There are some skills that kids appreciate knowing more than what adults think they should learn. And skills kids might be able to really use to form a foundation for a great education.
The requirements for a list of important skills kids should learn is based on how relevant the skill is to the child at that specific age, and how empowering it may result to be.
Certain skills are really high on giving kids a sense of confidence in their learning. Some skills act as a trampoline for learning. Just like reading is a required skill to learn from books, speaking a foreign language opens up possibilities for learning and communication.
But more importantly, there are skills kids want to learn because it is important to them at that age. Like learning to whistle, tying their shoe laces, blowing bubble gum bubbles, drawing something accurately. It’s just cool.
4-5 year olds
The kind of skills that make little kids feel like big kids are at the top of their priority list, and as such, kids will put the most time and effort to master these skills as long as you too encourage and support them:
Swing on the swing
Brush hair and make pony tails
They do take time and focus so if your child is on learn mode, be conscious of the fact that distracting, rushing, criticizing, diverting them to another task or to stop, does obstruct the learning process.
These are some things kids can learn easily from you or from others. They are not on top of their priority list but they do see that it is important to grown ups and do make them feel a little more like a big kid:
The numbers from 1-20
The sounds of the letters
The names of the shapes
Little kids love cooking and helping in the kitchen. Mostly they just want to do what we do:
Chopping veggies, cheese, and fruit
Help making soup
They can do some chores and most tasks are nicer when you sing a tune. 4 – 5 year olds love songs:
Putting things away where they belong
Memorize simple songs
The alphabet song
Learn a foreign language – The younger kids are, the easier it is to learn a language. They don’t call it a foreign language, for them it is another way to communicate. If they have an outlet to play with kids who speak a different language or they have family members they can practice it with.
There are some great games 4 and 5 year olds can be introduced to. They encourage number sense, mental agility and more importantly they are a good intro to playing other big kid games:
Play go fish with kiddie cards
Get along with other kids
5-6 Year Olds
These are the most difficult but most important skills at this age:
Make Bubble gum bubbles
Tie shoe laces
Practice building forts
Ride a scooter
Play go fish
Learn lyrics of favorite songs
These are skills 5 – 6 Year Olds can easily learn these, specially if grown-ups make these important:
The numbers from 1-30
The names of the planet in the solar system
Some biology fun facts
Other fun things 5 -6 Year Olds like to and can learn:
Use a simple juicer
Make a salad
Help make cookies
Help make smoothies
Model with playdough
Plant seeds and tend the garden
6-7 Year Olds
For this age just about every part of life (with the exception of going to sleep) is or can be play:
Take showers by themselves
Write some words, make lists
Simple addition and subtraction
Clean a surface
Make their bed
Shop at the dollar store
Make a lemonade stand
Play card games
Use a shovel
How to mitigate conflicts when playing
How the heart works and what it does for your body, what lungs do, what kidneys do, what the brain does.
Learn the main muscles
Learn the main bones
The days of the week
To count and do simple sum and addition using their fingers
Follow instructions to build LEGO structures
Play bocce ball
7-8 Year Olds
Seven and eight year olds have the ability to flip every situation into play or potential play:
Memorize simple sums
Big sums, and two digit subtraction
Figure out change
Simple world problems: Figure out how much more money they need to buy something that costs more than what they have
Organize a yard sale
Play board games
Learn to play an instrument
The months of the year in order
300 word puzzles
Make a fire
I think there are some other skills that kids at this age need to focus on is being mindful of where to put things:
For example putting them in such a place that people don’t trip over them, or finding the best place to place an apple in the car so it doesn’t roll off the seat when the car stops, keeping things in places where you can find them latter, placing glasses or water bottles at a safe distance so you don’t knock them over when you are eating. Estimating force and speed.
Make a catapult
See our free Natural Science Guide for 5 – 8 Year Olds
8-9 Year Olds
At this age a lot of the skills are based on adult’s expectations such as:
Be able to tell which foods are more nutritious, what foods are protein or high in protein, what foods are carbohydrates and what that means. What foods are sugar or like sugar. What ingredients are healthy and which ones are not.
Do a lot of chores like: dusting, putting dishes away, sweeping, making the bed, tidying up the house, organizing the pantry.
Cooking eggs, waffles, pancakes, bake cookies.
Be a loyal friend.
Ride a bike
Understand what are atoms, cells
Set up a camp site
Learning to really listen to others and offer insight
Identifying the Pros and Cons
9-11 Year Olds
Read the ingredients of foods at the grocery store.
Learn and understand nutrition: what foods are rich in what vitamins, minerals, nutrients.
Do most chores including: sweeping, mopping, doing the dishes, setting the thermostat, setting the alarm.
Geometry, how to calculate the radius, circumference, the area of a triangle, etc.
Understand some chemistry
Read the periodic table
Learn to prioritize
Be able to tell the cardinal points
11-13 Year Olds
Make a budget
Shop for groceries
“Balance the checkbook” or keep track of expenses
Start a business by themselves
Teach an instrument
Understand what it means to be a good friend
Stand up for ones believes and individuality
Not give in to peer pressure
Calculus (if needed)
Algebra (if needed)
Understand borrowing and interest
Understand the many functions of government
Introduction to politics and social issues
Understand the female cycle
13-15 year olds
Understand that “popularity” is for politics and show biz.
Be empathic and understand others’ point of view.
Put yourself in other peoples’ shoes.
Understand your parents.
Understand governments, how it helps society and how it could be improved
Understand paying taxes and how our taxes are used
Study the national budget
15-17 Year Olds
Change a tire
Able to label and understand what is under a car’s hood
Travel by plane or train by yourself
Understand credit and interest
17-19 Year Olds
Read between the lines
Negotiate for a job, salary
Express yourself during an job interview or in business
Drive a car
Agree to disagree
How to navigate a city safely by yourself
As you can see most of the skills don’t require a packaged curriculum. You can make your own by understanding your child and understand what is developmentally appropriate for kids in general and for your child in particular.
Also, contrary to what you might find in mainstream education, some of the most important skills for kids are not the ones we think are important. For example, a four year old is expected to learn the numbers and identify letter sounds by the time they start Kindergarten. However, most 4 or 5 year olds will work very hard to learn to swing themselves at the playground. Some will really put their mind to it until they master that skill because it is relevant to their lives and, well, maybe they just know this is what is expected at their age…in the most important place in their world -the Playground.