The Delta Record | Life skills to teach your kids this school year

BUCKHANNON — Children and parents are likely settling into a routine after returning to school last week. However, learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom. “Very Well Family,” a publication devoted to family health and more, says, “The school year is a great time to teach your school-aged children many life skills.”

“Very Well Family” reports that practicing new life skills can help children manage transitions and emotions and may even aid in their social, emotional and cognitive development. One of the most valuable lessons is developing a consistent routine and practicing good sleep hygiene, especially when returning to school.

Experts have long studied and agree that children learn best through play, exploration and hands-on activities. An example from “Very Well Family” reads: “Children will benefit more from a third-grade math lesson that takes place in the kitchen than from a canned brownie mix compared to a math lesson that takes place in a manual.”

Of course everyone is different and you can use your own ideas on how to teach your children. But it can be as simple as asking your child to help you sort laundry, recycle boxes and plastics, or chop an onion. These are all things that will continue to be a valuable lesson throughout life and can be personalized and made fun.

It is also recognized that depending on your child’s age or skills, some life skills tasks may be independent while others may require your supervision or assistance. Either way, teaching something like a life skill can also be a bonding experience and create special memories that you can look back on.

“Very Well Family” has provided a detailed list of some recommended activities based on age groups. He can be seen below and for more details or information on family health and parenting visit

Preschoolers (2 to 4 years old)

To clean: Build on your child’s sorting and identification skills. Have them put their toys in the appropriate bins after they’ve finished playing, sort their books by color on the shelf, or line up their stuffed animals on their bed by size. You can even invite them to help you sort the laundry.

Know the emergency numbers: Does your toddler know their numbers? Teach them your home and/or cell phone numbers, as well as how to dial 911. Also see if they can memorize their address, city and state. You want to make sure they know how to contact close family members or friends in an emergency. Keep a list of numbers in a prominent place and have them practice under your supervision.

Choose clothes: Polka dots only coordinate with plaids in a 3 year old’s mind, but you have to pick your battles here. Learning to dress appropriately involves checking the weather and talking about the day’s activities, which is a great way to get a quick morning ride.

If your kids are back at school, ask them to take their clothes out the night before. It creates a predictable routine, saves valuable time in the morning, and teaches them to prepare.

Set the table: Looking for an easy way to introduce numbers, counting and symmetry? Look no further than a table setting, which offers the ability to arrange matching sets of silverware, plates and cups, as well as spatial and procedural memorization. Also allow them the freedom to add a few personalized touches to the table, such as handmade place cards or small pictures for each member of the family. They will feel proud of their work and look forward to dinner time.

Small children (5 to 7 years old)

Perform basic cleaning tasks: In addition to wiping down sinks and lightly vacuuming, have your child help you sort trash and recycle. Learning which materials are recyclable leads to good conversations about climate change, caring for the environment, and producing less waste. Plus, your kids might be very excited about finding recyclables and making sustainable decisions.

Preparing and sorting laundry: Teach children to separate light and dark colors. Ask them to empty their pockets before putting something in the washing machine and explain why a red sock will turn an entire load of white socks pink. In addition to helping you with endless drudgery, you teach Properties of Matter 101!

Make the bed: This skill is often overlooked during the school year for going out in the morning, but if your kids are learning at home, you may have more time to teach them how to make their bed. You could even develop a morning routine that includes making the bed as part of the preparation for the day. Incorporating this chore regularly instills a lifelong habit that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Develop your culinary skills: Stirring, mixing, shaking, whisking, all these activities are extremely popular with children. Also, popular? Crack eggs, use the blender (under supervision), and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Look for ways for your children to help prepare meals. Consider allowing them to help with meal planning for the week.

Big kids (8 to 10 years old)

Mastering intermediate cooking: You can probably teach your kids to scramble eggs, boil water for pasta, and make pancakes at this age. You can also teach them fractions by setting out measuring cups and having them double, triple, or even quadruple an easy recipe. And, if your children are particularly gifted or interested at this age, allow them to prepare a family meal (under your supervision, of course).

Learn to garden: Gardening is one of the best ways to combine life skills with science. For example, talk about how much sun tomato plants need to grow. You might even participate in a discussion about photosynthesis. Also talk about the different types of soil and what is best for plant growth. And be sure to mention those creepy critters that invade your garden and eat all the zucchini.

Use of common tools: Hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches – most of these tools require physical coordination, but they also require elements of math or physical science in the form of angles, force, momentum and speed. Look for opportunities for your children to help around the house using tools. For example, have them tighten the screws on the towel rack in the bathroom or help them hang a framed picture in their bedroom.

Loading the dishwasher: Believe it or not, you need some spatial intelligence to load a dishwasher, so everything fits in and gets cleaned. Tell your kids it’s like playing Tetris. Plus, making the task of loading (and unloading) the dishwasher a regular chore shows kids the importance of contributing to the efficient running of the home.

Tweens and Teens (11+)

Money management: It’s math, of course. While it’s important to teach your children how not to overspend on their earnings (benefits, gifts, or part-time jobs), they also need to know several other related skills. This may include calculating interest payments on credit cards and loans, comparing purchase prices, establishing a budget and filing a tax return.

You could even give them a set amount of money they can spend each month and encourage them to set a budget on how to spend it. They will quickly realize that the money does not go very far.

Learning housekeeping: Can your teen change a light bulb? Gas pump? Unclog a drain? To mow the lawn? If not, it’s time for them to learn. One day your kids will be living in a dorm or apartment while they’re at college or at work and they’ll need these basic skills. So, there’s no better time to learn them than now. Also, make sure they help with household chores like cleaning.

Mastering personal responsibility: There’s a lot to unpack here, but older kids should be comfortable making phone calls, arranging appointments to order food, planning meals, and budgeting their own time. In other words, stop pestering them to clean their room so they can FaceTime their friends; encourage them to establish a weekend schedule that allows time for both.

Likewise, if they have routine medical visits coming up, like going to the dentist or getting a flu shot every year, ask them to make the calls. Learning these skills now will establish the importance of taking care of their bodies and engaging in preventative health care in the future.

Hygiene management: If you’re still pushing your teens to shower regularly, use deodorant, and take care of their skin, it’s time for them to take charge of their hygiene. Let them choose their own products, decide what time of day they want to shower (morning or afternoon), and stick to a haircut or style of choice. Giving them some autonomy will go a long way in motivating them.

It can feel overwhelming to start teaching your kids life skills right now, and you don’t have to add them to your daily schedule if you already have too much to do. However, “Very Well Family” recommends considering it as an investment. By teaching your children some of these skills now, you may save time later. Helping your children become more independent can save you time and energy in the long run.

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