Life Skills – Using Xacto Blades, Vacuums and Measuring Cups

The other day Emily pulled out her Play-Doh and got to work on the office floor. The office doubles as our ‘homeschool room’ and so all of her crafts, educational books, computer, et cetera are in here.

Recently she was looking for ‘something sharp’ to cut her dough with and discovered an Xacto blade in my pen drawer. I was nervous at first, the thing is pretty damn sharp, and I was worried she would cut herself, leave it out for me to step on, or stab something or someone horribly.

Instead, she has handled it quite responsibly, including replacing the blade when it fell out…twice. I didn’t even know it had happened the first time. I saw her, blade in one hand and handle in the other the second time – “Oh wow, can I please do that, Emily?”

Her answer was calm and self-assured, “I’ve done this before, Mama, I just need to put the sharp part back in to the stick.” She did this, and I asked for her to hand it to me. “Mama, it’s okay, I did it.”

“Yes, you did, sweetie. And it was a very good job of putting it back together, but I wanted to tighten it, so it doesn’t keep falling out.”

She accepted this and moved on to removing some dried up modeling clay from her molds, which made quite a mess on the floor. After she finished playing with her dough I said, “I think we need to vacuum, sweetie. I’ll get the handheld and plug it in for you.”

Emily brightened up, got positively bouncy, and said, “Okay!” She then had a great time vacuuming up every little speck of mess.

I smile at all of this because the ‘legend’ goes that I learned to vacuum at the age of four, after I crumbled up my Play-Doh in my yellow and white shag carpet. At the age of five, (heck, even as young as two), I have considered it an essential part of Emily’s upbringing to include ‘life skills’ in the homeschool regimen.

  • Cleaning her room – regular clearing and organizing of toys has encouraged her to learn that everything should have its assigned place, that it is easier to play in her room (which is the smallest room in the house when a majority of her toys are put away neatly and easy to find the next time she wants to use them. It also helps her learn basic organizational skills early on. As a professional organizer I meet a great deal of people who are deeply intimidated by clutter – to the point of not being willing to tackle it. An organized room leads to less distraction, less stress, and a rising feeling of self-esteem that yes, she can organize it on her own.
  • Sharp, dangerous objects – Obviously I try and use some degree of caution here, but I am learning to step back and allow Emily more leeway in the cutting or smashing (see picture of Emily smashing rocks with a hammer below) of things.
  • Age-appropriate, and size-appropriate tasks-I ask Emily for help in watering the Christmas tree, gathering eggs from the chickens, putting away the silverware and plastic (both at her height level),and helping pick up items in the main living areas.
  • Baking – for math and for fun – Math, measurement, science, and fun playing in the kitchen combine to make baking and cooking for the family an excellent adventure for all kids. Not to mention it gives them lasting life skills on cooking for themselves. Consider including them in further in-depth adventures like dehydrating foods, canning, and even creating organic herbal recipes for skin care and overall health care.

And here are a few pictures of Emily practicing those life skills…

When she wanted to smash rocks I told her she needed safety glasses - surprise, surprise, she located them right away!

Emily happily vacuuming up her dough crumbles from the office floor (she really likes playing with the vacuum)

I asked her if she would like to vacuum up the old leaves and dirt around the FOODY in my bedroom and she was happy to do it

Without being asked, Emily then packed up the vacuum, as she has seen me do on countless client cleanings. How nice was that?

I was able to say, honestly and happily, “Thank you, Emily. You really helped me out. I had been meaning to vacuum around the FOODY for over a week now. I really appreciate your help!”

Encouraging kids to participate in the mundane day-to-day living involves them in family life, and encourages them to think of themselves as fully interactive members of the family dynamic. I love including her in this, and I love seeing the look of pride on her face at a job well done.

What kind of activities or life skills do you teach your children…and at what age do you teach them?

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