What Are Life Skills and Why Are They Important?
What are life skills?
"life skill - noun -
plural noun: life skills
a skill that is necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life."
That's a good definition.
The internet also says:
"The Ten core Life Skills as laid down by WHO are:
Well, that's interesting, and I feel confident that any child raised in a respectful, nurturing, natural learning environment would certainly be very familiar with all those skills by the time they're adults.
But I was thinking more along the lines of what practical things we can do with our children to help them towards independence with REAL living - keeping themselves clean, safe, fed and subsequently being able to share those skills with others.
During my early years as a parent I often felt like I was dropping the ball big-time as I saw other families around me training their children with chores and schedules. I tried various strategies to get things moving along those lines, but for many reasons we never stuck with anything.
I now realise that what I DID achieve was far better for our family, and our specific children, than we ever could have achieved following what SOME OTHER PEOPLE WERE DOING!
It's ok to have plans and schedules, and work with them for a while and then drop them and move onto the next thing. It's ok to realise that your day can be planned out until lunchtime and then things regularly "fall apart" or CHANGE day to day. It's OK! And we need more people saying this to combat the others who will make parents feel like they're failing unless they provide the structure of a prison system!
That's not helpful if you're reading this and you're in knee-deep in young children and you want ANSWERS - you want PLANS - you want to know EXACTLY WHAT TO DO SO YOU CAN SUCCEED. You don't want LEARNING GAPS, you don't want CHILDREN WITHOUT SKILLS, you want self-motivated, hard-working, capable, responsible, thoughtful, kind, caring children who grow up to be FANTASTIC ADULTS.
I know xxx
And I'm sorry there isn't one plan you can follow, and there are no guarantees at all because your children are INDIVIDUALS with wills and desires of their own. So take time to learn about your children, find out how they receive information best, give them space and confidence to ask you questions - and meantime, you can work on life skills that YOU consider to be important.
COOKING: I didn't have my older boys helping me in the kitchen until they were 7 and 9. And this was only because I was stuck on the couch feeding my next baby, calling instructions for toasted cheese sandwiches (we lived in a shed, so I barely had to raise my voice - it was very cozy!).
But cooking skills didn't really stick until well into their late teens/early twenties for those two boys. Cooking just wasn't their thing!
But some children are extremely interested in the process of ingredients to plate, and will ask for opportunities to cook/make salads/smoothies etc. Encourage that!
Another skill is
DOING LAUNDRY: MANY toddlers love to assist with this job ... if you have time and patience then this is wonderful. If you happen to have another baby by this time, or other things that require your limited time and coping, then it's a bit tricky!! But by the time your child is old enough to be able to remember the steps involved, then get them alongside and go over the process with them, several times, or many times, until it sticks.
CLEANING A HOUSE/VEHICLE: can be overwhelming unless it's broken down into smaller chunks. Watch to make sure that your child isn't overwhelmed when you introduce new tasks to them. Break it down, make a chart, or forget about it for 6 months. Your child - your family - your rules, and subsequently you don't need permission from anyone if you want to change those rules!!
KEEPING YOURSELF CLEAN: this is a big challenge for some children. My personal belief is that a parent should keep helping a child in the toilet, shower or bath for as long as they ask (when you are available and able to help). Remember that one day it will be the last time you wash their hair, or wipe their precious little behind, and they will be independent in that regard! Take the time to go over a skill if you notice that there is some "error" in their work (like skiddy undies, or water all over the bathroom floor after a shower). Depending on the child it might be good to get them to walk you through what they do, and then you can gently suggest an improvement to their system when you spot where the problems are coming from.
LOOKING AFTER MONEY: budgeting, spending, comparision shopping, banking, interest rates etc - these are all skills that young people need to know but not many are taught. Let's make sure our children at least have a basic knowledge of these before they live independently. Even after they move out, they should know that it's ok to come back and ask for help and advice.
There are so many other life skills I don't have time to talk about! Things like - how to return an item in a shop for a refund, my rights as a citizen, basic laws, basic road rules even ones pedestrians must follow, how to grow food in a garden, mending clothes, how to de-clutter, navigating a new city, first aid - starting with how to clean a wound correctly and going on to CPR ... and don't forget that it's perfectly acceptable to learn these skills ALONGSIDE our children if we haven't learned them yet.
There are several ways we'd like to encourage and equip you with regard lifeskills:
- the first is a list I've made in the Adventures In Natural Learning Handbook (Idea number 440). Over 20 skills you can easily cover with small children - if you were to choose two per month to play with/practice, then by the end of the year your child will know how to correctly: open and close drawers and doors, pour water, take their shoes off and put into an appropriate place, cut with scissors, wipe their shoes on a mat etc.
- another is idea number 354 which lists some items you might like to collect for woodworking.
- and in idea number 356 I list lots of lovely bits you can put together for your children to pay with in water. Skills learned in this way build the foundation for many skills later on.
Another, and very exciting way we can encourage and equip you lovely parents/teachers/caregivers is a new "Collection" in our shop!
It's called "Life Skills - Tools & Resources" We've carefully considered what items we personally have used, enjoyed and would recommend for their effectiveness and affordability, and we've also looked carefully at what brands provide longevity, safety and value for money, in relation to many life skills.
There are also fun items like a pack of five disposable piping bags (to make your baking more decorative,), paper doilies for tea parties and bamboo toothpicks to make party foods or a fun afternoon tea.
You may notice that some of the items in our Life Skills - Tools & Resources collection cross over into other collections - the doilies can also be used for crafts, the silicone-tipped tongs are fun to play with so they're in the "Toys, Games & Sensory Tools" collection - as is the gorgeous-feeling collapsible silicone funnel
(this funnel will be a hit with your sensory-seekers when they're playing or cooking!).
Please go and check out our shop, and look over the beautiful items we now have for sale, and maybe consider getting yourself a copy of our Handbook to make life easier as you build beautiful relationships with the children in your care. xxx