There’s no question, your kids are learning a ton at school. But, while those academic lessons are important, there are also some significant life skills you’ll want them to pick up along the way that probably aren’t on the syllabus at school.
If you don’t want your child spending their first year of college mistaking liquid fabric softener for detergent or eating microwave-only meals, why not jumpstart their life-skill learning during childhood?
Here, we’ve identified seven skills your child can start learning before they even hit high school.
1. How To Cook A Meal
Learning to cook has tremendous value. Home-cooked meals tend to be healthier than those super-sized restaurant portions, and it’s much more affordable to cook at home than to dine out. But cooking seems to be falling out of favor—at least according to some recent statistics. In 2015, Americans reached a tipping point: Grocery spending lagged behind spending at restaurants.
Giving your kids some confidence in the kitchen can help set them up for financial success and healthy living habits in the future. One idea? Teach them a few easy and healthy recipes they can confidently make. Chances are they’ll keep them in their repertoire even after they’ve left home.
A good resource: Your children are almost never too young to start learning to cook. Here are the cooking skills you can teach them at every age.
2. How To Understand Money Basics
Only 17 states require high school students to take a course in personal finance, according to a 2016 Council for Economic Education survey. More colleges are starting to add financial literacy programs after finding young adults are clueless about budgeting basics. Give your children a head start by teaching them about budgeting, saving and managing expenses.
A good resource: The Mint, an organization dedicated to financial literacy, has resources for parents who want to teach their kids good money habits.
3. How To Do A Load Of Laundry
Lighten your load—literally—by teaching kids some laundry room basics. By the time your children are in high school, they should be able to separate clothes, and know how to use the washer and dryer. Bonus points if you can teach them to iron (or use the steamer to release wrinkles). Double bonus if you can teach them to get their own grass and chocolate ice cream stains out.
A good resource: Pinterest corralled some of the best tutorials for teaching kids to do laundry.
4. How To Do Basic Household Chores
In addition to laundry, help your kids create a habit of keeping a tidy home. This can include chores like vacuuming, dusting, cleaning and lawn care. Learning that a clean, organized home doesn’t happen magically will go far towards raising a responsible, self-sufficient young adult.
A good resource: This Montessori-inspired chart shows at what age to give kids certain chores—indoor and out. Kids ages 4-5, for example, should be able to help weed a garden or rake leaves, while kids ages 11 and up should be able to tackle lawn-mowing duties.
5. How To Grocery Shop
We already touched on cooking. But just as important is learning how to make a meal plan, write out a grocery list and stick to a grocery budget. The grocery store is full of valuable lessons, from reading nutrition labels to finding good deals and using coupon apps.
A good resource: Eat The Seasons is a cool website that tells you each week what’s in season. By teaching your kids to meal-plan around what’s in season, you can teach them a variety of lessons. For starters, foods taste best when they’re in season, they’re less expensive and you’re lessening your impact on the environment because they’re not being shipped from far away to your grocery store.
6. How To Fail
Are you still waking your tween up for school every day? Do you bail your kids out every time they forget their homework or leave a project to the last minute? Letting kids slip up feels antithetical to being a parent, but the sooner they learn how to problem-solve and that actions have consequences, the better off they will be.
A good resource: Read bestselling author Brene Brown’s advice on teaching kids to fail well. “Teaching them how to get curious about [failure], teaching them how to name it, teaching them how to ask for what they need,” she says. “That’s the gift that parents give.”
7. How To Manage Stress
From homework to tests, sports or extracurricular activities, and maintaining friendships, it’s likely your child has a lot going on already. A survey from the American Psychological Association a few years back found that 31 percent of teens feel overwhelmed as a result of stress. Why not help them learn how to combat it when they’re young? Teach your children how to handle stress and help them understand the importance of self-care.
A good resource: The American Psychological Association has strategies to help kids keep their stress levels in check. Among them? Getting enough ZZZs and staying active, whether by practicing yoga or joining a team sport.