Do That For Yourself: The Top 10 Before 10

By April Tisher

Being a 10-year-old today is very different than it was when I was 10, but it is still important to teach children things that give them a sense of autonomy and maturity. After talking to some experts, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 things to teach your children before they turn 10.

1.  How to save money. This is a big one for my husband. He has always made our children put a portion of their money (birthday, allowance, etc.) in savings and keep a portion to spend and/or donate.

2.   How to comparison shop. This one is a big one for me. I love a deal and it physically pains me to see someone pay more for something than they have to. Show children how prices vary from one place to the next, whether you’re online shopping or looking at sales fliers.

3.   How to write a letter. Writing a letter is almost a lost art. I was grateful when my child’s teacher had the class practice addressing and stamping envelopes in third grade. I am a one of the holdouts, and I make my children write handwritten thank you notes to friends and family after receiving gifts.

4.  How to manage school responsibilities. Children turn 10 late in their elementary school years; this means that the things they learn now prepare them for middle school. Dr. Jill Geltner, professional school counselor at Howard Bishop Middle School, sees the importance of children learning to navigate their own educational needs. They should be taught before sixth grade the organizational skills needed to keep an agenda, keep up with homework and school assignments, and how to plan ahead for tests and projects. Every child is different and requires varying levels of parental support, but the burden should start to shift in favor of the student as they move toward middle school.

5.  How to manage their own stuff. This stuff can refer to their gym clothes, backpacks or lunchboxes. Mom of two Amy Hogue said she decided that she was no longer going to “rescue her children.” If they forget their lunch box, they will learn their lesson the hard way. Leave their schoolwork on the table; they will suffer the natural consequences from their teachers. Hogue said past generations didn’t have parents running to the school to bring forgotten items, so they learned quickly how to be responsible! Father of three boys and Gatorball coach Kevin Clarke subscribes to this same mantra with sports equipment. He stresses to his players that they “carry their own bag!” He doesn’t want to see his players’ parents schlepping bat bags to and from the fields. They are also told to “put their eyes on” their equipment and uniforms before they leave the house to ensure that everything is there; he doesn’t buy the “my mom forgot to wash my uniform” excuse.

6.   How to perform basic personal hygiene. Dr. Elizabeth Kowalski, mom of three, said by 10 she expects her children to keep themselves clean, shower, brush their own teeth, dress and be ready for whatever they are doing next, without being reminded to do so.

7.  How to prepare  a simple meal for themselves. Dr. Kowlaski also feels it’s an important life skill for her son to be able to make himself something to eat on his own. Not necessarily to be able to cook, but fix something to eat for breakfast, lunch or snack. They can also assist adults with making larger or more complicated family meals.

8.  How to do simple household chores. This was something that Dr. Geltner and Dr. Kowalski both felt strongly about. By 10, children should be able to take out the trash, put away clothes or empty the dishwasher. Dr. Geltner recognized that some children might prefer to work outdoors helping with yard duties or walking the family dog. Overall, the point is for children to feel a sense of duty and importance to the family group.

9.  How to navigate. We all have devices that use GPS these days, but you still need to teach basic navigating skills. Sometimes (gasp) you don’t have a signal or Siri takes you totally out of the way to get to an address. Your child should know how to look at a simple map and know which way is east or west. Theme park maps and geocaching are good ways to teach this skill.

10.   How to relax. At the end of the day, Dr. Geltner emphasized the importance of teaching children how to have down time. We no longer put them down for naps, but balancing life with relaxation time with friends and leisure activities are part of what makes a productive and content child.