Parents need to make the children familiar with life skills from an early age to make sure that they don’t face any difficulties in the future. Here we have Ms. Surbhi Walia with us talking about teaching necessary life skills to kids and all that goes into the process.
Let’s start with a very basic question: What are life skills and why do we teach them?
Life skills, according to me, are basic habits that, if instilled in children at a young age, can help them to become independent adults and be successful later on in life.
What are the most important life skills for kids to learn?
First of all, I would say it is more important for kids to be independent. And the earlier you start the better because they grasp very quickly when they are at a young age. So, in that way, they can learn how to be organized. Like, I tell my daughter to put her toys back when she’s done playing. We have been doing it for such a long time now that she’s independent and organizing her things herself. By being independent I can teach her basic hygiene. That’s also an important life skill. During the pandemic, it was so important to wash our hands whenever required. I used to keep a stool in the bathroom and my daughter, after playing or eating, just pulls out her stool and washes her hands on her own. I used to just supervise and look over whether she is doing it nicely and doesn’t get hurt. Otherwise, she’s been doing it since she was two years old.
Other life skills like basic communication are going to help them go a very long way. So all we have to do is just talk to them and be interested in what they are saying. Listen to them and teach them how they should hear out other people. And we should make them learn how to take up challenges. For example, wearing socks or tying shoelaces is difficult for them, but not if we start teaching them in the beginning. Like, my child wears her shoes on her own. Initially, she used to wear the right shoes on the left foot and the left one on the right. But now she knows. She’s only two and a half and she knows how to wear her socks, her clothes.
We can make kids develop critical thinking by play-pretend; by playing role models or by building structures. In this way, they learn how to form a hypothesis and they can learn how to apply ideas, how to make mistakes, how to solve them, and find solutions to their mistakes. These are very important, basic life skills.
“Your child is more capable than you realize, even a preschooler can begin to learn these essential life skills.”- Please shed some light on this statement.
I believe that children under the age of 6 learn things hands-on. They learn more by what they use than by what they see. So if you want to make them learn, let them explore. Often it happens that we tell children “Okay, don’t do this”, “don’t do that”, but “no” is not a word for me. I don’t say “no”. I just let her and I tell her the correct way to do it. Like, sometime back we started doing DIY activities. So she was very fascinated with Fevicol. And she was not aware that “what is this”, “what does this do”. She used to play, stick it on her hands and then pull it out. Now she’s very familiar with it. She can put shapes on shapes with Fevicol. This is how she has learned it. I let her do things hands-on.
So, we can start as early as possible and the earlier the better. Rather than saying no to a child, we can teach them what is the correct way to do it.
Do you think a child is well-equipped with the essential life skills to face the world?
I agree with that. Because, once you start doing these things at home, they catch up very easily. They follow exactly what you do. They see you as their role models. So if you are setting a good example in front of them, then they will very well face the world with those habits. Like, if you have the habit of saying “thank you” for everything that is given to you, they see it. Even if I give my daughter a pen and she drops it and I pick it up and give it to her, she will not go by without saying “thank you”. And if the house help gives her water, food or anything, she has to say “thank you” to them. And, before asking, she will always say “Please, can you give me this”. So you have to set up examples and by just being their role models, they will catch up. This is the basic thing that we require later on in life.
Is it important for children to focus on more than just academics?
It is more important. Because, most of the time, like during the pandemic, kids were at home only. So, parents are the anchors. Most of the interaction occurs with parents. School is there, teachers are there, friends are there but parents play a very critical role in making them learn. So, we have to take responsibility and make them learn and adapt to things.
For example, during the lockdown, my daughter was seeing that everybody was contributing to helping in the household. Children have this habit of messing up, throwing things around, and then just going by, not picking it up. So, during the lockdown, she was observing that everybody was helping, everybody’s coming up and doing little things like picking up dishes, putting clothes or drying, and small things if not bigger things like cooking or doing the cleaning part. But everybody was doing something or the other. So, she was picking up and she wanted to contribute to this by doing simple things like putting the glasses in line.
And these things cannot be learned in school. Because, they spend some amount of time in school, but the rest of the time they are at home. If we give them a perfect environment at home, they will do it. Like, whenever my daughter has to go for a bath, I tell her that the clothes have to go into the laundry basket. So we started initially and from the third day, she was doing it on her own. Then I never had to tell her to do it, she started doing it on her own. Now she knows where things are. I give her choices, like wearing clothes. Now she can differentiate between “these are the winter clothes, these are the summer clothes”. She knows. I give her options in eating, like, “You want an apple or a banana?” If she chooses the banana, now she knows that Mumma has given me a choice and I have chosen it and I have to finish it now. She takes ownership of completing the food; otherwise, it gets difficult to feed kids.
I started this a very long time back. She was 15 months old then. Now she’s two and a half. The earlier, the better. Because as kids grow, it becomes a little difficult. I believe that between 1-3 years of age, you can make them as involved or as laidback. I don’t want to put pressure so I am like a mix of both - fun times, with learning life skills.
Life skill education cannot simply stop with the exposure that your child receives in school. To learn its importance, a child needs to be taught at home through experience and training activities. What do you think about this?
I agree with that. Like I said earlier also, training activities help me to teach my child about putting her dishes in the kitchen, putting clothes in the laundry basket, shoes in the shoe rack, and toys in the toy area and the playroom. We were doing these since the beginning and it helped me in lockdown. When there was no help, I did not have to pick up her toys, she did it herself after she was done playing. Till the time she was 2, she knew where things were. And sometimes, she even puts things back when they are lying around. So, she has learned organization.
And now, if we talk about communication skills, we started long back. Saying “thank you”, “please”, all these things started when she was 15 months old. So even if she sees a stranger, now she doesn’t hesitate from saying “Hi!” to them. I have seen so many children hiding behind their mothers when a stranger says “hello”. In my case, since we started communication very early, she has developed this skill. Now, she will go ahead and say “Hi! How are you?”