We haven’t been around much this summer, but we are making our way back now that school it starting up again soon. We’ve been spending more time unconnected from electronics and more connected with doing things. At the start of summer, the boys had asked me to show them how to cook, sew, and a few other practical skills that they notice adults (mainly us) doing, and they wanted to learn how to do it too. Of course I obliged, because everyone should know how to cook their own meals, do laundry, and sew on a button (even if mom and dad are still going to be the main people doing it for the foreseeable future during our general daily lives).
So this summer, the boys learned how to:
Cook simple meals
The boys learned how to make spaghetti and tortellini, macaroni and cheese, scrambled eggs, and bake pizza. They learned how to use our toaster oven and stove safely, and how to handle hot plates and bakeware. And they learned how to set their place settings and clean up after themselves after they are done eating. It’s a great thing for them to know in general, and rather helpful for me too, since every time they are hungry for a little mac and cheese, they can actually start making it themselves if I’m elsewhere in the house cleaning up or working (or of course, grab an apple or some baby carrots, so we always keep those readily available in the kitchen too).
It’s also a great way to start them on the path too enjoying cooking at home, so they aren’t spending money eating out all the time or dependent on less healthy, packaged prepared food that needs to be nuked to eat. Teaching children to cook at home teaches them to save money and make healthier food choices.
Sew on a button and fix a hem
I haven’t had to repair clothing often in my life, but when a button has popped off or I tore the hem of a beloved skirt, it was wonderful that be able to fix it myself. It’s expensive to have to replace clothing or pay someone to repair simple things whenever a minimal wardrobe malfunction happens, and a great skill for anyone to know.
This skill extends beyond clothing as well. I’ve been able to fix a torn plush toy, the seam of a fabric accessory, or a throw pillow with nothing more than a needle and matching thread, and now they can do some very basic fixes as well. I still feel like this is something I’d like to supervise though, to make sure pins or needles from my sewing kit aren’t accidentally dropped onto a rug and found in a most painful way at a later date, so they are going to be sewing with me around for a while longer.
Make purchases and write checks
My sons have a basic understanding of work, saving, and buying, but they don’t really see my husband and I actually make purchases with money. We typically used credit cards and usually shop online. Now that we’ve gone credit card-free and shop in person more, they are able to see actual monetary transactions, and it was a great opportunity for them to learn all the different types of currency (younger son), and actually make purchases with money (older son).
We went over each coin and dollar to review their names and value, and practiced buying and giving change at home, then we went to stores and they did it on their own. My older son also learned how to write checks this year (he writes my checks for me, I just sign them), and has a basic understanding of checking accounts, banks, etc.
Write and send letters
The boys have received cards in the mail before, and have a subscription to Boys’ Life, so they understand our postal system. They wanted to actually send letters, though, and after sending their first letters to Santa last Christmas, we decided to teach them how to write out letters to others, like a pen pal, or to thank someone, or for Christmas again this upcoming year (and impress Santa with their ability to do more than write a list of toys 😉 ).
With pen and paper, they learned salutations, indentation, creating paragraphs with a main idea for each, and ending with an appropriate sign-off. They even practiced signing their names in script (we will keep working on that), and then they wrote out the envelopes with a return address, who it’s being sent to, etc before we dropped it off at the post office. Down the line (way down the line) we will work on sending letters for work, and other types of correspondence, but for now, it’s pretty cute to watch a six and eight year old write a letter to a cousin about their summer and excitedly address the envelope ♥︎
It’s great for children to understand the basics of these practical skills, and to be able to expand on them as they please in the future- ie by taking cooking classes, opening a savings account and learning about saving and investing, etc. Obviously we are teaching them in stages, because there is no need for them to learn to fry food at six, or write a business letter at eight. I love that they are curious and ask, though, and am happy to oblige and show them what they want to know.
I’d love ideas on other practical skills kids should know, so if you teach your children anything we haven’t mentioned, please email me! I will add it to our list for next summer (so far we are planning on taking a first aid class and CPR training for kids- they can start learning this with Red Cross at nine).