I have fond memories of my mother showing me how to sew a button and fix a hem as a kid. When I became a mom, I wanted to share the same experience with my children. But between homework and after-school activities, it often fell off my to-do list. Until the pandemic hit. Stuck at home and having more family time in hand, I taught my kids the basics of sewing while showing them how to hand-sew cloth face masks. We even made a sock monkey- a fun way to practice sewing buttons. I’m glad I finally made the time. Even if it seems simple or unimportant at this stage, I want to make sure my kids have the know-how to figure things out when they’re on their own one day.
Are you preparing your child to be independent?
There’s so much for our children to learn in today’s high-tech world that it can become all too easy for them to miss out on practical life skills. In fact, if you look around, you would be surprised to see how easy kids find it to navigate a smartphone, but very few could make their own breakfast or organise their own cupboard.
Life skills are skills that we can help young children learn that will prepare them to be successful in their life. Children don’t naturally know how to make good choices. Life skills help children know what to do in everyday situations as well as how to make good decisions about more abstract, long-term choices. If you work with your child to teach her life skills, you prepare her to manage peer pressure and make good decisions as she grows into adulthood.
Teaching your child life skills is not only important for self-care and sufficiency, it also allows them to feel empowered, works on socialization and reasoning, and helps develop healthy self-esteem.
10 Skills To Teach Your Child
While there may be many wonderful life skills for kids to learn and practice, there are a few that are particularly important.
1. Collaborative Skills
This skill focuses on a child’s ability to work and play with others. Collaboration is the ability to be connected and yet be unique in one’s own best self. It is about possessing strong social awareness and value healthy relationships. This skill is vital because great success in life often depends upon an individual’s ability to interact and work well with others, so they can cooperate with one another in achieving a common goal. Kids who learn self-control through team activities, how to encourage their teammates, how to help others and how to manage time are better prepared for work environments wherein these skills are invaluable.
2. Reading A Map, Using A Compass & Navigation Skills
If you’ve ever gotten lost following your GPS’s turn-by-turn voice directions, you know why being able to read a map is essential (even if it’s one on your phone). The ability to decipher a simple map in the early years builds on a child’s spatial awareness. This spatial understanding isn’t just a key part of STEM education but also prevents us from getting lost.
Start by teaching your kids how to mentally map their neighbourhood, school, or favourite playground. Then break out the old-fashioned map and compass and go on a walk in the park. Challenge your kid to navigate your drive to school one morning.
While every kid should be able to function navigationally without the use of a device, it’s a good idea to also have them learn to follow navigational directions on phones, a critical modern skill.
Games like treasure hunts don’t make maps look boring. Hide toys in your yard and then draw a simple sketch to mark their location. Show your 3 or 4-year-old how objects on the map correspond to those in front of them.
Have kids lead the way. Zoos, museums, and theme parks have colourful, easy-to-read maps. Once it’s safe to visit one, ask your preschooler to track their path and challenge an older kid to get you from point A to point B.
3. How To Make Healthy Choices
Healthy choices related to lifestyle form an essential skill in the long run. And we parents are our child’s biggest role model. It’s hard to stick to a diet and regular exercise routine, but you can make it easy for your kids by modelling a healthy routine, regularly stocking the fridge with fresh fruits and veggies, imbibing yoga and meditation into your daily schedule and taking regular family walks.
Let’s accept it, we are all born creative. Each one of us. And this holds true, especially for children. They have a robust imagination.
But the problem today is that with so much academic and peer pressure, social media presence and stressful schedule, creative thinking is something that’s not usually emphasised or developed enough in the growing years of our children. While we focus so much on creative thinking in toddlers and preschoolers, it slowly fades away as children get exposed to a more organised and structured environment. The irony here is that our creative thinking is the only factor that makes us superior to machines or super-computers. Thus, nurturing your child’s creativity as a critical life skill becomes even more important. It leads to problem-solving, promotes independent thinking, a desire to take initiative and a strong sense of optimism. Simply saying, it opens doors to enormous opportunities for your child.
