• Paul Wade

Real Life Skills

With everyone living such busy lives - most families have at least two working parents, work follows us home, social media follows us everywhere and, of course, there are kids - parents sometimes don’t have the time or energy to pass on some of the stuff that they learned at home as children. Things like doing shoe laces, getting dressed and undressed, brushing teeth and so on. Parents are not being lazy. The problem is that you didn’t have time in the first place, which meant that a lot of it ended up being taught in school. BUT, now you do.

So with this extra time, comes a challenge. How on earth do you teach a four year old how to tie their shoe laces? What is the best way to get them to properly brush their teeth now that dental appointments are off the cards until July? How do you manage the transition from spoon-fed to knife and fork without pebble-dashing the kitchen walls with food?


There is not simple answer to any one of the above, but there is a common thread. And it comes back to the last post on modelling. First, you will need to show your child how each thing you want them to learn works. And you will need to do it slowly, painstakingly and repeatedly. There is no hard and fast rule for this, but 7-10 repetitions seems to be the point at which most kids pick things up the first time. Don’t take this as a given, however - model and repeat as many times as they need to start doing something for themselves. And don’t stop then. Young minds develop very fast, but not everything sticks permanently. Think about the password on the last online account that you set up. Or the PIN change that used to accompany a lost a bank card. How many times did you need to key it in before it stuck? Same for you child, but multiply by being four years old.

Modelling alone is not enough. You may need to model using their coat, their shoes and their knife and fork. Some children make the link very quickly between ‘looks a bit like mine’ and ‘must work the same as mine’, but not all of them. You will need to judge for yourself, but if showing them how to button up a coat using your shirt as an example isn't working, pick up their coat. They will also need to see it from their perspective. Fast developing brains may not mirror that well and will ideally need to see things done the same way round as they do them. Which can be a challenge, try doing up someone else’s show lace from behind them...

Photo by Elly Fairytale from Pexels


You will also need to be prepared for push back. If you have been cutting their food for two years and then just hand them the knife and fork, this could be a bit of an intellectual shock. Be prepared to take turns for a while. Part of this might also be about confidence. Be patient. They may just want you to show them again or they have tried, but messed it up and really want to go outside to play now, rather than spend another five minutes accidentally tying their finger to their snow boots. Do encourage them to try again, but also recognise when they just look defeated and need their parent to help.

There are, of course, endless on line links to help you to teach your child the basic skills and I am not going to go through every possible option here. Just apply the basic rules:

Model, repeat, work from their viewpoint and apply patience.


Having said that, this video teaching children toileting skills is too good not to share:

Happy buttoning!

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