5 Ways to Raise a Handy Kid

Image via Katie Hurley

If we really want to raise independent kids, and I’m fairly certain that we do, we need to teach them life skills along with math, reading, and technology.

We teach kids a lot of things when it comes to academics. We also teach them how to tie their shoes, navigate an iPad, and kick a soccer ball—all very useful skills. But how many life skills do we actually teach our children when the day-to-day grind of school/team sports/homework sets in? Have we remembered to teach them how to change a light bulb?

We need to give them lessons in solving everyday problems independently. That iPad might be able to do just about anything, but it can’t roast a chicken when you’re hungry (not yet, anyway). Get out your tools and stop fixing all of those broken toys for your little ones. Chances are they are capable of doing their own fixing. 

{ MORE: Why Your Toddler Should Help With Chores }

Here are 5 ways to raise a handy kid:

Image via Flickr/ 1lenore

Break out the tools.

My dad was fond of saying that he could fix just about anything with a screwdriver, a hammer, and a roll of duct tape.  From the time I was little, until I finally reached adulthood, I watched him fix a variety of things with a few tools, some creative thinking, and a healthy dose of optimism. As a result, I have some serious skills when it comes to fixing things on the fly. 

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Kids love to fix things, and they love to help. They feel responsible and independent when given the opportunity to help fix things around the house. Set them up with their own mini tool kits, practice patience, and teach them how to repair things that need a little fixing around the house. Whether it’s a broken toy or a swing set that needs sanding, getting your kids involved at a young age teaches them that they are capable and responsible. 

cooking kitchen
Image via iStock

Open the kitchen.

My kids love helping me cook meals. They ask for tasks and take their jobs very seriously. They love feeling like they contributed to the family meal. It helps them feel responsible and increases their self-confidence.

You don’t want to send your child out into the world completely incapable of cooking anything other than a bagel or a bag of microwave popcorn, do you? Of course not! The best way to teach your kids to cook is to make family meal preparation a priority from the beginning. Find age-appropriate tasks for your kids. Teach your children that they don’t have to fear the hot stove. If they know how to use it, they are in control of it. Narrate what you’re doing when you follow recipes and talk about how you decide to make things without recipes. Let your kids get involved in the shopping and meal planning as well. This helps them learn to plan ahead to make a healthy meal. 

{ MORE: Teaching Independence Through Chores }


Didn’t have time to grocery shop? Even better! Lessons in cooking from the pantry are life changing! Teach them to make something from what they already have.

Image via iStock

Divide household tasks.

Take the word “chores” out of your vocabulary for a moment. Who in this world actually wants to do chores? (Hint: not me.) Give your kids jobs around the house that they need to learn as they grow.

If you want your child to make her bed every day, you have to take the time to teach her how to do it. But don’t stop there. The vacuum is actually fun for little kids. So are window washing, mopping, dusting, and, you guessed it, changing light bulbs. And if you choose to let your child take control of the plunger, that’s a game changer right there.  Don’t be afraid to give your child household tasks that you normally save for when they’re sleeping. Not only are they capable of helping out around the house, they often take greater interest in the tasks that they think you’re keeping from them.

mom helping kid
Image via iStock

Teach crafty skills.

A client once taught me how to knit. She was in middle school at the time, and knitting was her escape hatch. It amazed me that she was so capable, and she created beautiful scarves in an effortless manner. She was patient in her teaching, and it wasn’t long before I could knit almost as well as her. Cut to today—I’m trying to teach myself how to sew. 

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They might not teach these skills in school anymore, but they are still just as necessary. Teach your kids to sew, knit, crochet, or all three if you can. Take classes together if you don’t currently possess these skills. At some point, something will require simple mending. Make it a priority to ensure that your child can sew on his own buttons and mend his own holes. He’ll thank you for it someday. 

playing with blocks
Image via iStock

Build from scratch.

Building sets with specific instructions are fun and great for teaching kids to follow directions, but they don’t teach kids much in the way of creative problem solving. The best way to teach kids to think outside the box is to fill their lives with creativity.

Instead of buying a woodworking kit with a specific end goal, give them pieces of wood and various tools. Let them search through the recycling can for things to use in their artwork. Buy generic Legos and let them build purely from their imagination. 


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What handy skills are you teaching your kids? 

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5 Ways to Raise a Handy Kid

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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