Life skills for kids you can hack at home

Updated: Jan 6

Some skills come so easily and others always seem to be just out of reach. When kids are spending periods of time at home, such as during the school holidays or on rainy weekends, it’s a fantastic opportunity to help them to learn a valuable new life skill. Painful as it is (both for your child and, sometimes, for you to watch), some things just have to be repeated endlessly. Some are more joyful than others, but there are ways to make all of them fun – or at least a lot easier.

1. How to tie a shoelace

Actually, kids can easily get away with putting off this skill these days – so many shoes and boots don’t require laces that need tying. However, it’s a great skill to master because it’s really important for both concentration and those fine motor skills. Children can start at any age and there are ways to make it fun. You can create a DIY shoe-lacing card together, complete with shoelace tie holes. And voila – a ready-made shoe to practise on. The Craft Train shows you how to create and decorate a shoe lacing card yourself.

2 . Tell the time

Clocks and the concept of time hold fascination for many children. Explaining how to tell the time can feel a bit like teaching children to read. If you didn’t grow up with phonics, there’s a whole new way to learn to read. Ditto with telling the time – so much is in digital 24-hour format now, which should you teach first? This clear and concise video from Twinkl helps kids to understand the traditional face clock:

And, it goes without saying: practice makes perfect. So Biff, Chip & Kipper have a handy make-your-own clock sheet - - as well as a time-telling quiz - to help children master this important skill.

3. How to tie a knot

Knots are a bit like marmite. Some people love trying to unravel a knot and find it very mindful; for others it’s like trying to pull teeth. Regardless, it’s one of those important and endlessly useful skills that kids need to learn. So long as you have a sturdy piece of thin rope (preferably one of those silky materials that can easily be untied if it ends up in a hopeless tangle), knots can be practised more or less anywhere (just watch where you walk). Step up 101Knots – a seemingly endless source of knots – from scouting, fishing, climbing and sailing knots, to how to knot your school tie and how to use knots around the house to make decoration (hello, macrame).

4. How to cook and bake

Despite a plethora of takeaways being available (no, they don’t always have to be unhealthy) and ready-made meals (yes, it’s surprising what comes pre-chopped these days!), it’s still really important to get children cooking and baking at an early age. There are plenty of sites to choose from but for baking, we really liked BBC Good food’s selection of 64 kids’ baking recipes. And for excellent no-bake options, Cooking With My Kids has plenty of inspiration.

And, of course, most of us are very aware of how much sugar goes into our little ones these days, so you could also point them towards Jamie Oliver’s excellent savoury alternatives.

5. How to whistle

Despite what Lauren Bacall claimed, whistling isn’t as easy as it looks. It’s not a skill that you’re born with and it does take lots of practice. Luckily, children have a lot of time and seemingly a lot of desire to master this fun skill. In fact, although we think of whistling as simply blowing air out through puckered lips, in fact there are four ways to whistle. Healthline has a great set of step-by-step instructions to help anyone master the skill in one of four ways; and for a whistle that will get be sure to get everyone standing to attention, check out this video:

6. How to do DIY

You may find that your kids are interested in DIY at a surprisingly young age, and they’re never really too little to learn. Obviously, you don’t want to set a three-year-old off with a power drill but they can definitely get to grips with a measuring tape and a spirit level. Older children will enjoy sanding, using the drill and other more difficult tasks. DIY teaches invaluable skills, uses lots of necessary developmental ones and teaches children to take a real pride in what they have achieved. Popular Mechanics has some great ideas for where to start the DIY journey.

7. How to share skills

It’s like the Duke of Edinburgh award of home life, not only do the children learn and give something back, you also get the satisfaction of a little break every now and again. A great way to keep all of the kids busy is to get older ones to teach skills to the younger ones. It could be anything from baking together, to reading, to crafting and DIY. The options are endless. And the option of pocket money will probably make a great incentive too…

For more inspiration on how to use our lockdown days wisely, check out our Lockdown learning ideas hub. Whether you fancy tackling origami, or learning a new language we're sharing resources and ideas available for you and your family.