This post contains a sponsored inclusion of Candlewick Press, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board.
Before ever becoming pregnant, I envisioned myself as a girl mom. I was enamored with the idea of raising a strong daughter who can also embrace her softness. And while that dream eventually came to pass, my son came first. I thought I had to reframe my original goals when I got pregnant with a boy, but after three years of being a boy mom, I’ve realized that the end goal is still the same. My desire for both my kids is that they learn the life skills needed to be resilient yet kind adults—the journey getting there will just look different for each.
My husband and I have been very intentional about dismantling the cultural and societal gender roles we were both raised with. Now that we have both a son and a daughter, we have the distinct opportunity to show them a family unit that pitches in anywhere and everywhere regardless of what the “norm” is. This is especially important in a modern age where countless basic life skills are lost on younger generations. Even as young millennials ourselves, we realized quickly into our marriage that we had missed out on many basic skills needed to maintain a household.
With this goal in mind, we started teaching our son independence very early. We also enrolled him in a Montessori preschool because it centers around self-directed, hands-on learning, but I don’t think teaching kids basic skills requires a specific technique—just lots of patience. Here are the five life skills we’re teaching our son (and eventually our daughter).
1. Baking From Scratch
Teaching kids how to cook and bake from scratch not only provides them with the most basic of survival skills but also introduces them to science and math. It’s also a great bonding experience for families when done in the correct circumstances. Preferably not when you have exactly 20 minutes to cook a meal cause, trust us, that will not end well. You can involve them in easy prep first like scooping or setting out the ingredients then work your way up to the hard stuff.
You know your kid and yourself best, so pick a meal and timeframe that feels achievable for the both of you. Also keep realistic expectations in mind. No matter your kid’s age, they will certainly make mistakes while helping, but that’s all part of the process. We also recommend following child-friendly recipes to keep things fun and simple. David Atherton’s Baking Book for Kids is the perfect resource for baking with children between the ages of 5 and 9. As a former international health advisor, he keeps nutrition top of mind when creating his recipes, so you can feel good about what you create.
This child-centered baking book is a great resource for getting littles involved and excited about the baking process. The 2019 winner of The Great British Baking Show, David Atherton guides readers through countless delicious recipes from savory treats to sweet baked goods. The oven-hot tips, equipment list, step-by-step instructions, and delightful illustrations make this collection of mouthwatering recipes a must for families who want to learn how bake from scratch.
2. Communicating Basic Needs
These life skills for kids start from day one, in my opinion. As a naturally talkative person myself, I’ve been chatting with my kids since they were in the womb. I also taught them some sign language when they were infants since non-verbal communication is equally important for language development. We’ve also been consistent about narrating our actions, reading books daily, and verbalizing our feelings. It’s my belief that all of this effort will (hopefully) result in a young man who knows how to identify his emotions and speak his desires clearly.
Now that our son is 3, we’re starting to see success with his communication skills because, frankly, now we can’t get him to stop talking (lol). He’s very clear about his needs and leaves little room for misunderstandings. Now that his vocabulary is growing well, we’re introducing the concept of tone and inflection. How you say things matters and manners matter. So we not only correct him when he makes “demands,” but we try to set that example for him as well. “Can I please have another snack?” This one’s probably gonna take way longer to set in, but we gotta start somewhere, right?
3. Maintaining a Bathroom
Most parents can agree that potty training is truly the beast of toddlerhood. Nearly nothing will make you want to pull your hair out more than a 2.5-year-old who’s running laps around your kitchen because they refuse to sit and empty their bladder. It would take approximately 15 seconds to just get it over with, but they rather put it off for another half hour in discomfort—toddler math.
It took a few months on-and-off for us, but our son was finally potty trained shortly after his third birthday. However, I’ve realized that we traded dirty diapers for dirty toilet seats thanks to an unpracticed aim. So our next lesson: clean it up. There are now three people sharing bathrooms, so he’s going to contribute to the upkeep just like the rest of us. Right now it’s just wiping off the seat, putting it back down (very important), and restocking toilet paper, but eventually, we’ll get to the deep cleaning once he’s old enough.
4. Putting Away Clothes
Washing three loads of clothes? Simple. Putting three loads of clothes away? Impossible. This skill is partly for his benefit and partly for ours. But what I’ve learned is that kids actually enjoy learning new things, especially things that they consistently watch their parents do. The first time we taught him how to fold pants and put hangers in his shirts his face lit up. He was so excited that he accomplished this seemingly small thing. Now he gets pumped when he sees the bag of clean laundry in front of his room. I know it won’t be exciting when he’s 13 and rather play video games, but at least it will be a chore he’s accustomed to doing.
5. Setting and Respecting Boundaries
This is a vital skill that every human should learn from a young age, but boys especially. Our son’s introduction to consent and boundaries occurred before he was even 1 year old thanks to our family cat. Babies are naturally curious and affectionate, so we knew he would eventually try grabbing her, but we always repeated the same phrase: “No, give her space.” When he was old enough to understand how to be gentle, we would show him how to get her permission by observing her body language and letting her decide if she wanted pets (usually by sniffing his hand and rolling over).
We also applied the same concepts to physical games like tickling and wrestling. If he made any sort of protest, we immediately stopped and asked for his permission before continuing. Now that he has a little sister, consent and boundaries are part of his (and her) daily life. They both need to understand other people’s boundaries and their own in order to have successful friendships and relationships with others. Some moments are certainly more successful than others, but it’s a life skill I am 100 percent committed to teaching and reminding him of no matter how old he gets.
This post contains a sponsored inclusion of Candlewick Press, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board. We only recommend products we genuinely love.