Props to the parents with homeschooling schedules posted on their children’s art easels. For the rest of us, let me offer this reassurance: The kids are alright, and they’re not going to have a gap in their education if we don’t replicate their classroom at home. Most of us are in survival mode right now, and asking ourselves to becomes patient and capable homeschoolers overnight is unrealistic.
Let’s give ourselves permission to close our Pinterest tabs and instead focus on the life skills we finally have the time to teach our children. As a room mom who frequently volunteers in my son’s Pre-K classroom, I can assure that 5-year-olds are capable of doing much more than we ask them to do. I can also tell you as a mother who has sent two of her children off to college that we are failing to teach our kids the basic skills they will need in adulthood. Don’t be like me and wait until your brilliant, college-bound son asks you how to make toast to realize that you have failed as a parent. We do so many things for kids because it’s faster and easier for us to do for them, but now we have the gift of time. Below is list of activities and games to do with your kids that requires no homeschooling training or special supplies. Plus, their future spouses will thank you.
Sorting & Folding Laundry
Like all Gen-Zers, my older sons prefer texting to talking. When they actually call, it’s almost always with a question about money or laundry. Take this opportunity to teach your children the three colors of clothing: white, red, and everything else, and to show them how to fold it properly. Also a good activity for husbands!
Scanning and Bagging Groceries
Your abundance of boxed pasta and canned goods make the perfect props for a game of grocery shopping. Set up a store, let your kids scan the items, and teach them how to bag groceries. If you don’t teach them that the bread goes on top, who will?
Tune in next week to our live Instagram reboot of Supermarket Sweeps, hosted from inside my pantry.
Hand Washing Dishes
Chances are their first apartment won’t have a dishwasher. Plus, washing glassware is a necessary skill for anyone working behind a bar, whether inside a restaurant or behind mommy’s bar cart during a government mandated lockdown. (Next week: bartending (home)school for kids.)
No, they won’t be Pinterest perfect like they are when you make them, but none of us are having house guests right now, so it’s the perfect time to let our kids learn.
Washing Their Own Hair
How many of us are still washing our kids’ hair simply because it’s easier than teaching them to do it themselves? We have nothing but time now. Think of how glorious it will be once they can do it themselves and we can just sit there on the toilet drinking wine without getting our hands wet.
Start simple with something like oatmeal. Measuring and pouring is a great fine motor skill activity, and younger kids love the feeling of independence that cooking their own meal brings.
A Game Of Telephone
Most of us learned phone etiquette by default, listening our parents make and take calls. But now, with email and texting, children are exposed to far less over-the-phone conversations and it shows. Even teenagers lack the ability to order take out or make an appointment by phone without sounding painfully awkward. Whether you use real phones, walkie talkies, or empty cans attached by a string, create a game of telephone to teach your kids the customer service skills they will inevitably need in the workplace.
This is not a fun activity, but a necessary one. I can’t tell you how many shoes I tie every day I’m in the classroom. Or how many fifth graders I see still wearing Velcro shoes. What happened to healthy shaming over wearing Velcro past preschool?!
Brushing and Flossing
Raise your hand if you’re still helping your kids brush and floss to make sure they do a good job. Maybe it’s time to teach them how to do a good job.
Buttons, Snaps & Zippers
They may live in drawstrings now, but some day they’re going to grow into pants with proper closures, and now is the perfect time to master those fine motor skills.
Putting On Socks
Our children have to learn to do this. The end.
Memorizing Your Address and Phone Number
I definitely don’t know my parents’ phone numbers without looking them up, and I only know their address because they still live in the same house I grew up in. Let’s raise our children to be smarter than we are, and enable them to contact us in an emergency.
Setting The Table
Let them play restaurant! They can set the table, take orders, and bus the dishes after each meal. Helpful to them if they end up working at a restaurant, and helpful to you either way.
Between Amex and Apple Pay, Levon barely sees cash, unless he’s throwing it into a fountain. But teaching kids to count money is so important, and so much fun for them. Coins are perfect for counting and sorting, and reinforces counting by 5s and 10s.
Why is it that potty training stops short of mastering this skill? I’m totally guilty of still wiping Levon’s butt every time he poops, which does him absolutely no favors. Besides, what else are we going to do with all of the toilet paper that we’re hoarding?
Jessica Butler is the co-founder of "Raise Magazine," stepmother of two, and adoptive mother of one. Prior to "Raise," she was a writer on USA’s "In Plain Sight" and TNT’s "The Last Ship." She and her husband, writer/producer Warren Bell, co-created the Nick at Nite series "Instant Mom," based on her life as a stepmother. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and five-year-old son, Levon.