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Basic Skills Every Child Should Learn Before They Reach Adulthood

Updated: Aug 9, 2019

To be a well-rounded adult, there are some things that you must know how to do, regardless of gender, age, or education level. Obviously, knowing how to pray, go to confession, engage in mental prayer, etc. is a necessary skill, but I'm talking about physical skills in this post. The skills listed below may seem simple, but they can come in handy when you least expect it and can even lead to the development of marketable skills (skills that can be used to generate income) in the future. How many do you know how to do?

1. Hang a picture. Everyone likes to make their house or apartment feel like home, often by hanging family photos or artwork on the wall. Knowing how to do this properly prevents unneeded damage to the wall and ensures the item doesn’t fall (yes, there is a wrong way to do it!).

2. Use basic tools. Everyone, not just do-it-yourselfers (DIYers) or professionals, need to keep basic tools in the house and know how to use them. Knowing how to use a hammer, pliers, wrench, saw, and even a power drill are extremely useful skills to have and can come in handy if something suddenly breaks. Here's a short list of tools that everyone should keep in their home.

3. Unclog a toilet. It’s silly to call a plumber anytime a toilet gets clogged. Learn how to do it yourself along with other basic maintenance, like replacing the flapper.

4. Sew a button on a shirt. Don’t be that guy who ships his clothes to his mother when he needs a button sewn back on. It’s not hard to do, and it can even be done with a cheap sewing kit. If you get good at sewing, you can start making clothes for yourself!

5. Bake a cake from scratch. Anyone can be a baker. Recipes are easy to find online and following recipes hones your skills in following basic instructions (very important for growing children). Plus, it’s great to be able to make a homemade dessert every once in a while.

6. Grill a steak. Why spend $40 on a steak in a restaurant, when you can grill the perfect steak yourself from the comfort of your backyard?

7. Babysit a child. Even single guys should know how to change a diaper and burp a baby. You never know when you have to watch a niece or the neighbor’s kid, plus it’s less you’ll have to learn when you get married and are expecting your first child. When my younger brother was born, my parents were forced to leave me and my sister (at the time, we were two and four years old, respectively) with my dad's former college roommate, who was still single at the time. Thankfully he knew a thing or two about childcare!

8. Change the oil in a car. This doesn’t mean you have to do it yourself, but at least know how it’s done by being able to identify the dipstick, plug, and oil cap. It’s simple maintenance that keeps your car in tip-top shape, and knowing how to change your oil gives you a basic understanding of how cars work, just in case you find yourself stuck on the side of the road with a smoking engine. If you do take your car in for service, you'll also be more informed when talking with the mechanic. A trick I learned when purchasing a used car from Craigslist or a private seller is to ask the seller how to change the oil in their vehicle. If they don't know, move on, because most likely they failed to keep up with the car's basic maintenance requirements. This test may not be always accurate, but I would rather pass on a good car than buy a bad one.

9. Fix a flat tire. Flat tires happen at the most inconvenient time. Be able to get yourself out of a jam by knowing how to fix a flat yourself. It’s easy to do and you can easily carry everything you need with you in your trunk so you’ll always be prepared and don't have to rely on someone else to bail you out. If you have roadside service through your insurance or other means, by all means take advantage of that! But at least know the basics if they can't get to your for a while.

10. Prune trees correctly. If you have trees in your yard, you want to take care of them so that they stay healthy and look good. A lot of people, even so-called “professional” landscapers, prune trees incorrectly, so if you hire someone else to do the job, make sure you know how it should be done to keep them accountable.

11. Maintain a lawn mower. If you have a yard, you probably have a lawnmower. Knowing how to maintain the mower will keep it running smoothly for years, saving you money in the long run. If you live in cold climates, end-of-the-season maintenance is key to make sure the engine isn’t damaged during freezing temperatures and will start up easily in the spring.

12. Grow a garden. Knowing how to grow vegetables and herbs from seeds will provide you with fresh produce all summer long. Plus, it tastes so much better than what you can buy in store.

13. Raise and care for an animal. Being able to raise an animal teaches a lot of good life skills, especially for children, be it a pet or livestock. If you raise livestock, it can also provide a source of income and fresh meat.

14. Build a campfire. Even if you aren’t a camper, it’s good to know how to build a fire, from selecting and arranging the wood to getting the fire to light. This skill comes in handy during a backyard s’more roast and in survival situations.

15. Navigate using a paper map. What if your cell phone died and your GPS can’t get a signal? Would you be able to get to your destination? Learn how to read a map and navigate without a GPS.

16. Shoot a shotgun. From hunting for food to protecting your family from home invasion, knowing how to safely handle a firearm is an essential skill. Even if you never plan to use a gun or own one yourself, knowing proper gun safety can help you avoid potentially dangerous situations.

17. Bait a fishing hook. Fishing is not just a recreational sport, but also an essential survival skill. If you've never tasted fresh rainbow trout cooked in butter in a cast iron skillet over a campfire for breakfast, you are missing out!

18. Tie several different knots. Knot-tying is an extremely useful art. There are hundreds of different knots for hundreds of different purposes, from joining two ropes together to securing a load to the top of your car. Be prepared for anything!

19. Know CPR. Hopefully you are never in a situation when you need to use it, but knowing CPR can save lives. Don’t stand helplessly by when someone is in need because you don’t know what to do.

20. Write concisely and effectively. Effective written communication is an invaluable skill, regardless of your vocation or job. Even in STEM jobs, effective writing will set you apart from other candidates and make you more marketable.

21. Public speaking. Many people have a fear of public speaking. Anyone can be a good public speaker with practice, and the best way to overcome your fear of public speaking is to practice often. Employers seek candidates who are good communicators, and people respond better to people with good communication skills, so whether you are an engineer, farmer, priest, homemaker, or teacher, public speaking skills are essential!

22. Basic knowledge of another language. Being able to read and speak a foreign language, even imperfectly, is a great skill to have. When I worked as a cashier in high school, I was able to communicate with a customer only because I knew rudimentary Spanish. In addition to spoken languages, American Sign Language is another great language to know.

23. Basic computer programming. Computer programming is no longer for the nerds. Living in the technological age, basic computer programming skills are essential, not to mention a way into a high-paying and in-demand career. Computer programming is basically a combination of a foreign language and logic, and anyone can learn the basics. If you are unsure where to start, find free tutorials on HTML or Python, both of which can be run from your home computer.

24. Play a musical instrument. Regrettably, this is the only skill on this list that I don’t have, but I hope to learn how to play the guitar or piano someday. Nothing is better after a long day of work than to sit on the porch of your homestead and make some music with your family.

25. Swim freestyle and backstroke. Knowing how to swim can save your life, but it’s also a great way to stay in shape! I knew how to swim from a young age, but never learned the formal strokes. When I got started in triathlons as an adult, I quickly realized that I needed to learn. There are a lot of great videos on YouTube that can get you started, but many places host swim lessons.

26. Throw a ball. How many celebrities in recent years have embarrassed themselves when throwing out a first pitch at a major league baseball game? Too many to count! Don’t be that person! You may not consider yourself an athlete, but learn to throw a ball at least so that you can play catch with your kid or grandchildren.

27. Create a budget. Want to stay out of debt? Know how to create a budget and stick to it. If you need to cut expenses, here are some ideas.

28. Balance a checkbook. Balancing a checkbook may seem archaic, but the skills still apply in today’s world. Being able to keep detailed financial records and know how much money you have available will put you on the road to financial freedom.

Are there any other skills that you think more people should know how to do? How do you teach these skills to your children? Let us know!

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