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Old-School Life Skills That Your Kid Needs to Know

Because sometimes you run out of batteries

Jasmine Banks

Published on: April 22, 2020


I figured it would take much longer for me to become that older person who shakes her fist in the air and exclaims, “Kids these days!” But alas, here I am in my mid-30s, totally confused and cantankerous about kids these days.

Why don’t they know certain essential life skills? Has technology evolved so far and so fast that our young people forgot how to live without iPhones glued to their faces?

So, pull up a seat, whippersnappers, because I’m going to teach you some things. I’ve taken the liberty of creating a list of “Old-School Life Skills That Your Kid Needs.”

Preschool and kindergarten

Sure, your preschool- or kindergarten-age kiddo can control your whole house with an iPad and work your phone better than you can. (OMG, someone make my child stop downloading apps on my phone!)

But can they recall your phone number without accessing the contact list or asking the phone robot to “Call home”?

Your little ones absolutely must know how to memorize a phone number and how to actually dial it on a phone that doesn’t have a touchscreen.

Elementary school

Thanks to STEM programs, your kid can probably program their own robots by the time they reach elementary school. But unless they are some kind of wicked genius, it is highly unlikely they will program a robot to teach them how to properly address and mail a letter.

I dig email as much as the next person, but our elementary school children should know how to address a letter, correctly add a return address and navigate a post office. Bonus points if they write — not type — the letter themselves.


Middle school

If middle school kids are anything like I was back in the era of Doc Martens and skater jeans, the outfit changes are abundant. Teach your middle school kids how to do their own laundry.

Teaching your kid how to launder their clothes might even reduce the number of items they pull from their closet and throw on the floor. Sewing is an essential skill as well, so break out a needle and thread and show them how to do a little light mending.

High school

Just the other day, I helped a 17-year-old kid with directions.

He was literally lost. He flagged me down and explained that the charging port on his phone wouldn’t charge and the phone had died mid-navigation. He explained that his parent kept a map in the glove box, but he didn’t know what the words on the map even meant.

Puzzled, I checked out the map. The confusing names were — you guessed it — street names. This poor kid was so used to just turning left when Google told him to that he wasn’t able to connect with how to use the printed map. 

Your high-schooler must know how to figure out north, south, east and west and how to navigate using a non-digital map.

Our kids get hooked on technology before they are even walking, and the “old school” skills we once prioritized are relegated to the bottom of the stack in favor of even more technology. I’m worried for them. I’m worried for all of us. Let’s band together and bring the old school back in style. 

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in October 2018, and updated in April 2020.

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