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Essential life skills every eight-year-old should have



It's not to late to teach these, if you haven’t yet

Lockdown offers perfect time to teach essential life skills


I confess: I did not learn how to sweep a floor until I was working at a country club at age sixteen, and I did not know how to wash dishes by hand until I was being paid to do so in a New York City bar at age twenty. I taught myself to clean a toilet soon thereafter, when it became painfully clear my bachelor apartment would not otherwise pass muster with visitors. I did not learn how to properly fold laundry until I was in a West End musical at age thirty and my dresser taught me. (Yes, I had a dresser.)

How did I arrive at adulthood so ignorant? As a member of Generation X, with an often otherwise-occupied single working mom, I was a classic latchkey kid, coming and going unsupervised from a very early age. Some things went by the wayside. Mom did teach me to do the laundry, to use a stereo, wrap a gift, and to make pancakes. Priorities.

Nowadays, even in two-parent households, it is actually more common for kids to not know the aforementioned skills, and many others.

As Deborah Cruz writes in Cafemom.com, “Somewhere between Gen X and Gen Z, society decided that kids should be overextended in full-time extracurricular activities, train for sports like they're going to the Olympics, and make TikTok videos like it's their job. Parents are scared to disappoint their children and chores seem to be a thing of the past.

But it’s baffling how the same 7-year-old who can master social media can't water the plants or load the dishwasher. We need a happy medium.”

READ MORE: Teaching your kids life skills

I concur. Though I confess that, when my son was heading off to college in 2016, I was ashamed to realize that his mother and I hadn’t taught him some basic cooking and cleaning skills. (He could – and can – make a perfect cup of tea, however. Priorities.) But in my defense, I should note his childhood had been quite different from his mom’s and mine. For one thing, his schoolwork was much, much more demanding than ours had been (really off the charts). We often reasoned he needed a break. Nevertheless, I scrambled to fill in the gap just before he left the nest.

Cruz has created a list of skills she deems most important, and, needless to say, not complicated. According to her, every eight-year-old should know how to do these things, and no parent should be scrambling like me to impart certain skills before a kid leaves home. Fair enough. Behold. Your eight-year-old should know how to:

  • Feed Pets
  • Help with basic laundry chores
  • Dinner prep and clean-up
  • Wash the dishes
  • Use basic household cleaners safely
  • Basic bathroom clean-up
  • Simple sewing skills
  • How to use a broom and dustpan
  • Preparing an easy meal
  • Grocery shopping process
  • Wrapping a gift
  • How to use a hammer
  • How to clean a bedroom
  • Treating a wound with basic first aid

There's no better time to get started than right now. You’ll thank me when the kids head to college.



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