Free Life Skills Lessons for Every Child

girl in red dress with tablet - free life skills lessons for every child

As parents, it is our number one job to raise happy, self-sufficient people and successfully launch them out into the world. We strive to raise people who are capable of looking after themselves and others, which is no small feat. Thankfully, we already have the foundation we need to create such amazing human beings. It requires only manageable portions of your time and some investment from the bank of knowledge. 

We sometimes get hung up on trying to give our children music lessons, art lessons or other lessons that we think will make them knowledgeable and well-rounded. The most important lessons, however, don’t cost a thing, because the most important lessons are life skills.

The essential lessons below have a reach far beyond that of learning guitar basics or mastering ballet choreography. Plus, each “class” happens at a time perfectly suited to your family, making them much easier to schedule into everybody's busy daily lives

Critical Thinking

The most important life skill is critical thinking and reasoning. Pair this with strong research skills and you’ve got a kid who won’t fall prey to campaigns of any sort: political, professional or personal. 

Advise your kids to ask questions. Toddlers have mastered the art of asking “why?,” so encourage them to just keep asking as they grow older. You might require massive amounts of patience, but for them, asking why is an essential critical thinking skill. Once your child learns to figure out why things are done the way they are, they can understand the world more easily.

Life is like a giant research paper, and you can teach your kids to check their sources before trusting them. They'll learn who benefits when they follow a request, which lets them develop savvier ideas about when it's better to go along with what's being asked of them and when it's better to resist. Bright Horizons offers guidance on how parents can begin to instill critical thinking skills into their children.

Financial Literacy

Until schools understand the importance of financial literacy and put it in the curriculum, teaching kids about finances is up to you. Budgeting, banking and debit card use are good starters. 

Take your child into the bank and walk them through opening an account and using a debit card. Encourage them to ask questions should anything be unclear to them. They trust you, but the teller may not be so approachable in their eyes. ATMs might appear downright hostile to a child.  

The sooner they start managing their allowance and/or birthday money, the better they will understand how to stick within the household budget and their personal budget. You might have the experience of hearing your child make very public complaints to complete strangers (like store clerks) about not having enough money, but the trick here is to not care. Simply explain to these strangers that “they’re learning how to budget” if you feel the need to say anything. 


Housekeeping is another crucial skill that many adults young and old struggle to adequately grasp. Teaching household tasks offers a great opportunity for connection during lesson time. Plus, from changing a lightbulb to painting a door properly to routine cleaning, when each of these tasks is learned, some of the household responsibilities shift from your plate to the shared family plate.

Start lessons and chore assignments when children can comprehend what you want them to do and why. Explain why doing the chore is a good thing (e.g. putting toys away removes trip hazards for everyone and prevents favourite playtime buddies from being lost). Lisa Marie Fletcher of The Canadian Homeschooler lays out the benefits of having children contribute to the upkeep of the family living space.

Chores like laundry can be complex undertakings fraught with peril for even the most experienced launderer among us, so take your time, be clear and strongly encourage that they err on the side of caution, i.e. wait for your guidance when in doubt.

Applying for Jobs

young woman with coffee cup and pink binder - free life skills lessons for every child

How to apply for a job is something everyone will need to know at some point in their life, unless your teenager wins the lottery and has mad financial planning skills. 

Resume and cover letter writing websites abound, offering free tips and templates. Use this as a chance not just to teach kids the basics about cover letters and the like, but to ask what may be most concerning your teen about applying for and holding down a job. Discuss your own trials and tribulations while employment seeking—related anecdotes almost always contain elements of humour and wisdom. 

Food Prep

Nutritious food preparation and understanding the food cycle is something absolutely everyone on Earth should know. 

Food guide daily servings recommendations have changed dramatically over the past decade, and kids should be kept in the loop about how ideas about nutrition have evolved.

Meat and dairy, for example, are no longer the reigning monarchs. Plant-based proteins and whole grains are preferred, along with regular water consumption. Kids don't want to hear this, but they should know that processed and sugary foods are the villains and deservedly so—poor diet contributes to a plethora of avoidable health issues such as tooth decay and heart disease.

Teach your children to buy the best food they can afford. Explain why a bag of protein-rich quinoa will stretch further than cheap ramen noodles that have you paying for empty calories. Also show them how to avoid food spoilage and waste so they don't have to clean out any crisper drawer horrors. 

Walk children through a farmers’ market and have them speak with the vendors. Locally grown food is better for the community in terms of sustainability and promotes a fiscally sound economy for its members. Kids can and do grasp these concepts.

Have them grow their own food. Time puttering in the vegetable garden or windowsill herb patch is time very well spent. Show them the critters living in the soil (microscopic or otherwise), all of whom play valuable roles in the production of the food they eat.

Learn New Skills as You Teach

Don't feel restricted to teaching basic things you already know. Take this as an opportunity to learn new skills together with your child.

Rob Kenney of the video series “Dad, How Do I?” teaches people everything from the proper way to tie a necktie or change a flat tire to how to iron a dress shirt or unclog a stopped up sink. Kenney began the YouTube channel when he realized that many adults were not taught these important life skills growing up and now find themselves foundering in adulthood. 

Kenney understands on a personal level the full loss that children experience when a father leaves a family: his did when Rob was 14 years old, opting to walk out on a family of eight children. His own adult children encouraged him to make the series and now his channel has over 3.31 million subscribers. Kenney gets his how-to tips from a wide variety of trusted sources. He then makes step-by-step videos and compiles them for easy referencing by others in need of some expert guidance.

When to Call in the Experts

Learning how to drive a car, how to administer first aid and how to swim could easily be included in the life skills library, but these lessons might be best left to qualified professional instructors. Some lessons are simply not a great time for chatty bonding. 

If you’re not confident about your knowledge base in any subject area that arises, find an expert, and do so nonchalantly in front of your child. It's important for children to see that there's no shame in not having all the answers or in seeking help. Calling in an expert gives you an opportunity to model how to go about learning something new and how to find someone to teach you.

Your child’s essential classroom is at your fingertips—no special equipment required.

Written by Jane Thornton

Feature image: Helena Lopes; Image 1: RODNAE Productions


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