Children are constantly learning. And we mean, CONSTANTLY! It’s crazy when you think about it – how much they absorb on a daily basis and how much their little brains take in. In the first five years of life, your child’s brain develops faster than at any other time in her life.

During those critical first five years, we parents are our children’s number one teachers. They are soaking in everything we say and do. And they are constantly learning from these experiences.

However, once your cheeky cherubs start school, you’re not off the hook. No matter how much they absorb at school, no matter how big our kids get (or how much they think they already know), we will always be their number one teacher.

Finding Lessons Outside of Books

Education begins at home. Yes, we are responsible for checking that our kids are doing their homework, but this is only the beginning. There are heaps of important life lessons that kids need to learn, but that we often don’t think about – lessons that fall outside the reading, writing and arithmetic mold.

So what are some of these life lessons we don’t usually think about? And how can we help our kids learn these important skills in an entertaining and engaging way? We’ve come up with a few challenges you can try with the kids over the coming weeks.

Real Life Challenges to Try with the Kids

1. The Food Shopping Challenge

Take the kids shopping with you. But instead of letting them sit in the trolley or walk slowly behind you complaining about how long it’s taking and how hungry they are, make them work their brains.

Give them the budget, a pen and a piece of paper. As you add items to the trolley, make your kids add up the items as you go. Let them look for the bargains and sales and see how close they get to the budget at the checkout.
The kicker? If there’s a bit of money left over after your family shopping spree, let the kids keep the change. This is a great way to teach them about maths, budgeting and costs while offering an incentive to ensure they are motivated to try.

2. The Family Activity Challenge

We are constantly planning parties, activities and outings. Step out of the activity coordinator role for a day and let your kids give it a go. Give your child $50 to spend and let them decide the activity for the family to do together – the beach, a hike, a picnic at a park, bowling, laser tag, the movies, anything they would like to do.

Then get them to make a booking, if needed, decide on transport, prepare snacks to take, pack a bag with the things you may need (socks if bowling, sunscreen if heading to the beach, water if going on a hike, etc.). It’s a lot of work, but it’s also an incredibly important skill to have – the ability to organise and execute a plan.

3. The Weekly Cook Up Challenge

Cooking is another important life skill we often take for granted. Our kids will eventually have to fend for themselves in the kitchen and teaching them how to master a few basic meals is a great way to ignite their passion for cooking early on AND hopefully provide you with a few nights off cooking duties in the not-too-distant future.

Choose five basic meals to teach your children how to cook, depending on their age of course. Some ideas? Spaghetti bolognaise, casseroles, chili con carne, tacos, scrambled eggs, homemade pizzas and pancakes.

One day a week, hit the kitchen together. Let your kids gather all the ingredients from the pantry and fridge, do all the chopping, slicing, dicing and prepping, plus the actual cooking. Get them to set the table (correctly) and stack the dishwasher at the end of the meal.

You will probably need to help along the way. But take a step back and let them try, even if it takes much longer than usual. This is part of the fun.

Even More Ways to Make Real Life Lessons Fun for Kids

•Board games – Not only great for teaching sharing, taking turns and sportsmanship, plenty of board games incorporate lessons on maths, problem solving and budgeting.
•Treasure hunts and geocaching – These activities are challenging and entertaining, plus they also help children understand orienteering and navigation.
•Pen pals – Letter writing is such a critical skill that often gets overlooked (especially with email). Having a pen pal encourages kids to improve their sentence structure and written communication and introduces them to the postal system.
•Gardening – Not only great for teaching kids about sustainability and the eco-system, gardening also helps children learn about responsibility and patience.
•Dinner date – Let your little one take you out for dinner. Ask him to book the restaurant, order the food and pay the bill (with your money if he’s a little short on funds). You get a night out and you are teaching him important life skills. Win win!
•Buffet bingo – Take your kids to a smorgasbord and challenge them to choose a balanced meal (one that doesn’t just consist of chips and nuggets). Encourage them to include at least a veggie or two!

Responsibility Starts at Home

In addition to the above skills, children need to be taught how to help out and be responsible for their belongings. Often these lessons come in the form of chores. Boring, we know, but it’s so important that you are getting kids to help out in a number of different ways– folding the washing, washing the car, vacuuming and mopping the floors, tidying their rooms, mowing the lawn, setting and clearing the table, packing their bags and lunches, keeping their toys neat, tidy and clean.

Yes, they may complain about doing it and consider you the meanest mum ever, but this is another important lesson kids need to learn early on – life isn’t always fun and games. Every now and again, we all have to get our hands dirty and clean a toilet.