My children aren’t perfect, by any means. But I will say that in raising them I have tried to instill life skills before age 5 that reinforce responsibility, dependability, and helpfulness. Basically before they start kindergarten, every child I believe should be equipped with basic life skills.
So many skills are fairly easy to teach from an early age but when they’re in their teens, it’s not easy to get them to do all of the chores that need to be done around the house. That’s because if we stay consistent as they enter those years of concrete cognitive thinking, they already have a foundation for understanding what’s normal in family life.
Kids are naturally curious about the world around them. They are always asking questions and want to learn more about how things work.
Bringing them in on the job and the processes both fulfills this curiosity and teaches them life skills along the way. It shows them that we value them, that we value their time, and want to help empower them to be able to do things on their own in the future.
7 life skills we expect our kids to start learning before age 5
Here’s the thing, if you have kiddos that are older, these are still applicable and they will be topics of conversation daily no matter the age. But the better we do about introducing life skills before age 5, the more likely they will see them as a normal and daily part of life.
Implementing habits in early childhood gives them a solid foundation.
Fold & Put Away all Laundry
Folding laundry can be difficult for young children; however, this process provides the opportunity to teach kids about order and organization.
They love sorting clothes into colors and then putting them neatly away in their drawers or hamper. It’s a satisfying feeling for kids because it promotes their motor skills and also teaches them life skills like staying organized.
They might not know how to put clothes away in drawers or in closets – which is where you come in! Teach your child how to fold and put away their laundry so they can take pride in doing this chore on their own in the future.
Owning up to their mistakes and facing the logical consequence is an important life skill for young children
While it’s natural to go through a lying stage to protect from getting in trouble, it’s also important that our children know that lying is only a story to keep up with and that there are far worse consequences down the road for backpedaling and lying than standing firm in admission of their wrongdoing.
In general, we want our kids to know that mistakes are a part of life and there are still consequences, but that building the trust and respect of the people around then hinges largely on how they deal with those instances.
So maybe really the life skills are how to teach children to build trust and garner the respect of the people around them, it all stems from being trustworthy even when it hurts a little.
Pack their own bags (after making a list)
Teaching younger children about thinking through a list of what to pack and then actually following through with packing itis a great way to teach children the benefits of being organized. It also teaches them to take responsibility for their actions.
The prefrontal cortex is responsible for decision making, reasoning, and motor skills. These are all skills that are necessary in order to perform any task in an organized manner.
When children are asked to pack their own bags after they make a list, it forces them to develop these skills at an early age.
Order their own food and ask for their own refills
If given the opportunity, many children love ordering their own food and asking for their own refills. But some are more shy and apprehensive. Over time, the practice for either personality makes them feel like a big kid and it develops their confidence. Plus, servers are typically so kind and responsive to little voices that are commanding their attention.
As homeschoolers, we also believe that this is an important part of socialization. We believe that being able to follow social cues and interact with people of all ages and in varying situations creates valuable lessons.
It is important to note that when kids order for themselves they have to be able to talk loud enough so that the server can hear them. Often we have found with our girls that we need to remind them to either go make eye contact with a server or wait to get their attention at the table. It’s definitely a small step that helps improve the child’s communication skills.
Clean up after themselves
My children are not great at this, but do they know it’s something that they should do? Absolutely. In fact, I think many adults will often negelect the daily maintenance of tasks they know they should do thinking there’s always another time but then get overwhelmed by the enormity of the project once they get to it (cue references to the section on learning natural consequences).
Therefore, reinforcing over and over the need to clean up as messes arise points to making tasks smaller and more manageable for themselves in the long run and not as daunting.
I will often ask for a room to be cleaned up only for my second to throw a fit longer than it would have taken her to finish the job. SO I started using a visual timer in effort to prove to her that her time invested was minimal.
Here is an affiliate link to the visual timer we use (we earn from qualifying purchases) and have had great success with. One of the easiest ways for my kids to understand time is to use the visual timer in succession of three or more tasks with a fun activity at the end.
This means that I show the kids that it will only take five minutes to clean the dining room, 5 minutes to pick up clothes, 7 minutes to clean up the entry room and clean the floor for a total of 17 minutes. Then maybe we will play a board game together when all of our jobs are done and I will show them how it took us 45-60 minutes to play the game.
Pick from and water the garden
I fully believe that every child should know where their food comes from and at least some of the basics in caring for even a window garden. The better we teach them about food, studies show, they will eat better long term and be more inclined to taste the food they grow themselves.
When we teach our children about life we teach them that all life needs food, air, water, and tending to… and that all life eventually dies. So even if you don’t have pets, it becomes a beautiful picture of what it means to live and gives children a better understanding of what it means to tend to life. As they grow older, we start to help them understand that we have to care for and tend to ourselves as a parallel analogy.
Realistically gardening is also a life skill because we eat every day, more than once. Therefore if our children didn’t learn to become something with a fancy name ending, but knew about growing food, they could help provide for themselves. And I would hope that even if they got advanced degrees and amazing careers they would still take the time to enjoy growing their own food and/or foraging some from nature.
Related: Garden Ideas for Kids
Take the dog outside & give him food and water
This is similar to gardening and I realize maybe not everyone has a pet. But maybe even a fish for a short time would help reinforce some of the point here.
When you first give them this task, it might be hard for them to remember all the things they need to do like feed their pet, give him water and make sure he gets outside, but over time it will become second nature to them because it will become a part of their routine.
It trains them to be aware of someone and something outside of themselves. That while they have their own needs so do all living things and people around them.
The goal is to teach children about responsibility, but also about life skills. By giving them the responsibility of caring for a living being, they are learning real-world skills that can help them later in life – like how to take care of themselves or how to take care of others.
What life skills before age 5 do you find to be essential?
Don’t forget to grab our chore charts!
It’s 17 pages and includes a guide for how to use it most effectively. There are also several pictures, chore puzzles, and even contracts to sign with your kids. Yes, we even did this as young as three! It’s both written and includes visual cues as well, making the whole packet of routines and chore charts fully customizable.
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living on a farm in New England. She believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience and has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development. She is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!