Your child is more capable than you realize. Even your preschooler can begin to learn these essential life lessons.
By Michelle Crouch from Parents Magazine
With so much for our children to learn in today’s high-tech world, it’s all too easy for them to miss out on practical life skills, whether it’s running a load of wash, reading a map, or handwriting a letter. A recent study by the online security company AVG Technologies found that while 58 percent of 3- to 5-year-olds in the U.S. can navigate a smartphone, fewer than one out of six (15 percent) could make their own breakfast. “I see many parents doing everything for their kids instead of letting them figure out how to fend for themselves,” says Tim Elmore, founder of Growing Leaders, a nonprofit in Norcross, Georgia, that works with schools and civic groups to promote leadership qualities in children. Start teaching these life skills now, and put your kid on the path toward independence.
1. Doing the LaundryToo many teens head to college with no clue how to clean their clothes. Don’t let your kid become one of them. You can begin teaching your child when she is around 6. If you have a top-loading washer, keep a step stool nearby. Walk her through the process—how to measure and add the detergent, choose the settings, and start the machine. Amy Mascott, who blogs at TeachMama.com, taught her three kids (now 9, 10, and 12). She chose cute names for jobs: Wash Warrior, Super-Fly Dry Guy, Put ’Em Away Triple Play. Mascott says there have been snafus, like the time a whole load was folded and put away damp. “But I’m not aiming for perfection. I’m aiming for them to get the job done,” she says.
2. Planting a SeedlingLots of preschoolers learn to plant seeds in class but not how to transfer sprouts into a garden. Whitney Cohen, coauthor of The Book of Gardening Projects for Kids, shares the basics.
4. Hammering a Nail
6. Preparing a Simple MealInvite your child to help make meals, assign him jobs to do, and stay calm when the flour spills and the eggshells fly, says Christina Dymock, a mom of four and author of Young Chefs. Yogurt with fruit is a good first DIY breakfast. Preschoolers can spoon yogurt into a bowl and add prewashed cut-up fruit. Work with kids 5 and older on making sandwiches and smoothies (monitor the blender closely). Around age 7 or 8, your kid can try toaster-oven faves like English-muffin pizza, or make a simple salad by ripping lettuce, dumping in croutons, and cutting up tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots. By age 10, kids can use the stovetop with supervision for a grilled-cheese sandwich. Focus on safety and practice, and you might just have a MasterChef Junioron your hands.
7. NavigatingIf you’ve ever gotten lost following a 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). These activities will build your child’s navigational skills.
10. Comparison ShoppingTeaching kids to be smart consumers takes practice. This three-step approach worked for our family: