What Should Your Child Be Able To Do And At What Age?

14/08/2014 16:47 | Updated 22 May 2015
What should your child be able to do at what age?

"Any chance you could sew this button on for me?" he asked with that imploring look on his face. No, this wasn't my child – it was my husband.

Why should something as simple as sewing on a button be considered my job? I refused. And blamed my mother-in-law.

My husband had lived for over 10 years on his own before we married; he could iron his own shirts and rustle up a basic meal, but when I met him he still took his mending home to his mum This made me think about the essential life skills that children should have so they are self-reliant at any age.

What should your child be able to and at what age?

Dr Rachel Johnson, a clinical psychologist, stresses: "Even very small children thrive on being allowed independence, but all children are different."

She emphasises:"Safety is the most important aspect to consider. You don't want to allow your six year old to stir a pan of hot soup on the stove."

But, she adds: "All children thrive on being independent. Even toddlers enjoy choosing what to wear, putting on their clothes, packing their bag for nursery. The idea is to build on these things gradually. Children are often more capable than you think."

Whilst your children may be ahead of you in the use of technology, many lack essential life skills partly because some parents have low expectations of how much children should help around the home.

Of course every child is different and every family's needs slightly different but these are the ages to aim for to increase their confidence (and take the load off you too!).

This is what your child should be able to do at these ages:

Four to six years old

• Your child should be able to dress themselves, pack their own bag for nursery or school and learn how to fasten their shoe laces or buckles.

• They might be able to make a sandwich – but not with a sharp knife- pour themselves a drink, and pack their lunch box.

• At home they should put their clothes and toys away.

Seven and eight years

• Children should be able to walk to school as long as there aren't any dangerous roads to cross.

• By now they should be riding a bike and swimming, before it becomes embarrassing for them if they can't.

• They should be putting their clothes into the laundry basket and tidying their rooms.

• At breakfast time they should be able to serve themselves cereal, a drink and possibly toast from a toaster if they are taught how to use it safely.

• With supervision they should be able to bake things like flapjacks and put toppings on pizza bases.

• Rachel Johnson suggests: "They should be able to answer the phone at home to familiar people if you know when they are calling. Allow your child to answer the phone to gran or granddad, then move on to answering it when the caller is unknown."

Nine and 10 years

• Your child should be able to get themselves ready for going out.

• They should be able to catch a bus for a short journey and even manage an uncomplicated train journey if they are being met at the other end. They should know how to read bus and train timetables.

• At home they should be able to make a meal such as beans on toast or scrambled eggs, or heat something in the microwave or oven.

• They should be able to vacuum their own room and family rooms, and change their bedding.

• Look after a pet - feed, clean up and walk.

• Know how and when to dial 999 and know what to say.

11 and 12

• At this age your child should be able to answer the phone confidently and take messages.

• This is the age when they should be learning to cook and be able to make a meal for the family. Peeling and chopping vegetables, being able to use the oven and grill, and follow a simple recipe for pasta, stir fry or cottage pie are the kind of level.

• With supervision they should be able to use a washing machine, choosing the correct cycle for the fabric, iron their clothes and sew on a button or name tapes.

• They should know how to clean and polish their own shoes, and understand basics of food hygiene such as washing chopping boards, handling raw meat like chicken, and the importance of handwashing in the kitchen.

13 to 16

These are key years for helping your child become independent. Encouraging them to help you in the kitchen will teach them cookery skills, as well as learning how to handle food safely and store it in the fridge or freezer.

Introducing them to basic household chores will share the load and teach them how to be independent.

• By the time they are ready for college or university they should be able to cook at least six meals from scratch - such as spaghetti bolognaise, cottage pie, stir fry, a curry, a roast chicken, and pasta sauces.

• Learning to budget is a highly useful skill. Why not give them a fixed amount for a two-course family meal, then allow them to shop and cook it?

• Are they confident about tackling their laundry, including dealing with stains, different fabrics and knowing how to iron clothes and use a tumble dryer?

• Take full responsibility for putting dirty laundry out including bedding, cleaning their own room, and helping with chores such as loading the dishwasher, sorting out the rubbish for recycling, and cutting the grass.

• Some basic sewing: simple alterations such as shortening trousers or a skirt or mending a ripped seam.

• If they haven't already opened a bank account, helping them know how to choose the best options for savings is useful, and the same applies to mobile phone contracts.

• First aid - some schools teach this but many don't. You can enrol your child on a course out of school, or buy them a first aid book which gives basic instructions on dealing with emergencies.

Would you agree with this list?

Do you have lower expectations for what your children can do, especially compared to yourselves at the same age?

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