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16 Practical Life Skills We Forget to Teach Our Kids

Photograph by Twenty20

Think your kids have a good handle on life skills? There are some basic skills we all need to have—even in the era of digital everything. But somewhere between changing diapers and buying SAT prep books we forgot to teach our growing kids a few of these basics. Check out our list and see which skills your kids might need a refresher course in.

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1. Make a phone call

Kids are great at texting, but most of them are practically unable to manage a simple phone call. While they might not need to call their BFF, making phone calls is still an important skill. Start by having them call a friend or relative, then move up to calling a store to ask what time they close. Make sure they know to dial 1 before the area code (if your carrier and state requires it).

2. Schedule an appointment

Sure, it's easier for Mom to handle all the appointments since you have the family calendar. But scheduling an appointment is an important skill that kids can start learning in middle school. Does your son have braces? He can start scheduling his own after-school appointments, either as he is leaving the office or calling back later on the phone. Obviously you set the parameters, but it's an important skill.

3. Make a sandwich

Seems easy, right? Kids can start making their own sandwiches pretty early, yet we as parents are often reluctant to give them this responsibility. It's not rocket science, it's a sandwich.

4. Pay for something with cash

Yep, cash. Teach them to count out the change, too.

5. Carry your own stuff

So many kids are still relying on Mom and Dad to carry their things—whether on a vacation trip or just the morning slog to school. Within reason most kids beyond the age of 8 or so should be able to cart their backpacks or pull a small suitcase through the airport.

6. Make a bed

He'll be the favorite overnight guest at Grandma's house.

I know, many adults never make their beds, either. But it's good to know how to make one. Teach your kid how to make a bed and he'll be the favorite overnight guest at Grandma's house.

7. Loading the dishwasher

Those dirty dishes don't wash themselves. Teach them to load the dishwasher properly so that the parts can move freely and the dishes get clean.

8. Empty the dishwasher

Those dishes don't just jump back into the cabinet, either.

9. Return something to the store

I know most adults hate returns, especially the day after Christmas. But standing in line, waiting your turn and explaining why you are returning something is an important skill your kids will use for the rest of their lives.

10. Ask for help in a store

Modeling this helps your kids, but you also need to let them take the reins.

Looking for a specific size or color? Sometimes you have to ask for help. Modeling this helps your kids, but you also need to let them take the reins.

11. Read a map

Sure, they all have Google Maps on their phones. But reading an actual paper map—or a map on the Internet—is an important skill. Start easy with the map at the zoo or amusement park, then work up to a map of your town. Trust me, they need this.

12. Tie shoes

Thanks to Velcro shoes, many kids get to middle school and beyond not knowing how to tie their shoes. Seriously people, everyone needs to know how to tie their shoes.

13. Follow a recipe

Take-out is easier, that's for sure. But learning how to follow a recipe opens up a whole new realm of snack and meal choices for your kids. Knowing the difference between tablespoons and teaspoons can make or break the dish.

14. Ride a bike

A must-do.

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15. Pack a suitcase

Getting ready for vacation? Teach your kid to pack his own things. Make a checklist if you need to, just to make sure he gets more than one pair of underwear in there.

16. Fill out forms

Signing up for soccer? Applying for a volunteer position? College applications? Let your kid fill out the form (with your guidance, of course). Even in a digital world we still have to fill out the almighty form.

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