Tip: What kinds of life skills can grandparents teach? Part 1

Grandparents can teach self-care, housekeeping, traffic safety and essentials in interacting
with the community. Below is a list of life skills topics.

  • Morning routine – brushing teeth, brushing hair, washing hands
  • Getting dressed independently
  • Potty training
  • Evening routine – brushing teeth, taking bath/ shower/ washing hair
  • Setting the table
  • Clearing the table
  • Simple food preparation and cooking
  • Feeding and Serving oneself
  • Cutting food and using utensils to eat
  • Picking up toys, books
  • Sorting laundry, washing it, drying it and putting it away
  • Making a shopping list (written or pictures)
  • Shopping, staying by your side and following the shopping list
  • Finding the items and putting them in the basket
  • Paying for the items and budgeting
  • Putting the purchases in their proper place at home
  • Teaching to use indoor voice (quiet tones) indoors
  • Teaching turn taking
  • Teaching about when and how to ask for help
  • Locating public restrooms
  • Teaching swimming and water safety
  • Giving directions when walking/driving to the park or the store
  • Teaching how to cross streets safely
  • Teaching about stop signs, crosswalks
  • Practicing riding public transportation
  • Practicing driving skill

Morning Routine – Brushing Teeth, Brushing Hair, Washing Hands

Check with the child’s parents what the morning routine is. If there is one, follow the same routine, make picture-schedules if needed. Older children may be comfortable with written schedules. If you are the first one establishing a routine, discuss with the parents about how this routine should proceed and what they want to be part of the routine. Then the child will have the same routine at home and at your house. Once the routine is learned well, you can make changes.

Getting Dressed Independently

Your grandchild has to learn to dress and undress independently. For best results, find out how the parents teach the dressing. If you are the first to teach independent dressing and undressing, let the parents know how you do it. It helps if the child has consistent expectations, so they have to memorize only one sequence. If the teaching is laborious or not sticking, you can make up a picture schedule of what comes first, second and third – this will make the process smoother and the same schedule can be used at the parents’ house. What you will discover is that this process requires great patience on your part and is tedious, as the child zones out or gets distracted by something. You’ll have to stand there, keep telling them to focus and point their eyes at what they are doing. Eventually, you will be able to tell the child that it is time to get dressed, and they will do it. This is a test of your endurance that can pay off handsomely in the end.

Potty Training

There are videos that show potty training to the children. Cartoon types are best. The hard part is keeping the child on the toilet, or the potty. You still want to teach. Make sure that the system is the same at your home as it is at the parents’ house. Keep them busy with their favorite books or electronic gadgets while you are waiting for something to happen. Make sure that your attempts coincide with the child’s voiding habits. Generally children will go to the same place in the house when they are filling their diapers. IMPORTANT! When the child successfully goes in the toilet or potty, do not make a lot of noise, it scares them and makes training harder. Simply say quietly, “Good job”, wipe the child and show the child the production and let them flush. By then, they are expert toilet flushers.

Wiping themselves comes later, and is also a challenge. Flushable wet wipes can be most helpful. Again, check with the parents so the same system can be used at home.

Evening Routine – Brushing Teeth, Taking Bath/ Shower/ Washing Hair

Evening routine could be put into a picture schedule, and again should be the same as is followed at parents’ home. Brushing teeth can be taught in front of a mirror. It is best to have the child count to ten as they are moving the toothbrush back and forth along the left back teeth; ten for the right back teeth, etc. If you use the same system all the time and everywhere, there is a better chance that the child will do it like that when you are not around.

Because of the children’s many sensitivities, bath time might be a wonderful event or it can be a trial. Sometimes, the child may have been OK with taking a bath, and suddenly it’s not OK and no one knows what triggered the change. Washing hair could also become a problem after it was previously OK. You don’t want to make bath time a contest, but the child still has to wash. If they do not want to sit in the tub, you simply soap them up while they stand in the tub and rinse off with a bowl. The aversion will go away.

Eventually, you will teach them to soap themselves by naming body parts as they count, five times back and forth for the arms, five times for the front of the neck, five times for the back of the neck etc. This will teach your grandchild the names of body parts, and the counting will help them focus on what they are doing.

Setting The Table

It is important for the grandchildren to learn to set the table and to participate in family life. Like with all the other skills. You might need a picture schedule, and consult with the parents about the sequence. Make sure that the sequence is the same or very similar.

Clearing The Table

Some people use dishwashers, and some people wash dishes by hand. It would be helpful it the child learned to clear the table and rinse off the dishes, in any event. This way, when they are living independently, the sequence will be in place, and they will not end up with food caked on their dishes. Again, check with the parents about the sequences you want to establish, and have the child do it in both households.