10 Life Skills To Teach Your Kids From 3 Years
Montessori Educator, Christina Clemer, shares 10 life skills to help teach kids independence, self sufficiency and confidence.
While academic skills are important, one of our most important jobs as parents is to prepare our kids for the real world. Here are 10 every day life skills to practice with your tot from the age of three.
10 life skills to teach your child
#1 How to clean a mess
You can see that it’s about to happen. The glass of water is right on the edge of the table. The ice cream is dripping down your child’s arm. The box of sequins is about to spill everywhere. Our instinct is to prevent these minor mishaps, but these can actually be great opportunities to teach your child how to clean up a mess.
Make sure your tot has a small sponge, towel, broom and dustpan accessible for spills. If you show them how, they’ll soon be rushing to help clean all on their own! You can also give them toys like the PlanToys Cleaning Set that help encourage role play.
#2 How to pack a lunch
Showing your child how to pack their own lunch is a great lesson in planning, as well as nutrition. If your child is very young, give them simple choices. Let them choose which fruit they want in their lunch and show them how to wash and chop it. Products like the Sprout Sous-Chef Toddler Tower can be a great way to help your safely reach the kitchen counter.
If your child is a bit older, explain to them which components their lunch needs, such as a fruit, a vegetable, a protein, and a carb, and let them choose something in each category. The PlanetBox Rover Lunchbox is a bento-style box that has multiple compartments which kids love.
#3 How to find their way and get help
Getting lost never feels good, but as a child, it’s downright scary. Help your child learn your address and phone number. If they can read, walk them around the neighborhood and show them how to read the street signs and how to read a basic map.
Perhaps most importantly, tell them who they can ask for help if they ever do get lost. Show them what police uniforms look like and how to identify safe grown ups to talk to. Tender Leaf Toys has a fun emergency vehicles toy set that can be great props for this lesson.
#4 How to research
If your tot is anything like mine, they ask you dozens of questions every single day. Choose a time when you are not in a hurry and show them how to research.
For a young child stick to books. Show them how to look in a book about animals to find out what hippos eat. Show them how to use a dictionary to find out what a word means. If your child is a bit older, you can show them how to find information online and how to determine which sources are credible. We are currently loving Uncle Goose Dinosaur Blocks for an interactive learning experience. There are nine blocks with two debossed sides with an ancient reptile’s name, skull, and footprint, two printed sides with an illustration and size and two sides with the time period and geographic area.
#5 How to budget
Choose an activity, like going to the zoo, and give your child a budget. Let them know how much they can spend for the entire outing, how much tickets cost, how much food costs, etc.
The important part here is to let them deal with the natural consequences. If they choose to spend all of their money on balloon animals, they may not be happy with their lunch choices. As your child grows, let them design the budget for something more involved like a camping trip or overnight stay at the beach. Little savers can start early with his adorable London Bus money box from Tender Leaf Toys.
#6 How to pack for a trip
While it’s certainly easier to just pack for the entire family, getting your child involved can be a great lesson in organization. For a toddler, start small and let them choose which 5 shirts to bring, or which 3 books. For a preschooler, help them make a list of everything they will need and let them gather and pack their own things.
Designed for kids to carry and pull themselves, the Olli Ella See-Ya Suitcase is the perfect starter luggage.
Available in more colors
#7 How to follow instructions
Whether it’s putting together furniture, making a new recipe, or figuring out how to use a new camera, there are plenty of opportunities to show your child how to follow instructions. The beauty of this skill is that children can practice before they learn to read, as manuals often have pictures.
You can also use toys like Legos to help your child learn to follow instructions of course, but they do get a certain sense of accomplishment from helping you put together their new bed! The Hape Medieval Castle is perfect for 2 years +
#8 How to have a phone conversation
With texts and emails, many children are no longer exposed to regular phone conversations, but they still need to learn basic phone etiquette. Ask a friend or relative to call your child once a week Show your child how to answer the phone and what to say.
If your tot would like to practice before getting on the phone, you can always use dolls, stuffed animals or toys like the Petit Collage Magnetic Dress Up kit in Best Friends or Superheros to practice dialogue.
#9 How to organize
Next time you’re stuck inside on a rainy day, gather a pile of miscellaneous objects (think buttons, paper scraps, pennies, etc.) Dump them out with your child and let them organize the objects. They might sort them by color, by size, by shape, or by weight. There is no right answer, but this exercise helps young children think through how to organize things.
They can also practice with real life tasks of course, like helping you sort laundry or organize their own toys. Loose part play toys like this set from Grapat is fantastic for this.
#10 How to make a grocery list
Start small and let your tot make a list of breakfast supplies for the week. As they gain skills, your child can sit with you and help pick recipes and list out all of the ingredients you will need. Show them how to check the pantry to see what you already have, and how to organize the list to make it easy in the store. There is no end to the list of life skills you can share with your tot. Once you get started, you’ll see opportunities everywhere. They will relish the one-on-one time with you, and you will see them growing more independent and confident each day. It’s a win-win!
While we have a lot of favorite food toys, the Hape Healthy Basics Set is great for role playing grocery store shopper!
More on Raising Kids
- Thinking flexibly about gender benefits our children, both now and in their future. Here are ways to encourage a healthy understanding of gender roles in our article on Encouraging health gender roles in children.
- While praise can nurture your child and boost their self esteem, if over used, it can also have the opposite effect. Find out how to praise your child effectively in our article Good job: Is praising young children a good idea?