Train your kid to tackle life as an adult in the real world with these useful tools.


Life skills are important as they help you to deal effectively with life’s challenges, as well as socialise with as few hiccups as possible. Some people only pick up basic life skills after everyone around them has, and this can cause problems as they might be perceived as ignorant or insensitive.

Much as you don’t want your mini-me to grow up, you don’t want to baby them either as they may become overly reliant on you in the future. So, it’s vital to teach your kids life skills from young, so that they’ll be independent, learn how to socialise and develop healthy self-esteem. Here are 10 skills your kiddo should know before they start secondary school!

1. Clean up after themselves

By secondary school, junior should be able to clean up after themselves, instead of relying on you to pack up after they are done playing. Even if you have a helper to help with the household chores, they should be able to do simple things like bringing their plates and cutlery to the sink after meals, wiping the table and putting their dirty clothes in the laundry basket. Explain to them how their actions will help, so that they will develop the habit of thinking of others, instead of just doing things that will benefit them. Don’t expect them to be great at the chores when they first start. “Avoid being punitive and passing negative comments or criticism, as they will make mistakes and take time to learn. Instead, encourage them by praising their efforts,” advises Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness.

2. Pack their own bag

Kids as young as 4 years old should be able to pack their own bags. Of course, you should check it before sending them out of the house, because there’s a high chance that the carryall will be filled with toys instead of items they will actually need in preschool. But by the time they are in Primary school, you should be able to trust them to pack their own school bags.

When they pack their own bag, besides encouraging independence, they’ll get to check what homework they have for the day, or if they have any forms that require a parent’s signature.

Explain to them how their actions will help, so that they will develop the habit of thinking of others, instead of just doing things that will benefit them.

3. Wake themselves up

Is your sleepyhead impossible to rouse in the morning, no matter how many times you try dragging them out of bed? Dr Lim states that older kids and teens should learn how to set their own alarms and wake up on their own. “Start by allowing the kids to deal with their schedules in the day. They can then be given the task of setting their alarms every night and waking up by themselves for weekend events,” he suggests.

Being a heavy sleeper isn't an excuse to avoid setting the alarm clock. Get a louder clock, or if your kiddo’s problem is hitting the snooze button repeatedly, try placing the clock somewhere out of reach, so that they will have no choice but to get up to turn it off in the morning.

4. Cook simple dishes

Even the most hopeless cook should be able to fry an egg, or cook a packet of instant noodles without setting off the fire alarm and threatening the safety of those around them. You can start preparing peewee to be efficient in the kitchen from young by introducing them to the stove, pots and pans, and different ingredients that you normally use in the kitchen. Children learn loads just by observing, so don’t be so eager to chase them out of the kitchen. You can also get some kid cookbooks to try various recipes out with your little one!


5. Get around on their own

Singapore’s public transport is efficient, with so many buses and the train lines around. Before you let junior leave the house, show them a map of Singapore’s MRT routes and point out the various lines and stations. Send them out on errands and let them take the bus to nearby places. This will not only train them to be more independent, but also help them hone their sense of direction.

6. Make conversation with strangers

Instead of teaching your little one not to talk to strangers, you should try to teach them how to differentiate between a “regular” stranger and a “creepy” stranger. Some kids are shy, too, so they might have trouble communicating with people they are not familiar with. However, this is a vital skill for your kewpie to have as they will meet people from all walks of life in the future, and they’ll need to know how to interact with them.

Your child should have the habit of saving their money for rainy days, and learn how to survive on what they are given.

7. Manage their own money

Your child should have the habit of saving their money for rainy days, and learn how to survive on what they are given instead of spending it all and then coming to you for more. As they get older, consider giving their allowance for the week instead of giving it to them daily. This way, your little spender will learn how to split the money throughout the week to ensure that they still have enough when the end of the week comes around. Tell them that this money is meant to last the whole week, and if they blow it all at the start, they will not have any money to buy the snacks they want on Thursday or Friday.

You can also start training them when they tag along on your grocery runs by helping you to compare prices. Visit two or three supermarkets and check the prices for the same items, then explain to them that you will get the cheaper one!

8. Order their own food when dining out

Take a step back and let your little chomper take the lead when ordering. Even if they make a mistake, you can correct them gently and ask them to try again. “Many kids do enjoy looking for their own food and ordering on their own. The reason some may have problems doing so might be due to a bad experience where they were rushed or scolded for being slow when ordering,” Dr Lim notes. If your child lacks confidence at first, you can allow them to prepare the change, order what they want themselves and carry the cutlery, so that they get familiar with the steps. “When the child is more apt, parents can teach them exactly what to say and rehearse, prior to making the order. Provide the child with the exact change to make it easier for them, too,” Dr Lim suggests.

9. Stand up for themselves

Being able to stand up for themselves without offending anyone or coming off as rude is an essential skill junior needs to learn. “Being firm and being rude are very different matters, though some adults may perceive that if a kid refuses to agree, he or she is already being rude,” says Dr Lim. So, the next time they come running home complaining that their teacher has accused them of something they didn’t do, don’t be too quick to defend them to the school. Teach them to respond in a calm and clear manner, using phrases like “with all due respect” or “I will like to politely disagree”, before explaining to their teacher that they did not do anything wrong. Dr Lim adds that when kids take a stand, they should learn to be aware of their body language and facial expressions, which can sometimes exhibit hostility and impatience.

10. Be familiar with basic first aid

Your little sprout should know basic first aid, such as disinfecting a wound and how to put a plaster on it. Even if he requires help carrying out the actions, he should be able to discern if the situation is serious enough to call for an ambulance, or if it warrants a trip to the doctor. Recognising the signs of an oncoming fever, or any other illness and knowing which medicine to take is crucial as well. Teach them that they should not randomly consume medicine, as this is dangerous and might lead to a drug overdose. When in doubt, urge them to always consult an adult or a professional.

Photos: iStock

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