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The “Gift” Of Life Skills 

Department and Tamekia Jackson, Director of the Knox County Schools Family Resource Center Contributing Writer: Eliza Norrell, Family and Community Engagement Department Communications Intern

Season’s Greetings! This holiday season, even if your children’s “wish lists” include tangible items such as bikes, dolls, and the latest video games, don’t forget that gifts come in different forms. Some of the most valuable gifts are not tangible and are given over time in the form of priceless lessons, though the “value” may not be recognized until later in life. One of the most prized gifts that a parent can give a child is the gift of life skills that teach children smart ways to tackle aspects of everyday life. Read on to discover some practical skills that children should learn now and that will last a lifetime.

Healthful Eating

Teaching habits of healthful eating is a life lesson that can have a lifelong positive impact on your child’s health. A great start is to insist that children try new fruits and vegetables that they say they don’t like (but have never actually tasted) before rewarding them with dessert or another special treat. When it comes to selecting which foods to buy, research suggests steering clear of processed foods as much as possible in order to maintain a healthy diet. Unfortunately, processed foods tend to be the lowest priced items in most stores, but healthful alternative choices can be found. So, when shopping with a child, explain why you are selecting a certain item versus another item. This will teach discernment and good decision making, as well as teaching about proper nutrition. Limit household snacks to healthy choices, and limit beverages to water, because children will have plenty of opportunities away from home to eat junk food. Ordering water rather than other beverages at restaurants is also a way to save money. Finally, don’t forget to ask your children to help with the grocery list, so they can provide input, and you can be sure to include healthy items they enjoy.

Healthful Cooking

Cooking with your child provides a great opportunity to teach important life lessons like healthy food preparation, basic kitchen “know-how,” and other teachable moments! A good start is to modify how foods are prepared. For example, growing up eating meat that is baked, broiled or grilled instead of fried is a good investment in a child’s future health. Also, children who are accustomed to helping in the kitchen learn basic preparation skills, enjoy cooking, and are likely to be more open-minded eaters. These are the children who are prepared to make healthy food choices, even in your absence. As a former classroom teacher, I also think it’s important to remind parents that exploring and preparing new healthy recipes together with their children can reinforce basic educational skills like expanding vocabulary, practicing fractions, measuring and estimating. Teaching children how to enjoy preparing basic healthy meals may also impact their future spending practices.

General Household DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Skills

When children learn basic household DIY skills, it fosters a strong sense of independence, and it can save them money during adulthood. Start by demonstrating the use/purpose of basic tools, when there are small projects to be completed around the house. If you are not familiar with various tools or basic maintenance skills, recruit a family member or friend to provide a “family lesson.” Include children in simple home projects like changing a light bulb, using a plunger, and changing filters (air unit, water, dryer, etc). Let them watch or take part in more complex projects like making basic repairs or completing general maintenance around the house. You may not need to call a plumber to change the “thingy” the next time it doesn’t operate correctly! Lastly, involve children in basic car maintenance, such as changing a car tire, checking the oil, checking and adding air to car tires, and changing the air filter. These gifts will increase a child’s knowledge, expand his or her ability and experience, and save both time and money in the future. What great gifts that will last a lifetime!

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