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
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
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
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
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.