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Go Ask Mom

12 life skills to teach your kids on this snow day

Posted January 10

Involving your children with chores helps them to become responsible, understand the value of hard work, acquire useful skills and be more appreciative. Don't you want children who know these lessons early on in life? (Deseret Photo)

My job as a parent is to raise kind, independent, hard working and confident people, who are ready to leave the house when the time is right to pursue their dreams and make their mark on the world.

School is important. Manners are important (so they don't commit some horrible faux pax as they have a lunch interview for that dream job). Kindness is always important. And so is self sufficiency. I don't want to send them out in the world without knowing how to make a boiled egg, do laundry and take care of other household chores.

In other words, I need to teach them "to adult," as the kids are saying these days.

There's no time like snow days to get a little instruction in on those chores and life skills that will come in handy once they become adults. Here are a dozen life skills I'm teaching my kids, ages 7 and 11.

1. Sew a button. Let's start with the little things. I can't imagine having to schlep my button-less shirts to a tailor simply because I didn't know how to get this done. (Yet, I know some adults who have no idea how to thread a needle and re-attach a button). My tween can figure this out. My younger daughter recently learned how to sew a little pocket. Buttons aren't far behind.

2. Follow a recipe. All kids - from toddlers and up - should be "helping" to make family meals. Toddlers can help stir. Preschoolers can help cook (with supervision). Grade schoolers and up, who can read, should be able to follow a simple recipe. Don't start with something complicated like coq au vin. Start with something simple like scrambled eggs or even a box of macaroni and cheese and make sure cleaning up after themselves is also part of the experience. Before you know it, your daughter will be making her grandma birthday cakes from scratch. I know from experience!

3. Make a budget. Did your kids get some money during the holidays to spend? Are there things that they want and need? Now is the time to teach them the importance of a budget and how to make one. Life Hacker has some great tips.

4. Deal with the toilet. Sure, it's gross. Nobody wants to spend any of their day cleaning or maintaining a toilet. But it has to be done. Show them how to clean it. And show them how to use a plunger when it's clogged. Let's move on ...

5. Do the laundry. Younger children can make sure their dirty clothes get in the hamper, match clean socks and fold small things such as washcloths and underwear. Older kids can do the laundry - from start to finish. Both of my kids help with this regular chore. It often doesn't come out perfectly - washcloths aren't just so and clothes are a little askew on a hanger. But that's perfectly fine with me. If they're going to seek perfection in anything, I'd rather they not focus those energies on a folded washcloth.

6. Wrap a gift. Kids can take care of this chore, especially when they are the ones giving the gift. Teach them how to pull just the right amount of tape, cut the right amount of wrapping paper and fold it in just the right places. None of it will come out "just right," but it will get done and, more importantly, they will have learned a little something.

7. Maintain their space. I don't require spotless bedrooms at my house. Their bedrooms are their space and, as long as nothing is growing in there, I'm fine with however they want to maintain it. I do require, however, that they take time to take stock of everything that's in there and decide what they want to keep, what they want to toss and if there is a better way to organize or arrange what they have. (We'll be working on that today).

8. Use a broom and dustpan. Thanks to the great preschool teachers in my kids' lives, they actually learned this one at school from a very early age.

9. Make change. How many times have you been to a store where the clerk couldn't do simple math in their head and had to rely on a calculator or the cash register to figure out how much you were owed? Don't let that be your kid some day.

10. Use a map. With smartphones and GPS, maybe this one doesn't seem so critical - until you're out of range and can't pull up a map on your smartphone. Start with your neighborhood. Print out maps online so kids can see their street and understand how it fits in with the rest of their neighborhood and community. Help them find your usual routes to the grocery store or school. Eventually, they'll be helping to map out your next family road trip.

11. Show gratitude. Thank you notes for all of those Christmas gifts are a great start. But showing gratitude goes beyond writing the occasional note. Help them to see and appreciate the kind things that happen in their lives everyday. At dinner, sometimes, we go around the table and share the little things that made our days better.

12. Be bored. Constant stimulation from screens and activities isn't good for anybody. Let them be bored. For decades, researchers have said that unscheduled moments and hours are essential for our kids' development. Boredom encourages creativity and helps kids figure out what they really enjoy doing in life. And, it's kind of funny. When my kids complain that they are bored and I hand them a rag to dust the baseboards (my standard response), they pretty quickly find something else to do.

What life skills are you teaching your kids?

Sarah is a mom of two and Go Ask Mom's editor.

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