young adulthood.
Haymarket Children’s Academy Equips Your Child With Essential Life Skills
Teaching and equipping your child with these basic, essential life skills fosters their independence and confidence as they move from early childhood into young adulthood. Clearly, there are many benefits to equipping your child with the skills they need to succeed in the classroom, but teaching them the skills they need to thrive in their daily life prepares them for success as an adult.
At Haymarket Children’s Academy, we believe these essential life skills foster your child’s success both in school and daily life. We also know what types of life skills activities best promote their development. Haymarket Children’s Academy’s programs use play-based learning to teach your child essential life skills such as cooking, cleaning and good manners. Play-based learning is at the core of our curriculum as we strive to teach kids the value of self-reliance, independence and the essential life skills they need to be successful and productive members of society.
We offer a safe, nurturing environment where your children take an active role in their development. We are the premier childcare facility in Gainesville, Virginia and we’re dedicated and passionate about teaching your child the skills they need to lead a happy, fulfilling life. Contact us today to learn more about our programs or to schedule a tour of our award-winning school.