Every parent wants a ‘life smart’ child. School holidays are here and with a bit more family time and less pressure, this is the perfect time to put some extra thought and effort into helping your children gain life skills to enable them to become more organised and independent.
Children watch you do things around the house all the time and, if you don’t usually invite them to join in with the activities/chores, then now is the time to start.
You will be amazed at how eager children between five and 12 years of age are to be involved, especially when you do things together. And there is an added bonus to passing on the baton of responsibility to your children – you become more confident in their ability to cope with life and so do they. It’s a win-win situation.
Activities that teach kids ‘how to’
Here are a few ideas for getting started with a child in primary school:
- Sort out their room and give it an ‘autumn/winter/summer clean’. Children today have so much stuff (that they both need and don’t need). During the holidays it’s time to clear their cupboards out of clothes that no longer fit and toys, games and books that they no longer use, or that they have outgrown. And while they are at it, show them how to wipe down their shelves, vacuum their cupboards, fold their clothes, tidy their books and toys, and to make choices about what to keep and give away (together with you, of course!).
- Hand me downs and giveaways. Teaching children to let go of possessions they no longer need, fit or treasure, whether it be to siblings, friends or to those less fortunate than themselves is an opportunity to teach generosity and kindness.
- Sew on a button. While sorting out clothes, if you come across a school shirt or dress that is short of a button, this is the time to teach your child how to sew on a button (from about age 10 onwards). Sewing is not a gender specific task, all children need to know how to do this. While on the topic of mending clothes, check for hems that may be falling down too. Even if your child is too young to learn how to sew, letting them see you doing the task and showing them how you do it is important.
- Polishing shoes. Before they put their school shoes away for the holidays, show them how to give them a good polish and shine. It shows respect for property and hey, when the new year starts there will be no last minute scrambling to get the job done. Life skill acquired too. Tick.
- Ironing. This is one of the trickier chores to teach and you must show children how to avoid burning themselves. I would suggest this is a life skill for 12 year olds and up. Once again, it is very empowering.
- Packing for holiday. Packing up a family to go on holiday is a big job if it has to be done largely by one parent, which is often the case. Teaching children how to pull their weight is not just about passing on life skills but also about self-preservation. Do the same as the above example, except when packing for an extended period away there is a lot more planning required – this is part of teaching the life skill:
- How many pairs of undies do you need for 7 days?
- How many T-shirts, shorts, jeans, jerseys etc?
- What about shoes, hat, swimming costume, towel etc?
We need to create thinking children who are able to plan and make decisions. Children who grow up to be helpful and supportive. Of course they don’t know how to pack a bag well at the age of 10, but they will get there. That’s the journey.
Also get them involved in choosing the toys and games that you are going to pack:
- Family games
- Travel games for the car
- Individual favourites such as a teddy bear etc.
- Unpacking bags after a day out. If your child has been out for the day or had a sleepover, there is always a bag to unpack. Dirty clothes must be thrown in the laundry basket and wet costumes and towels must be hung out to dry. Teach them to do this for themselves from an early age.
- Make a bed. If children over five don’t make their own bed on a daily basis, then when you are away on holiday in a self-catering house there may be opportunities to do chores that one doesn’t usually do at home. This is a great opportunity for kids to learn.
Enjoy the journey to creating a ‘life smart’ child.
Creative parenting expert, inspirational speaker and co-author of Tech-Savvy Parenting (Bookstorm, 2014), Future-proof Your Child (Penguin, 2008), and Easy Answers to Awkward Questions (Metz Press, 2009)