25 Skills Your Kids Should Know Before They Leave Home


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much time I have left with my kids in my house. Lily is 10 1/2 and acting more like a teen every year and I am very aware that my time with her is fleeting. Of course she will still be in our house for another 7 1/2 years. But my actual time with her is precious as she becomes more active and her life begins to revolve more and more around friends. And honestly, once they turn 16 and can drive the game completely changes.

I constantly read and bookmark articles about how entitled kids today are. How helicopter parents are doing too much and kids are handicapped as they go into the adult world unable to fend for themselves. I spend a lot of time and energy wondering if we are doing it wrong. If we have already messed them up. If there is enough time.

We are not helicopter parents by any means, but I can acknowledge that my children have less responsibility than I did at their age and certainly far less than the generations before them. I can also acknowledge that my patience for teaching them how to do things right is often trumped my by desire to just get it done already, which often means I do things myself. Remember back to “Project Unspoiling”? Sigh. How quickly we fall back into status quo.

So lately I have been thinking that I really want my kids to learn certain life skills before they leave my nest. I have been putting my impatience aside and working with them to teach them certain life skills. And side bonus: it is also me spending quality time with them one and fun conversations ensue. Extra side bonus: eventually much less work for me around the house. Win- Win.

I wanted to compile a list of life skills every child needs before they leave the home so I had a framework to go by. This is the list I came up with. Obviously some of them will need to wait until my kids are a bit older, but many can be started even when your kids are young:

  1. How to cook a basic breakfast, lunch and dinner
  2. How to wash dishes and pans without a dishwasher
  3. Setting an informal and formal table
  4. Complete a load of laundry including folding properly
  5. Ironing
  6. Clean a bathroom from top to bottom
  7. Sew on a button
  8. Figure out a map (or app) to take public transportation
  9. Meal planning/ Grocery Shopping on a budget
  10. Appropriate hygiene and care, especially during puberty
  11. How to check your oil, change a flat tire, and basic supplies to keep in a car for safety
  12. How to use basic tools around the house (hammer, screwdriver, saw, wrench) and do basic home maintenance
  13. The importance of organizing and maintaining a calendar and to do list
  14. Setting up (and sticking to) a simple budget
  15. How to balance your bank account
  16. Trying out different sports and finding a physical activity that you enjoy and can continue for life
  17. Writing a proper letter/ thank you note in a timely manner
  18. How to put out various kinds of fires around the house
  19. Skills for building your resume and interviewing for a job
  20. Basic food safety practices (handling raw meat, checking expiration dates, avoiding cross contamination)
  21. How to unclog a drain and clogged toilet
  22. How to tie a tie
  23. Administering CPR
  24. Packing for a short and a long trip
  25. How to care for plants and repot them when necessary

Of course there are other important life lessons: The importance of saying no. That there is a difference between wanting something and needing something. That, as their parents, we will always love them, but might not always rescue them. And most importantly that we are always here to answer their questions, lend a shoulder to cry on, and love them unconditionally.

What would you add to the list?


  1. This is the sort of thing I think about all the time! Great list!
    Anna from Learn Like A Mom recently posted…Banana and Chocolate Leprechaun HatsMy Profile

  2. I don’t want to talk about thank you notes if you’re going to require they be timely. Okay???

  3. Can we still be friends if I admit there are a couple of these I don’t know how to do myself?

  4. Allison Hall says:

    I would add to number 25 the care of animals and also they should also know what qualities they should look for in potential partners (I hope I explained the latter correctly).

  5. FANTASTIC list, Jill!!!

    I’d add how to properly make introductions & shake hands well :).
    Robin Dance recently posted…Why I’m Doing Whole 30 and A Recipe Born of DesperationMy Profile

  6. Terrie Campbell says:

    I would add: How to do laundry, both at home and at a laundromat. As soon as my kids could reach the knobs, they were doing their own laundry.

    Many of these life-skills were taught in the public school system….yes, believe it or not! I began the conversation about balancing the check book, and my daughter said oh they taught us to do that in our Economics class! Also, having your child involved in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and/or 4H will ensure that they learn these skills and more. Sometimes when mom/dad try to teach kids something, they only learn with “one ear”…..but when another caring adult teaches them the same things, it is more meaningful. Go figure.

    But most of all, talk, talk, talk, TALK with your kids (not TO them, BIIIIIIG difference!) and whenever possible, DO important tasks with them or as they watch….and then ask them about what they would do, ask them to try it, and so on. “Most lessons are CAUGHT, not TAUGHT.:

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