11 Life Skills You Should Teach Your Kids

Life skills are valuable lessons kids will use throughout their lifetime. But most kids don't learn how to handle real-world situations until they're in high school. Don't wait until your kids are teens to teach them life skills.

Get a jump start on teaching your children practical lessons. Start with decision making and then build on each life skill lesson as your children grow.

Decision-Making Skills

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Making good decisions is a life skill every child should begin learning at a young age. Begin with basic choices like chocolate versus vanilla ice cream, blue socks or white socks, playing trains or playing cars. When kids reach elementary school age, they can begin learning about the rewards of good decisions and the consequences of bad decisions.

Walk your child through the many steps of decision-making. Help them weigh their options, evaluate the pros and cons, make a final decision and then see how things play out.

Health and Hygiene

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Your kids are never too young to begin learning about health and hygiene. In our hectic day-to-day shuffle, we're always telling our kids to take a bath, brush their teeth, wash their hands, and change their underwear. We never tell them why, though.

Explain why health and hygiene are always going to be crucial parts of their routine. As your children begin learning about this life skill, set up a chart that allows them to check off each task as they complete it. When these healthy habits are established, you'll be able to take away the chart and your kids will complete these tasks without you having to continually remind them.

Time Management

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Every parent knows how important time management is to keeping your family on track. But it's also important for kids to learn time management lessons when they're young.

Teaching younger children how to measure time, stay on task, and keep to a schedule helps make your days easier. Learning this life skill also helps them become masters of time so they can do everything from get up on schedule to ​someday getting to work on time.

Meal Prep

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Even the youngest children can learn how to prepare a meal. We're not talking about a five-course dinner, of course, but you can teach preschoolers how to fix a sandwich and elementary school kids to use the microwave. And from tots to teens, your kids can be your sous chefs when it comes time for you to cook.

As your children become more confident in the kitchen, they can add on other meal prep life skills like learning how to bag their own lunch, make healthy food choices, cook a simple meal on the stove with adult supervision, and plan their own meals.​

Money Management

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We teach our kids to count. We teach our kids basic math. We can take those lessons further and turn them into life skills they can begin using right now.

Money management is something many adults have trouble with. Teaching your children about money, its importance, and how to manage it will help prepare them for the day they start earning a paycheck of their own.

Teach your kids effective money management so they can learn how to save, spend wisely, and make change. It's also important for them to understand that using checks, credit cards, and cash apps isn't free money.

Cleaning

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Sometimes it's easier for parents to do all the housekeeping themselves. But that's a missed opportunity for us to teach our kids how to keep the house clean, which they'll eventually need to know when they leave your home and have their own space to take care of.

Start with age-appropriate chores that include learning how to make the bed, empty the dishwasher, and dust furniture. Also, think of the daily messes your kids make and how they can clean up after themselves.

For example, keep a towel or sponge in the bathroom that lets kids wipe away those globs of toothpaste they leave on the counter. When toys magically move from room to room, have kids throw them all in a basket so they can put them away at the end of the day.

Set a daily family housekeeping schedule to make cleaning a part of your child's routine, and stick to it.

Laundry

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If you have kids, you have a lot of laundry. Teaching your children how to wash, fold and put away their laundry is a life skill that will help them; it will also help you.

Toddlers can learn a lot by helping you with laundry, such as sorting clothes by color and understanding textures. As they grow, kids can start putting the clothes in the washer and transferring them to the dryer. Elementary school children can then learn how to operate the washing machine and dryer and how much laundry detergent is needed.

As laundry comes out of the dryer, you can show them how to fold their clothes and put them away. Pretty soon, they'll be handling all of their laundry on their own.

Comparison Shopping

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"I want it! I want it! I want it!" How many times have you heard this when your kids spot candy, a toy, a T-shirt, a fish, or just about anything else that they think they've got to have right now? As adults, we understand the value of the dollar and the importance of comparison shopping. However, we often overlook this valuable life skill we should be teaching our children.

The next time you're standing in the store caught between a hefty price tag and a child demanding for you to fork over your cash, take the time to get your phone out and search for the item on a variety of shopping sites. Show your kids how much that item costs at other stores and what comparable items there are that may be of better quality.

Maybe the one in the store where you are is the best deal and top product after all. But teaching kids to be smart shoppers and taking the time to comparison shop will help them save money everywhere they go while also making smart decisions about the products they choose.

Ordering at Restaurants

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As parents, we tend to place our children's orders at restaurants just to make things easier on the server. However, letting our kids order for themselves is fun for them and builds self-esteem and confidence.

Many restaurants have picture menus on the kids' menu so preschoolers can begin by circling or coloring what they want to eat. As that confidence grows, kids can begin verbally telling the server what they would like, from the entrée to the sides. Remind the kids to practice good manners by saying please and thank you after they order.

Getting Dressed and Ready

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Kids can learn how to get ready on their own at an early age. Let them pick out the clothes they'll wear the next day before they go to bed. Choose an alarm clock that's easy for them to set. Lay out their hairbrush and toothbrush. Use visuals to illustrate the entire process.

For example, take a picture of the alarm clock, their clothes, another one of their toothbrush, then hairbrush, and even the toilet to remind them to go before you head out the door. The pictures are daily flashcards until they get in the habit of getting ready all on their own.​

Maintenance Around the House

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Kids love to be your big helper and there's always light maintenance around the house that they can pitch in to do. Simple tasks include showing them how to change the toilet paper roll or bag up the trash. Older children can learn how to change a light bulb, unclog a drain, and change the vacuum cleaner bag.

1 Source
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  1. Nieman P, Shea S. Effective discipline for childrenPaediatr Child Health. 2004;9(1):37-50. doi:10.1093/pch/9.1.37

By Apryl Duncan
Apryl Duncan is a stay-at-home mom and internationally-published writer with years of experience providing advice to others like her.