Sep 13 2023
Updated at: Sep 14 2023

5 Essential Life Skills for Kids

Positive Action Staff
Equip your children for a bright future with crucial life skills. Explore essential abilities to nurture for their success and personal growth.

“Give me the child, and I will show you the man.”

Aristotle’s wise words bluntly speak the undisputable idea that one’s upbringing shapes their future behavior and character.

Certainly, the makings of your doctor, engineer, and business mogul entirely depend formative years. Needless to say, you must equip them with the necessary life skills that prime them to fulfill their potential.

Fact: Formative years is the period between 0–8 years. The child’s exposure in this time forms the blueprint for the rest of their lives.

This is the idea behind the Positive Action curriculum and why the following five life skills are critical for your child’s development:

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Money management
  • Critical thinking
  • Daily living skills
  • Communication skills

We’ll be looking at the best strategies for incorporating these concepts into your classroom and, as a result, you will also learn:

  • How negative emotions disrupt learning for your learners
  • How critical thinking enhances decision-making
  • Why effective communication also matters as an adult

But first, do you often deal with the old “School is boring” complaint? That’s a common sign of avoidance and an indication of lacking emotional intelligence skills, our first point.

1. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Skills

Positive Action Elementary Climate Kit

School can often feel like an emotional roller coaster for your kids. Every day, they experience academic and social challenges that bring out a wide range of feelings, from the crushing blows of disappointing grades to the overwhelming weight of peer pressure.

Uncontrolled, these emotions wreak havoc on their learning experience and blossom into actual issues such as persistent school avoidance and a distorted sense of inadequacy—The classic “Everyone’s smarter than me” excuse.

As such, to truly establish supportive and healthy learning environments for kids, it’s imperative that you equip them with the EQ skills necessary to navigate and manage these feelings.

Fostering EQ involves:

  • Teaching children how to identify their emotions and those of others
  • Guiding children on how to control their emotions
  • Teaching children how to show empathy
  • Providing children with directions on how to communicate their feelings effectively
  • Guidance on how to appreciate people’s uniqueness

These are precisely the areas covered by the Positive Action School Climate Curriculum that uses recognition certificates and stickers such as “I See You Doing Something Positive" to acknowledge and promote positive emotions.

At the end of this journey, your students will be better at focusing and becoming great learners. They’ll have a better lid on their anger or excitement and a greater capacity to stay attentive in class.

A typical example is Timmy, who’s obsessive about grades. He stirs up negative emotions, such as fear and anxiety, which impact his concentration and participation in class.

EQ skills allow Timmy to recognize these feelings as they occur, keeping them from escalating into lost focus and activity. 

Your students will also become better decision-makers after EQ training and experience better social interactions.

Emotionally intelligent children make decisions that are not influenced by their emotions, enabling them to, for instance, resolve conflicts nonviolently, respect opinions, and build healthy relationships.

Strategies for Teaching Emotional Intelligence Skills and Building Resilience in Children

One effective way of instilling the above emotional intelligence skills, such as self-awareness and social awareness, is by acknowledging your students’ feelings.

When you notice emotions building in a kid, ask them how they feel about the events that led up to those feelings. Follow this up by giving the child a vocabulary for their feelings and encouraging them to develop strategies to cope with each emotion.

Another excellent strategy is to engage the students in problem-solving cises. Any problem they tackle together, from setting class rules to solving math problems, improves their emotional intelligence while equipping them with other life skills, such as teamwork and patience.

Also, as you read stories in class, encourage the children to put themselves in the character’s shoes (empathize). For instance, ask them what they think the character is thinking or feeling and relate it to his actions.

Expert Tip: Remember to model emotional intelligence to your students. Children are perceptive and observant and will emulate your actions in different situations. So, talk to them about your own emotional experiences and always remain calm in class, especially in stressful situations.

Positive Action offers a six-unit concept on the above ideas to help your kids master emotional intelligence and build resilience. These include self-regulation, self-honesty, and continuous self-improvement.

Contact us today to learn more about how you can implement this program in your school environment.

2. Money Management Life Skills

coins saved in a jar with a plant growingPhoto by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

A person either disciplines his finances or his finances discipline him.” - Orrin Woodward.

According to a survey of financial literacy in the United States, awareness is generally lower across generations and genders, but particularly so among Gen Z (12–28 years as of 2023) and Gen Y (28–42 years as of 2023) groups.

This was the study’s conclusion after 37% of Gen Z respondents and 30% of Gen Y respondents could only answer up to seven of the 28 index questions correctly.

