Let’s face it. We live in an age of convenience. In many ways, this is a good thing. After all, if you’ve ever found yourself confused trying to read a road map (and who hasn’t?), you’ll know what a blessing a GPS device can be. At the same time, certain things in life may be sacrificed for the sake of convenience. Chiefly, life skills. And life skills change with each generation. Chances are, your grandparents didn’t share the same frustration reading a road map as you do. But they also probably wouldn’t rely on a GPS system as skillfully as you can to find the most convenient route.
But there are life skills and there are simply… skills. The former are fundamental to all children if they hope to achieve any sense of independence or success in the world. Life skills never go out of fashion. The sooner you teach them to your child, the more well rounded and balanced he or she will be.
Laundry is one of those essential life skills that neither a Roomba nor Alexa can compete with. However, laundry is one of those chores that the people of your generation may not have learned until they were in their 20s. While doing laundry may be a chore to you, many kids actually find it fun. Of course, young children may not be able to independently to measure detergent or fold clothes yet. These are tasks you’ll need to teach them. But how many of us haven’t been mesmerized by watching a spin cycle turn round and round, even as adults?
It might seem that in this modern age of shorthand texts and emails that letter writing is a lost art. Well, it’s time for us to revive that art. Even toddlers who haven’t mastered writing the alphabet, much less a sentence, can participate in this life skill by simply dictating a letter to Grandma, Santa, or their favorite cartoon character. Writing a letter is a hands-on experience, from folding the letter to licking the envelope. Who knows? By the time your child reaches adulthood, he or she may have a command of the English language that his or her smartphone-raised peers simply don’t!
Oh, sure, everything from pizza to Indian food is available by ordering take-out through an app. But nothing can compare to a simple home-cooked meal. Furthermore, nothing can compare with preparing that meal with your own hands. The earlier you start teaching your child how to prepare food, the sooner he or she will learn to appreciate the time, effort and love that goes into each meal. No, your child is not going to be Wolfgang Puck at first. In fact, be prepared for a huge mess (depending on your child’s age, you may want to start off with something like a simple salad at first.) But home-cooking is one of those fundamental life skills that can be both fun and intimate — not to mention tasty.
Encourage children’s love of both nature and nurture by asking them to help you around the garden the next time spring comes around. In case you haven’t noticed, kids love to get dirty. You can turn that love into productivity by inviting your child to help you plant seedlings. You can start by:
- Having your child dig a hole larger than your plant’s container
- Delicately removing the plant from the container and placing it into the soil (depending on your child’s age, you may have to do this step yourself)
- Have your child pat down the excess soil to tightly pack in the seedling
- Let your child water the new seedling with a watering can (make sure that they don’t overdo this step)
It’s as simple as that! As an added bonus, we suggest having your child name his or her new plant to help them remember that it’s a living, breathing thing that needs extra care and attention.
One thing children love even more than getting dirty is helping out around the house. While it might seem that household cleaning contradicts the former, once you show your child how fun cleaning can be (OK… pretend that it’s fun), he or she take right to it! Your toddler may not put everything in the correct order. He or she will definitely miss a few spots. And you certainly don’t want your child cleaning the bathroom with heavy chemicals. But by teaching children responsibilities and chores at an early age — even if it’s something as simple as cleaning up their mess — the life skills you impart will last them throughout their teenage years, which can come creeping up sooner sooner than you think.
We hate to say it, Mom and Dad, but it’s inevitable that your kid will get all sorts of scrapes and bruises. Actually, a lot of scrapes and bruises. Learning how to treat those scrapes and bruises themselves early on is a life skill which can reassure children that it’s perfectly natural to experience physical pain from time to time. That doesn’t mean that your TLC is no longer needed for those ouchies and boo-boos. What it means is that you’re teaching them the most valuable life skill of all: self-reliance.
Even many adults have trouble managing their finances. Obviously, an 8-year-old isn’t necessarily going to manage your 401(K) for you. However, you can still teach children to apply the math skills they’re learning to everyday situations by helping them manage their allowance or Christmas “gifts” from Grandma by teaching them how to save and spend efficiently. A great example you can use to illustrate this concept is purchasing an inexpensive toy. Let’s assume that the toy costs $3.00 and your child has $4.00 in his or her piggy bank. You can have them consider questions like, “How long did it take for you to get that $4.00?” “How much do you need that toy?” “How long will it take for you to earn another $3.00?” By teaching children the value of money and how to save effectively, you’re not just teaching them about managing their money. You’re teaching your kids about managing their priorities. That’s something even parents can have difficulty with.
At Early Childhood University, our mission is to inspire as much as it is to teach. Find out more at Early Childhood University.