10 Important life skills to teach your kids when they’re young

Montessori Educator, Christina Clemer, shares 10 life skills to help teach kids independence, self sufficiency and confidence

father and son cooking in kitchen

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 3.

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!

  1. 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.

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.

  1. How to find their way

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!


More on Raising Kids

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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?