Learning Life Skills

What are Life Skills?  Simply put, these are living skills or the skills you need to live your life.  Skillsyouneed.com defines the term better as the skills you need to make the most out of life.  As parents, we certainly have a set of life skills we have been using through the years.  We take care of ourselves, our household, and our loved ones on a day-to-day basis.  All these we can do because we have been equipped with life skills in one way or another.  So, how do we pass these on to our kids?  How do we get them at learning life skills?

As in learning any skill, the important areas to consider are your child’s cognitive skills, emotional regulation and social skills.  Check out my post about learning here. 

Possessing these “pre-requisite skills” ensure optimal learning of life skills.  If you think your child already have these skills, then he is ready to learn more life skills that his level and age can manage.

What life skills should we, then, target to teach our kids?

Here is a summary of life skills our kids should have at given ages:

2 to 3 years old

Doffing and donning of clothes

Basic grooming activities such as washing and wiping hands

Feeding self, using utensils

Packing away toys

kid, child, boy

4 to 5 years old

More grooming activities like brushing teeth, combing

Simple chores like watering the plants, sorting laundry into whites and colored

Simple safety skills like memorizing address and telephone number

6 to 7 years old

Bathing self and toileting aftercare

Preparing own bag with supervision: school bag or overnight bag

Simple food preparation tasks like setting the table, preparing drinks and making sandwich

Helping in the kitchen such as in washing or drying the dishes

Biking or riding the scooter

8 to 9 years old

Personal hygiene tasks such as nail trimming, ear cleaning

Choosing clothes appropriate for weather or occasion

Independent in school work such as in reviewing for tests and completing school projects

Household chores like making bed, sweeping, washing dishes, folding clothes, putting away groceries, taking out trash

Preparing food or baking based on a simple recipe with assistance on using kitchen appliances

Basic sewing

Making simple purchases (like in a mini-store or fast food) and counting change

10 to 13 years old

Using house appliances like washing machine, iron, blender, toaster, oven with minimal to no supervision

Cooking and preparing simple meals; can also follow a recipe with multiple ingredients

Simple baking, broiling and grilling

Stay home alone, and even take care of a younger sibling

boys, children, reading

Basic ironing and closet organization

More complex cleaning such as washing the car

Basic hand tools in fixing simple gadgets such as changing batteries

14 to 17 years old

Ready for budget and money management and open a bank account

Manage his time for his roles and responsibilities

Assist in complex tasks such as fixing a car engine or household appliances

Hold a simple job like baby sitting, typing jobs, church catechist

Learn how to drive and hold a student’s license by 16

18 years old and above

Prepare a resume

Pass a driving test and hold a non-professional driving license

Whew!  If you tried to read all of that, I am sure you got overwhelmed.  I know I did when I was researching about them.  It got me trying hard to recall if I hit them at the right age when I was younger.  The parent in me also felt the nerves that I have a long way to go in getting my son to learning life skills.  At his age of 10, I feel that he is so hesitant to do things on his own.  He also seems to be lacking confidence, not to mention, interest to do the things I ask him to, all by himself.

driving, car, car driving

As an OT and a hands-on parent, I try to practice what I preach and do the following in aiming for independence for my son and my kids in the clinic:

  1. Set up routine and be consistent.  At home, try to participate as a family.  Everybody, including parents, siblings, grandparents and other extended family, should be aware what is expected of one another.
  2. Give them the opportunity for independence.  You may need to sacrifice the quality of work initially but I’m sure you will reap the rewards later.
  3. Follow their lead and set up goals together.  Give your kids choices and the power to make decisions.  Dip their toes in the water and see what happens, if they like the task you give them, well.  If not, next task to try, please!
  4. Model the behavior. Sometimes, we don’t even need tell our children to do this or that.  When they see you do it and they are curious about it, they will initiate it themselves to try it.
  5. Take time to teach and fade assistance as necessary.  Patience is a virtue. At the start, you need to be there to help and supervise your child as he takes the initial rounds.  When you deem him good to go on his own, slowly step aside and let him shine!
  6. Learn together.  Explore strengths and weaknesses, and I mean, for both parent and child.  As adults, we may be aware of our strengths and weaknesses and it is okay to let your child know.  Help him find his own set of strengths and weaknesses as well.  It’s possible that you will find a common denominator.  Work on it and improve as a team.
  7. Lower your expectations and celebrate small victories.  Charts can be a big help, both for feedback and rewards.  This is especially true for children who tend to go on autopilot, like mine does.  Making them aware through visual charts not only motivates them, it also takes the unnecessary stress or negativity off your conversations.
  8. Aim for natural rewards and consequences.  Avoid criticism.  Always strive to look for the good, no matter how small it is.  I thank the son every day for washing the dishes, while mentioning he is very close at achieving squeaky and non-greasy plates and pans!
  9. Level up when they’re ready.  I tell our designated dishwasher that it is just training.  When he shows us that he has mastered dish washing, he will move on to another chore – car washing!
  10. Seek help where needed.  Ever heard of executive function skills?  These are skills needed in living life – doing daily tasks more efficiently and these may be the skills that your child is missing if no matter how hard you both have been trying, nothing’s changing.
selfie, beach, family

Life Skills are basically knowing how to properly do chores and so much more!

It’s always wonderful hearing about and seeing children helping at home!  Unlike other people’s notions, I don’t believe it is child labor.  It’s an exceptional life skill training parents can give to their children. By engaging them in these skills, they also, through experience, teach prized values (which are considered life skills themselves) like responsibility, independence, assertion, cleanliness, helpfulness, teamwork, decision making and problem-solving and the list goes on!  Why not start today?  Read about how to start teaching your kids to do chores, here.

Special thanks to familyeducation.com and busykidshappymom.org, whose posts about life skills, I’ve based the milestones I summarized in this article.

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