I Did it All By Myself! An Age-by-Age Guide to Teaching Your Child Life Skills

by: Lindsay Hutton
This list of age-appropriate skills will help prepare your child for each stage of life as they develop from preschool until the day leaves the nest.

Are you preparing your child to be independent? Teaching your child life skills is not only important for self-care and sufficiency— it also allows him to feel empowered, works on socialization and reasoning, and helps develop healthy self-esteem. This list of age-appropriate skills will help prepare your child for each stage of his life from preschool until the day he flies the coop.

Ages 2 and 3: Small Chores and Basic Grooming

This is the age when your child will start to learn basic life skills. By the age of three, your child should be able to

  • Help put his toys away.
  • Dress himself (with some help from you)
  • Put his clothes in the hamper when he undresses
  • Clear his plate after meals
  • Assist in setting the table
  • Brush his teeth and wash his face with assistance

Ages 4 and 5: Important Names and Numbers

Life Skills at Ages 4 and 5

Safety skills are high on the list, now. She should know

  • Her full name, address and a phone number to reach you
  • How to make an emergency call

Your child should also learn how to

  • Perform simple cleaning chores like dusting in easy-to-reach places and clearing the table after meals
  • Feed pets
  • Identify money denominations and understand the very basic concept of how money is used
  • Brush her teeth, comb her hair and wash her face without help
  • Help with basic laundry chores, such as putting her clothes away and bringing her dirty clothes to the laundry
  • Choose her own clothes to wear

Ages 6 and 7: Basic Cooking Techniques

Kids at this age can start to help with cooking meals, and can learn to

  • Mix, stir and cut with a dull knife
  • Make a basic meal, like a sandwich
  • Help put the groceries away
  • Wash the dishes

Your child should also learn how to

  • Use basic household cleaners safely
  • Straighten up the bathroom after using it
  • Make her bed without assistance.
  • Bathe unsupervised.

Ages 8 and 9: Pride in Personal Belongings

Life Skills at Ages 8 and 9

By this time, your child should take pride in her personal belongings and take care of them properly. That includes being able to

  • Fold her clothes
  • Learn simple sewing
  • Care for outdoor toys such as her bike

Your child should also learn how to

  • Take care of personal hygiene without being told to do so
  • Use a broom and dustpan properly
  • Read a recipe and prepare a simple meal
  • Help create a grocery list
  • Count and make change
  • Take out the trash

Ages 10 to 13: Gaining Independence

Ten is about the age when your child can begin to perform many skills independently. She should know how to

  • Stay home alone
  • Go to the store and make purchases by herself
  • Change her own bed sheets
  • Use the washing machine and dryer
  • Plan and prepare a meal with several ingredients
  • Use the oven to broil or bake foods

Your child should also learn how to

  • Read labels
  • Iron clothes
  • Use basic hand tools
  • Look after younger siblings or neighbors

Ages 14 to 18: More Advanced Skills

Life Skills at Ages 14 to 18

By 14, your child should have mastered of all of the previous skills. On top of that, she should be able to

  • Perform more sophisticated cleaning and maintenance chores, such as plunging a toilet, cleaning the stove and unclogging drains
  • Fill a car with gas, add air to and change a tire
  • Read and understand medicine labels and dosages
  • Interview for and get a job.
  • Create and maintain a calendar

Young Adults: Preparing to Live on His Own

Your child will need to know how to support herself when he goes away to college or moves out. There are still a few skills she should know before venturing out on his own, including

  • Make regular doctor and dentist appointments and other important health-related appointments.
  • Have a basic understanding of finances, and be able to manage his bank account, pay a bill and use a credit card.
  • Understand basic contracts, like an apartment or car lease.
  • Schedule oil changes and basic car maintenance.

We've broken down what your children should be able to do. Now, how do you get them there? Check out our five tips to make your child self-sufficient.