The following table highlights financial literacy levels in the US by generation and gender.

Gender Gen Z Gen Y Gen X Boomers Silent Gen
Male 44% 51% 54% 57% 58%
Female 32% 40% 45% 48% 49%

Source: TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index (2023)

These findings indicate that money management is increasingly emerging as one of the most essential skills for students, who must make consequential financial decisions well before the age of 30.

The findings are also consistent with the recent Cambridge Study that revealed a strong relation between personal financial literacy and future financial well-being. Literacy here involves understanding the fundamentals of budgeting, saving, investing, charity, and debt.

Speaking of debt, repaying student loans can be challenging. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve, the national student loan debt is at a staggering $1.6 trillion.

Meanwhile, one in thirteen student loan borrowers are currently behind on their other payment obligations. This trend is higher than pre-pandemic levels and serves as a reminder of the importance of money management knowledge as part of essential life skills for children.

Strategies for Teaching Money Management Life Skills

Teach young children about debt management before they’re faced with the decision to take on a hefty student loan. This ensures that they know the financial commitment they are getting into and the impact it will have on their life.

Specifically, give the students practical lessons on budgeting and savingng play money. Let each child have three jars—savings, expenses, and charity— and set up activities that will help the children earn play money.

Every time they earn money, they can split it between the three jars. This will enable the child to:

  • Realize that money is earned through work.
  • Watch their balance grow, equipping them with other life skills such as patience and hard work.
  • Learn that giving is essential. The charity jar can be dedicated to something the child cares deeply about, like an animal shelter.
  • Start building a healthy relationship with money.

Also, ask them to open a savings bank account for kids with the help of a grown-up (parent or guardian). Instruct them to use it to save their gift money, allowances, or money they make from doing extra chores at home.

Lastly, teach your kids the differences between needs and wants and the importance of prioritizing needs over wants. It will help them build healthy spending habits and avoid unsustainable debt via unhealthy consumption.

3. Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally while understanding the links among different ideas.

This makes it one of the best life skills to teach school-aged children and a powerful positive youth development tool.

By cultivating critical thinking, your students are able to question ideas, reason, and think independently instead of passively accepting information.

This protects them from the detrimental effects of misinformation on behavior and decision-making. Consequently, they become less susceptible to forming prejudiced beliefs and joining unhelpful school cliques.

In addition to behavioral and responsible decision-making, critical thinking skills enable your students to solve problems independently and make logical judgments. This translates into academic success and future success as adults.

The video below provides more information about critical thinking and why it's important:

Fundamentals and introduction to critical thinking

Strategies for Teaching Critical Thinking Skills

Incorporate social-emotional learning (SEL) programs and evidence-based curriculum for kids to foster the habit of self-awareness and inquiry. One such program is the Critical Thinking Curriculum at Positive Action.

It features a variety of games, stories, and activities and at each point in the lesson, your students are challenged to think critically about the concepts being taught and why they are right. 

This creates a cause-and-effect relationship between the concepts that not only deepen their understanding but also foster a critical-thinking mindset in your learners.

Additionally, posters, game boards, and puppets are part of the educator resources for life skills to reinforce key critical thinking concepts through classroom activities.

Here are more ways you can encourage critical thinking life skills in the class:

  • Apply inquiry-based learning. Ask students provocative open-ended questions so they can apply what they’ve learned.
  • Create time for group discussions and group projects under adult supervision. This exposes the children to the different thinking processes among their peers.
  • Brainstorm problems or scenarios in class to encourage original thinking among students. Find ways to incorporate your students’ different points of view and encourage constructive controversy.
  • Encourage decision-making by getting your students to choose between activities and games. Work with them in evaluating the pros and cons of each choice, and then allow them to make the final decision.

Positive Action offers an evidence-based critical thinking curriculum that includes games and stories that challenge them to think about the topic of discussion and underlying concepts.

Bonus: We offer a 30-minute overview webinar where we provide more information about our programs. Sign up today.

4. Daily Living Skills

two children in a kitchen preparing a dishPhoto by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Daily living life skills focus on activities that the child will need to perform regularly to lead a healthy and safe lifestyle. One of the primary daily living life skills for kids is cooking skills.

Teaching kids the life skill of healthy cooking from an early age makes them unlikely to rely on foods with questionable nutritional value that can cause obesity, such as fast foods. 

