Here are a whole host of things children should be doing regularly, to grow up happy, well-balanced and independent:

  1. Help with food preparation, so that by the time they are 13, they can cook a meal for the whole family, once a week.
  2. Spending quality time with each parent, for at least 15 minutes a day. To keep them connected and grounded and allow them a chance to talk about issues they face at school and at home.
  3. Getting a good nights’ sleep. A five-year-old needs 11 hours’ sleep a night. Take off a quarter of an hour a year until the age of 9, when 10 hours’ sleep is needed. Then by 14, a child needs at least 9 hours.
  4. Books are wonderful. They can open children’s minds and take them, in their imaginations, to exciting new worlds.
  5. Getting messy. Children need sensory experiences and messy play to develop their creativeness. Making a mess also helps prevent anxieties over dirt or mess.
  6. Spending time outdoors. Not everything can be learned in the classroom. Children need time outdoors to engage in nature, and become happier, healthier and more resilient.
  7. Spending time with grandparents. Grandparents can help children, enjoy family traditions, better handle conflict and learn to communicate and negotiate rules.
  8. Practicing an instrument or skill. Repeated practice, to get good at something, teaches children they can be successful, if they put in the effort, and the value of perseverance and working hard.
  9. Children who can experience the joy of helping others and working to help their local community will grow up to be much happier.
  10. Unstructured time. Children need time just to be. To relax, play, read and experience the joy of time without pressure to do or achieve something. Many children (and adults) don’t know how to relax, a skill that is vital for good mental health.
  11. Helping at home. Every child should do jobs around the house, for free, because they are part of a family. Children who do regular chores at home are more likable, helpful, and kind, and, research has found, are less likely to be bullied, as they are more empowered.
  12. Playing games with parents. Playing imaginative play, board games, ball games or card games with parents it’s not only fun, children also learn vital social skills such as how to share, take turns, win and lose graciously and play fair.
  13. Eating with the family. The benefits to children of sharing family mealtimes are better academic performance, higher self-esteem, greater resilience, and a lower risk of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, depression, eating disorders, and obesity.
  14. Being polite. Children who are well-mannered are more popular and likeable. Encouraging a child to say please, thank you and ‘how are you?’ will hold them in good stead as they grow older.
  15. Grow food they can eat. Children living in towns and cities often think food comes from a supermarket. Planting a seed, growing a plant and then eating the produce helps connect children to the natural world. Gardening can be a wonderful activity for children to engage in.
  16. Learning to swim. Swimming is a life skill that children will need to stay safe every time they play near water.
  17. Making cards and presents. Everyone loves homemade cards and presents. Spending their time doing things for others helps children to really experience how good it feels to be kind and caring.
  18. Going on holiday. Children need to get away from home and experience the pleasures of exploring new environments and a different pace of life. If money is tight, try going to grandma’s or doing a house swap.
  19. Caring for animals. Children who care for family pets are likely to be less anxious and develop fewer allergies and asthma. Walking the dog (your own or someone else’s) also keeps children active.
  20. Being bored. Many children’s lives are so structured, they are losing the ability to find things to do. This skill is vital for healthy mind, and to reduce anxieties. If they need it have a list on the wall of all the things they could do. Playing alone without being in front of a screen, helps children learn to entertain themselves and develop interests, which can sometimes last a lifetime,
  21. Experiencing disappointment and failure. Children need to learn to learn to feel and deal with frustration, so they can dust themselves down, pick themselves up, bounce back from difficult experiences, and, where appropriate, develop the determination to succeed next time. If they’re protected from experiencing disappointment in childhood, they’re more prone to stress, anxiety and potentially suicide later in life.
  22. Learning life skills. It’s good for children to be involved in cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping, budgeting, changing the oil in the car or putting together a piece of furniture. To learn the life skills they’ll need when they’re older.
  23. Dealing with conflict. Every relationship and family have conflicts. So, it’s good for children to learn how to listen, respect and summarise someone else’s opinion, state their own point of view assertively (I feel… when… and I’d like…) Then negotiate and compromise until they find a solution that feels good for both parties. Of course, parents should model how to solve conflicts.
  24. Making good choices. When there’s an issue, children should be encouraged to identify the problem, then think of 10 to 15 possible solutions. If you have any suggestions, ask if you can add them at the end, cross off any ideas that aren’t acceptable, then ask your child to choose which solution they want to try first.
  25. Being street wise. Children should know about road safety, strangers, bullies, inappropriate touching images, porn etc. Regularly ask your child: ‘What would you do if….’ Explore their answers and discuss your own views, until you’re confident your child can answer the question to your satisfaction.

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The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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