Teach a New Set of Life Skills

Apr 4, 2020 | Book / Activism Resources

(Ages are approximate, and every family is unique, so tweak this list so it fits your values and lifestyle.)

Help children do the following, at age . . .

Five and under:

  • Comfortably hold bugs; gently catch (and release) frogs and fireflies.
  • Express gratitude for food, toys, and gifts.
  • Make homemade cards and thank-you notes.
  • Choose clothes and get dressed; brush teeth and wash face.
  • Help with household tasks, including cooking, cleaning, laundry, and pet and plant care.
  • Begin mastery of shoe tying, coat zipping, buttoning, bike riding,
  • swimming, skating.
  • Learn own name, parents’ full names, address, and phone number.
  • Know at least six short songs by heart.


Six to nine:

  • Safely ride bicycle in town, and load bike onto city bus.
  • Build a fire and roast tofu or chicken hot dogs over flames, or potatoes in the coals.
  • Learn more homemaking skills, simple meal prep, knife use, and proper composting.
  • Make homemade gifts (such as candles, simple jewelry, artwork).
  • Make simple household cleaners from vinegar, baking soda, and water.
  • Assess whether clothes truly need washing/machine drying.
  • Count money, give change. Manage allowance. Save for longer-term goals.
  • Know how to get help in an emergency (neighbors to contact, calling 911).
  • Learn to listen to and comfort others who are sad, angry, or hurt.
  • Play an instrument (even a kazoo, recorder, or bongo drum) and/or sing a lot; dance regularly.
  • Meet with or write letters to school principal, mayor, or representatives about key issues.


Ten to fourteen:

  • Safely handle kitchen knives, pocket knives, matches, and lighters.
  • Know several rope knots.
  • Plan and prepare a meal with protein and veggies; broil or bake foods.
  • Read food and cosmetic labels; understand which ingredients harm human, animal, or planetary health.
  • Use basic hand tools: hammer a nail, drive a screw, use wire cutters and pliers.
  • Take a babysitting course and/or lifeguard class; learn basic first aid and CPR.
  • Start getting work experience (paid or volunteer); keep saving money.
  • Be comfortable stating or negotiating fair pay rate for jobs, such as babysitting or pet care.
  • Compare quality and prices when shopping; be able to calculate unit prices.
  • Oil bicycle chain and fill bike tire.
  • Take spiders outside comfortably.
  • Detect when any kind of food is spoiled.
  • Make some foods from scratch (such as muffins, cookies, granola, soup).
  • Understand uses of medicine and the dangers of misuse or overuse.
  • Make simple projects (like napkins or cloth gift bags) on a sewing machine.
  • Testify at city council or public hearing about a local issue they care about.
  • Know the signs of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental health risks.
  • Make good eye contact with adults during conversations.
  • Take a class in reproduction, sexual education, and self-care.
  • Get daily exercise inside or outdoors.
  • Type proficiently; be able to search internet without distraction from click-bait.
  • Be able to play three songs on a ukulele, guitar, or piano while others sing along.


Fifteen to seventeen:

  • Clean refrigerator, defrost freezer, change vacuum cleaner bag, clean stove, unclog drains.
  • Change flat bike tire, perform basic maintenance, install fenders and lights.
  • Charge an electric car or fill car with gas; perform basic maintenance.
  • Develop zero tolerance for texting or drinking while driving.
  • Clean a cut or scrape and bandage it, treat a burn, wrap a sprain.
  • Safely light a gas stove or oven or outdoor grill with a match.
  • Hang a framed picture.
  • Manage money: understand fraud protection and balance checkbook.
  • Buy and bargain for used items.
  • Find credible information sources; critique news and develop media literacy.
  • Set healthy limits with screen use, including ample nightly brain rest (phones off nine-plus hours).
  • Prepare a resume; interview for and get a job.
  • Volunteer or regularly do nice things for others, such as help unload elderly neighbors’ groceries.
  • Reset an electrical breaker, turn off water main, stop a running toilet, unstop clogged toilet.
  • Learn about healthy sexuality, and about what consent looks and feels like.
  • Memorize one song from another culture.


Eighteen and up:

  • Earn money, manage running of a household, manage personal finances.
  • Manage school and work deadlines; find healthy balance of work life and social life.
  • Develop good self-care habits; use exercise, sleep, and mindfulness tools to avoid stress.
  • Safely conduct Craigslist (or eBay, 5miles, Poshmark, or Kiiboo) transactions, and rideshares and car hires.
  • Understand apartment lease and other contracts, such as for rentals like Zipcars.
  • Understand interest rates and the serious implications of consumer debt or student debt.
  • Comfortably speak with doctors, professors, bike mechanics, landlords, clerks, farmers.
  • Navigate a campus or a new town.
  • Take risks, handle personal problems with compassionate communication skills.
  • Know our constitutional rights; know what to do in case of police encounter or arrest.
  • Register to vote, learn about social issues from reputable sources.
  • Vote.
  • Memorize one love poem.

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