He Can Build a Website, but Can He Build a Dog House?

At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy, I have to say with all the technology available to kids, many are losing out on learning important life skills. Recently, in my high school art class I asked my students to thread a needle. More than half the class had never even attempted this feat. That surprised me and I realized they would not be able to sew on a button if the need arose. Now that alone is not terribly significant, but when adding up all the other tangible skills many of these children missed, it made me take a look at where my own children are lacking.

These practical skills are more than survival or even convenience, they can help sharpen cognitive skills and provide them with an engaging weekend activity. Part of appreciating what you have, comes from knowing how far people have come. They may never have to sew their own clothes, build a fire to cook the fish they caught for dinner or build a shelter on their own, but they can get a taste of the difference.

Life skills 101 for kids

Simple Sewing
Hand sewing is something both boys and girls can learn for very little money. Even without master skills yourself, you can teach your child how to sew a button back on a shirt, mend a pair of pants, or use a sewing machine to whip up a set of easy curtains for their bed room. A pillow is another basic first project. Use soft material or an old sports t-shirt to create something unique for their bed.

Novice tips: If you have never picked up a sewing needle or operated a sewing machine before, and do not know anyone who has, head to your local fabric store. They will be happy to assist and probably even offer beginner classes.

Grow your food
Chia Pets do not count. If you do not already have a garden, consider a container garden to give your children the experience of planting tiny seeds and watching them turn into something edible. If the standard tomatoes, beans or peppers do not interest you, try strawberries or herbs. We also make a point of going to road side farmers markets to buy fresh food straight from the gardener. This helps kids connect the dots. Instead of just believing food comes from the grocery store, they can see the work involved in cultivating healthy plants.

Novice tips: While you do not have to be a master gardener to plant a seed with your child, if you are completely lost, the people at a garden center can offer guidance. They can direct you to the right plants for your location and offer tips on how to care for your plants of choice.

Pound it
Set aside wood scraps for your child to work with. Learning how to use real tools is another essential part of a child’s development. You can start with a bird house kit, or let them design their own. My son jumped into wood working, he is always building something. This hobby is rare among his friends, many who have never swung a hammer let alone used power tools.

Novice tips: If you do not have access to tools, look for free classes at your local home improvement store. They often conduct kids workshops that can give your child a chance to try different projects, in a safe environment.

Help your child become more self-sufficient by giving them a taste of hands-on skills.

More by Sylvie Branch:
Four Fun Ways to Burn Energy with Your Kids
Messy room? What you can do as a parent
9 Ways to Encourage Creativity

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