How about encouraging out-of-the-box thinking in our kids by asking them to play the same game differently? Or simply by brainstorming new ways of playing with a set of blocks? Or by engaging in role-play activities? There are many ways to foster this- games like “what’s in the box?”, setting aside time for drawing and creative writing, and being sure to have a free-flowing storytelling time every night before bed.
The idea is to help them evaluate their own ideas and work around with their logical and emotional bent of mind.
5. Handling Failure
The process of making and learning from mistakes is an extremely valuable life skill because learning involves risk. Every time children take risks, they will not always be right. But, because they’ve tried something new, there’s always the chance they will succeed. Each new success enhances self-esteem. Each esteem-enhancing experience refuels their desire to try again and again and again.
Redefine the meaning of failure. Instead of making it sound like a big, scary and end-of-life kind of situation, show your children that failure is more about self-development than about defeat. Start drilling this into them from an early age, so that it becomes the rule rather than the exception in their books.
Introduce the concept of ‘trial and error’ and ‘learning and adapting’ in every activity kids indulge in, whether it’s sports, art, music, learning to eat, writing, talking and walking. Develop the concept of ‘Plan B’ so that they have alternate plans in hand in case of failure first.
6. Managing Boredom
Knowing how to be alone doing nothing is a critical life skill that must be nurtured by parents from the beginning.
There is a myth that doing nothing is wasting time when it’s actually extremely productive and essential. During empty hours, kids explore the world at their own pace, develop their own unique set of interests and indulge in the sort of fantasy play that will help them figure out how to create their own happiness, handle problems with others on their own, and sensibly manage their own time.
To change the dynamic, why not devote a nook in your house to a ‘quiet corner’ featuring a comfortable chair, a small work table, and a few calming toys and activities. While they’re enjoying alone time, you’ll get a break too.
7. Contributing To Society
While teaching kids the academic part of life is one task, nurturing them to grow up as compassionate, kind and empathetic beings is totally another ball game. Volunteering for simple deeds of kindness would not only give satisfaction and joy to your child but also help them grow up as selfless responsible citizens. Contribution is the intentional and purposeful service to others or the planet without the expectation of anything in return. Instilling basic values like kindness, gratitude and empathy should be an integral part of our nurturing as it forms an essential life skill.
8. Handling Emergencies, Knowing Basic First Aid & Self-Defence
Needless to say, safety and the ability to handle any emergency is of utmost importance in today’s times. Developing self-defence not only makes the child feel more independent, but also more confident.
Knowing parents’ phone numbers, house number, location of the house, knowledge of neighbourhood – these are key aspects of safety and must be taught in early years.
Also, because you are not always around your child, how about empowering them such that they can take care in cases of an emergency like a bruise, nose bleed or a bee sting.
9. Money Management
Money management is something many adults have trouble with. Now’s the perfect time to start teaching your children about money, its importance and how to manage it so they’ll be better prepared when they start earning a paycheck of their own.
Teaching your child in early years about how to save, donate and spend wisely can shape their future attitudes toward money. Ending financial literacy merely with the wise old saying ‘Money doesn’t grow on trees’ is not a great idea for millennials who are raising 21st-century kids. Imparting important lessons about money, including saving strategies and money-management skills, is crucial to help children achieve long-term success.
Introducing them to a piggy bank, opening kids savings accounts, taking them to an ATM trip, involving them in planning a family budget, letting them take a lead while doing grocery shopping and rechecking the bill are some simple ways to build on money management skills from early years.
10. Decision Making
Good (or bad) decision-making affects us all. So, without a doubt, teaching kids good decision-making skills in early childhood is a wise practice. Making good decisions is a life skill every child should begin learning at a young age.
Begin with basic decisions like chocolate versus vanilla ice cream, blue socks or white socks, playing trains or playing cars.
Truth be told, many children make decisions based on emotions or the spur of the moment. It’s a life skill to learn how to make thoughtful choices. It needs to be practised and taught. Help them weigh their options, evaluate the pros and cons of that decision and then let them make the final decision to see how things play out.
Life skills run the gamut from the concrete skill of deciding what to wear to the more abstract decision about choosing friends. Remember formal learning can teach your child a great deal, but many of the essential life skills are the ones you have to develop from early years.