Cooking skills also enable family support for children's development. It enables their participation in preparing home meals, where they receive further guidance from a parent or guardian on maintaining a healthy diet.

Additionally, as the children work together at the kitchen table under adult supervision, they build other life skills for kids, such as responsibility and teamwork.

Self-care life skills are also essential in building independence in a child and preparing him for daily living. And while things like showing a child how to dress, shave, or brush their hair are part of parenting, you can get the kids to build a habit of personal hygiene in school too.

This double effort results in positive reinforcement of these self-care practices that help the child to internalize and turn them into second nature.

More Activities That Equip School-Age Kids With These Life Skills

The following day-to-day activities are easy to incorporate as a fun classroom activity that teaches young learners self-reliance and prepares them for daily life.

  • For preschool children, learning how to separate laundry by sorting dark and light colors is a functional skill that instills organization and detail, which are valuable traits in both daily living and academic pursuits.
  • For older children, learning how to use a washing machine and the right amount of detergent to use is a practical skill that makes them dependable at home and sets them up for a life of independence and responsibility.
  • For preschoolers and older children learning how to fold and store clothes is a hands-on skill that instills tidiness and order, which prepares them for life in a structured and shared environment.

5. Communication Skills

It’s easy to think of effective communication as a common skill when it really isn’t. It takes practice and training.

However, the upsides of being a great communicator are so tremendous that it’s one of the most critical life skills every child needs.

The ability to communicate a message clearly, either in written or spoken form, will help kids build healthier relationships and manage conflict better.

This is because they’re able to express themselves assertively without coming off as rude or overbearing, which are admirable qualities that win friends and resolve misunderstandings.

But what’s more exciting is that excellent communication makes great listeners out of your learners.

By teaching communication skills, your children learn to listen to others’ points of view, read non-verbal cues, and avoid overreacting to misunderstandings. This in turn imparts tolerance of differences, empathy, and open-mindedness, which are essential life skills for everyone.

This is why, in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven R. Covey states that one habit of highly effective people is to seek first to understand.

Best Strategies to Teach Communication Life Skills to Kids in School

Illustrate how to have a productive face-to-face conversation, including the skill of turn-taking. For younger kids, try using puppets. Older kids can learn through role-playing and video modeling.

Train students how to listen and use appropriate physical cues. For instance, you can use the S.L.A.N.T. strategy. This is an acronym illustrating the body language children can use to focus on the speaker.

  • S – Sit up straight
  • L – Lean forward towards the speaker and listen
  • A – Ask questions and answer when asked
  • N – Nod your head to show you understand
  • T – Track the speaker using your eyes to avoid losing attention

Encourage the use of respectful language. Explain to the children that bad language is hurtful to another person’s feelings and will impact their quality of life as adults by limiting their opportunity to make friends or meaningful relationships.

Ready to Introduce Life Skills for Kids in Your School?

Schools provide the perfect environment to teach kids life skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.

You can achieve this by:

  • Teaching life skills through fun activities that encourage the kids to talk and listen to each other, work together, compromise, and respect different opinions.
  • Tweaking your teaching strategy to encourage students to think outside the box.
  • Teaching life skills through group work and group discussions.
  • Introducing separate life skills classes like cooking and financial management.
  • Being a strong role model for the children by demonstrating the right life skills.

The table below provides additional activities you can use to cultivate essential life skills in children. These engaging exercises cover various areas, from communication and problem-solving to emotional intelligence, money management, critical thinking, and daily living.

Life Skill Activities
Communication Role-playing, storytelling, group discussions, and public speaking practice
Problem-Solving Puzzles, riddles, brain teasers, science experiments, and logic games
Emotional Intelligence Mindfulness exercises, journaling emotions, empathy-building activities
Money Management Budgeting simulations, setting savings goals, shopping comparisons
Critical Thinking Analyzing news articles, debating topics, mind mapping, and brain games
Daily Living Cooking simple meals, laundry lessons, basic sewing, home organization

A more comprehensive approach to introducing life skills for kids in your school is through our research-based interventions for youth courses, the Positive Action Program Training, and the Whole School Reform Model.

Our life skills curriculum is tailored to instill the most useful life skills in ways that are easy and fun for kids.

Incorporating our training will also improve your students’ academics, behavioral, and social-emotional aspects, along with their mental and physical health.

Positive Action is based on the philosophy that positive actions influence positive thoughts and positive feelings. This improves the child’s self-concept while developing the whole self.

Begin training today. We will equip you with the right tools to impart critical life skills to the kids in your school.