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Little girl washing dishes in the kitchen learning life skills

Checklist: 31 Life Skills Every Kid Should Learn

from making the bed to changing a tire

Summer—especially a socially distant summer—is a great time to teach kids valuable life skills. You don’t want them heading off to college without knowing how to do laundry or sew on a button.

And wouldn’t it be nice to have help fixing breakfast? Below, we have a checklist of age-appropriate life skills for preschoolers, elementary-age kids, tweens and teens. But slow your roll—don’t scroll down just yet.

Teaching these life skills is not as easy as picking a Saturday to cross off one item, then moving on to the next skill. So first, here are some tips for making these skills stick:

Not Just a Skill—A Habit

McKinney kids life coach Paula Brañez of All U Need Is U Kids Life Studio emphasizes that showing your child the ropes one time won’t cut it. “If you want your child to be successful, you have to create good habits,” she says. “By telling them how important it is to help at home, to make their bed, you are creating good habits that in the long term are going to be part of their life.”

She adds that giving your child regular responsibilities (aka chores) encourages them to take ownership of those tasks, instilling discipline while building their confidence.

“It’s not about the laundry,” she says. “It’s teaching them discipline, and it’s teaching them how to be organized.”

No Room for Perfectionism

Here’s the hard part for all of us Type A personalities: In order to hand the reins to our kids, we also have to let go of our need for control. Brañez struggled with this herself when she first taught her two daughters (ages 4 and 7) to make their own beds. There were wrinkles. (The horror!) They didn’t do it exactly how she wanted them to.

“Sometimes we are so perfectionistic that we don’t want them to make those mistakes. ‘If they don’t do it perfectly, I’m going to do it for them,’” Brañez says. “But it’s OK—they’re going to learn. And actually it’s a huge relief because now they are helping me do things that I used to do by myself.”

Confidence: The Secret Ingredient

You can order your child to make the bed; you can’t order them to feel confident enough to express themselves. “Confidence is not something that you can tell your kid to have,” Brañez says. “They have to have that self-love, self-validation.”

She works with kids to cut out negative self-talk (“I’m not good at this,” “I’m so dumb,” “Why did I make that mistake?”) and replace it with self-validation. For example, she has her young clients look in the mirror and recite things they love about themselves, including their talents and strengths. This helps them feel good enough to speak up in social situations, like talking to the server at a restaurant.

“For parents, that seems like something little, but it’s actually a huge step when kids are able to do that,” Brañez explains. So in addition to practicing the right words and gestures, you need to be consciously instilling confidence—and modeling positive self-talk—so your child can navigate social situations with ease.

Checklist: Life Skills by Age

Ages 3–5

  • Making their own bed
  • Dressing themselves
  • Brushing their teeth
  • Setting and clearing the table
  • Swimming (lifesaving basics)
  • Introducing themselves

Ages 6–7

  • Sorting and folding clothes
  • Choosing healthy foods
  • Washing dishes
  • Pulling weeds and raking leaves
  • Watering plants
  • Writing a thank-you note

Ages 8–10

  • Making simple meals
  • Ordering food at a restaurant
  • Opening a savings account
  • Counting change
  • Sewing a button
  • Taking phone messages

Ages 11–13

  • Washing and drying clothes
  • Ironing clothes
  • Making a grocery list
  • Using hand tools
  • Changing a lightbulb
  • Mowing the lawn

Ages 14–16

  • Planning and preparing meals
  • Shopping for groceries
  • Putting gas in the car
  • Putting air in and changing a tire
  • Opening a checking account
  • Making appointments
  • Tipping

Image courtesy of iStock.