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

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by: Lindsay Hutton

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.

Close up o toddler brushing his teeth against white back drop.
Ages 2-3: 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.
Close up of young girl talking on big pink phone.
Ages 4-5: Important Names and Numbers
When your child reaches this age, safety skills are high on the list. She should know:
  • Her full name, address, and phone number.
  • How to make an emergency call.

Your child should also learn how to:

  • Perform simple cleaning chores such as dusting in easy-to-reach places and clearing the table after meals.
  • Feed pets.
  • Identify monetary denominations, and understand the very basic concept of how money is used.
  • Brush her teeth, comb her hair, and wash her face without assistance.
  • Help with basic laundry chores, such as putting her clothes away, and bringing her dirty clothes to the laundry area.
  • Choose her own clothes to wear.
Mother and two children cooking in the kitchen.
Ages 6-7: 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, such as 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 his bed without assistance.
  • Bathe unsupervised.
Young girl folding towels against white back drop.
Ages 8-9: Pride in Personal Belongings
By this time, your child should take pride in her personal belongings and take care of them properly. This includes being able to:
  • Fold her clothes.
  • Learn simple sewing.
  • Care for outdoor toys such as her bike or roller skates.

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 written phone messages.
  • Help with simple lawn duties such as watering and weeding flower beds.
  • Take out the trash.
Close up of washing machine full of clothes against white back drop.
Ages 10-13: Gaining Independence
Ten is about the age when your child can begin to perform many skills independently. He should know how to:
  • Stay home alone.
  • Go to the store and make purchases by himself.
  • Change his 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 his clothes.
  • Learn to use basic hand tools.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Look after younger siblings or neighbors.
Teen paying for gas at pump with credit card
Ages 14-18: More Advanced Skills Are Learned
By the age of 14, your child should have a very good mastering of all of the previous skills. On top of that, she should also be able to:
  • Perform more sophisticated cleaning and maintenance chores, such as changing the vacuum cleaner bag, 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.
  • Prepare and cook meals if needed. Try these easy and healthy recipes.
Close up of checkbook with pen and hand in background
Young Adults: Preparing to Live on His Own
Your child will need to know how to support himself when he goes away to college or moves out. There are still a few skills he 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, balance a checkbook, pay a bill, and use a credit card.
  • Understand basic contracts, like an apartment or car lease.
  • Schedule oil changes and basic car maintenance.