When I left my parents’ home, I didn’t know how to do a load of laundry correctly.
That’s embarrassing to admit! I mean, what was I doing all those years?
Well… avoiding laundry apparently.
I was an outdoorsy girl who hated housework and would be outside helping my dad change the oil in the car, build chicken coops, and take care of the horses, chickens, dogs, and other animals.
I would have been perfectly happy avoiding laundry for the rest of my life, but eventually I moved out of the house, ran out of clean clothes, and had to wash them.
Enter the “overflowing washer” scenario.
No way, I’m not sharing details! It’s humiliating enough admitting that I didn’t know how to do laundry.
And I’m not telling you how my clothes smelled for years until I figured out I needed to use fabric softener, either.
SO ANYWAY… (classic diversion words)
I’ve made a list here of life skills every kid should know by the time they’re ready to leave home. Don’t wait until your kid isn’t a kid anymore (18+) to go over these – do it while they’re young!
Note: You can find how-to videos on youtube for any of these. I suggest watching them together and then having your kid try it himself or herself. Don’t just watch the video, it’s not enough! Real life experience is the best way to really learn something and have it stick.
1. Basic upkeep on a vehicle.
When the time comes for kids to learn to drive and own their own car, it’s vital that they know more than how to operate it. They should know:
– How to change a tire and where to find the jack and spare tire.
– How to jumpstart a car and where to get jumper cables.
– How to check the oil level and change the oil.
– How to pump gas themselves.
This very informative episode of I Love Lucy demonstrates just what happens when you don’t know how to change a tire:
2. How to mow the lawn.
Operating a lawn mower and keeping it running nicely is a great skill to learn. Unless your child plans on living in an apartment forever, its nice to know how to keep the grass from growing into grassland the lions would appreciate.
3. How to build a roaring campfire.
There’s more to building a good fire than lighting a match, setting it on some newspaper, and throwing wood on it. This is one of the most admirable survival skills to have because it is able to keep you warm and give you a place to roast a nice rabbit or squirrel. ; )
4. How to plant a vegetable garden.
Knowing how to grow your own vegetables can save money and provide better nutrients than are found in grocery store produce aisles. Teach your children how to plant from seed outside, and how easy it is to grow them indoors when necessary.
5. How to use a hammer, nails, and level to build something.
My dad owned his own construction company for many years of his life, so I was fortunate to have a pro as a teacher in this skill. There is serious value in learning how to make something useful, and it can be used in the future to bring in extra income – or even be the spark that lights a fire for a future career.
6. How to run a load of laundry (without ruining clothing).
Knowing how to use a washer and dryer to get your clothes clean and smelling fresh is a very useful skill, especially if your child will need to look nice for his or her job in the future. Getting whites white again, separating clothing by color to prevent discoloration, removing stains, knowing when to wash in hot water and when to wash in cold water, and understanding clothing labels are all important. Then there’s learning how to troubleshoot washer and dryer problems.
7. How to gut a chicken.
Ew. I hate this, but knowing how to clean a raw whole chicken is important because they are usually more affordable than pre-cut chicken.
Warning: This may be the catalyst that causes your child to turn vegetarian.
8. How to cook basic dishes.
I’m not talking packaged ramen noodles or macaroni and cheese, though that’s a start! No, I mean quick and easy basic meals. Fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Chicken soup with vegetables. Spaghetti. Meatloaf. And on the baking side, a simple berry pie and cookies.
9. How to sew and mend.
What do we do when we get a hole in our pants, or lose a button on our shirt? Do we mend it ourselves or put it in the Goodwill pile? Whatever you decide to do, knowing how to use a needle and thread to sew a patch onto a pair of jeans or re-attach a button to a favorite shirt are skills that are quickly becoming lost in this world of easy come, easy go.
10. How to write a check and keep track of transactions.
This is something you would hope most kids would know by the time they finish school, but surprisingly enough this isn’t always the case! I remember learning it in a math book when I was a teen, but often this isn’t included in formal curriculum and you may need to work on it together at home.
11. How to use a dictionary (a real one)
My dad loved to have us kids look up words that we asked the meaning of. We would pull out the big, heavy dictionary and search through the pages. Nowadays we have apps and online dictionaries that will give us the meaning to words instantly, but kids should still know how to look words up in a hardback dictionary. This reinforces learning alphabetical order and is great for retention as well.
12. How to use basic first aid.
This is something I wish I had had – not because I have a horror story to share (I don’t), but because I believe knowing first aid brings peace of mind and confidence. Bad things happen, and it’s always best to be prepared! You can take basic first aid classes at many hospitals and community colleges.
13. How to budget/save money.
This would probably have been one of the first mentioned if this list was in any kind of order of importance – but it’s not, so I’ll just say that this one is vital. Teaching good money-management habits early on will give your kids the edge they need to survive and succeed later on. Just as important is giving them an awareness of how not to spend and manage their money. Debt is scary! The best way to teach this is to give them the opportunity to earn money and then help them decide what is worth spending it on, how much to save, and how to invest.
Note: Let them make mistakes with their money! I remember as a child spending $40.00 on Littlest Pet Shop, back when they were cute. Money didn’t come to me easily, so it was a hard lesson to learn when later I was bored of the toys and wished I had bought something else. Which brings me to another point: If you don’t give your kids money and toys all the time, they’ll learn to appreciate them.
14. How to manage time and follow a schedule.
This one is fairly easy because you can start kids on daily schedules while they’re very young. I posted schedules and routines on the walls of my kids’ bedrooms when they were 2 and 3, using pictures to help them memorize each daily task. It began with simple routines, like what they needed to do when they woke up in the morning (make bed, brush teeth, use the bathroom, eat breakfast, etc), and became more detailed as they grew.
Managing time is more for older kids and teens who are getting closer to adulthood. They can write their own schedules for school or work, and in doing so learn how to get the most important tasks done early so that they have the rest of the day or week for free time.
15. How to shop frugally.
Men and women alike should know how to shop wisely, find good deals on staples for the kitchen, compare prices per unit, and use coupons. These can all be taught by involving your kids in the meal planning, list-making, and grocery shopping trips!
16. How to prepare and write out a resume.
Finally, every teenager should know how to write out an impressive resume that lists their strengths, skills, and accomplishments for future employers. This can be done in practice in their pre-teen and teen years so that by the time they are ready to find a job, writing a resume is easy and second nature to them.
That’s my list! Did I miss anything? What skills do you think are important for kids to learn before leaving home?