What domestic skills do you remember your parents teaching you — and what do you plan to teach your children? If you have brothers, did your parents teach them different skills than the ones they taught you? When do you plan to teach kids to cook, clean, and sew (as well as other domestic skills)?
Some backstory here: Somehow, recently, my boys amassed like six pairs of pants with rips or holes in them. I almost never get out my sewing kit, but when I pulled it out to see if I could sew up some of the rips and holes, I decided I was going to show my 10-year-old son how to mend.
My mother just about fell off her chair laughing at me — as a child I had a kneejerk NO THANKS reaction to anything related to domestic arts. (Where “no thanks” probably would have been a lot kinder than whatever sarcastic reaction I came up with back in the day. Sorry, Mom!)
But part of me remembers feeling like this act of passing down domestic skills was a sexist, patriarchal thing — why did I have to learn how to sew but my brother didn’t? Why did I need to take a cooking class? (In fairness to Mom, I’m four years older than my brother, so it may just have been that I was getting these lessons first.)
I fought hard against all of it, and as a result had very few of those skills when I finally went off on my own. The first time I did my own laundry was when I was 17 at summer school. I was 20 before I cooked raw chicken for myself. Around the same age, when some of my favorite socks got holes in them, I was quietly happy I knew enough sewing skills so I could mend them.
(Meanwhile, my husband started doing his own laundry around age nine — and knew how to cook the basics by his early teens.)
So I thought it might make an interesting discussion here — what domestic skills are you planning on teaching your children, and when? (Do you plan on teaching your kids to cook, clean, and sew?) How did you acquire the domestic skills you have — parents, friends, special interest, or necessity? If you have brothers, did your parents teach them different skills than the ones they taught you?
Stock photo via Deposit Photos / Spaces.
Cooking and cleaning really depend on the kid’s maturity, problem-solving ability, and fine motor skills. Start with the kid “helping” early and then progress to independence as it seems appropriate. My daughter was able to clean bathrooms effectively at age 10. One of her cousins is in college and still can’t (or won’t) clean without damaging something or making the mess worse. Her friend was cooking dinner for the family with no adult in the house at age 11. My daughter still has some trouble with timing and sequencing when cooking at age 14. She can get a complete meal on the table by herself, but it takes a lot longer than it should and the dishes don’t come out at the same time.
I would not bother trying to teach a kid to sew or do other crafts unless s/he were interested. I started teaching my daughter to use the sewing machine around age 6, but only because she asked to learn. It required a lot of supervision and assistance for the first couple of years, and I wasn’t comfortable letting her use the iron (which is half of sewing) until she was at least 10.
I do have a hard time believing people who say that their preschoolers can do laundry and other household chores independently and effectively, but maybe my definition of “do” is different. I don’t consider a kid to be “doing” a chore unless it requires zero involvement on my part and I don’t have to fix it afterwards. Otherwise it’s still a chore for me.
Do they not have home ec or family & consumer science in schools anymore? I don’t really recall my parents teaching me most of this stuff, but we learned basic sewing and cooking skills in FCS at school, in 8th grade I think. I did more sewing stuff afterwards at home with my mom, but mainly because I was interested in it. I did not cook with any regularity until after college and just followed recipes online when I started cooking. I guess at some point my parents must have taught me how to operate a laundry machine but I don’t recall doing it with any regularity until I went to college. I helped with vacuuming and was responsible for keeping my room tidy and sorting/putting away laundry from a pretty young age, some point in early elementary school. My preschooler is one of those ones referenced above who can sort and put away her own laundry entirely independently but I’m sure it wouldn’t meet some people’s standards since it’s not folded nicely. But I just can’t bring myself to care if kid clothes have wrinkles, since they get dirty so fast anyway.
I am more than a little sad they don’t do shop and home ec at my kids’ school. This was where I learned to clean up after cooking, to read a recipe, to use a sewing machine. (I remember getting a bad grade for failing to clear the crap catcher in the sink and to this day a dirty crap catcher is one of my pet peeves). And where i learned to use power tools.
I was in elementary school in the late 80s. I wonder when this stopped being important?
It’s still taught at all the public schools in my Midwest suburb. I’m all for it as long as it’s not gendered. In my mom’s era, the boys took shop and the girls took home ec and that’s gross. But as long as all kids have to do both I think it’s great.
My 5 and 8 year old can already sew thanks to a combo of DH and my mother. They aren’t experts, but they can follow a pattern and have sewn small projects. I think the summer before K was when they learned the basics.
Cleaning: we have a cleaning service but they don’t clean our basement level, which is 1400 sq ft of walk out basement, a full bathroom, and a mudroom. My kids are in charge of cleaning that all. 8 year old gets the jobs that require more dangerous chemicals (eg fantastic spray). 5 year old gets windex. They both vacuum.
I do more of the cooking (though DH is the better cook) and when the pandemic hit my kids learned to do the basics because we couldn’t make it work unless they could occasionally make themselves breakfast or lunch. older one can use the stove and toaster.
Our plan is to get the kids to learn the basics. The <4yo already knows the names of most tools — well beyond what I knew at 18 tbh. They've shown interest watching me sew, so hopefully they'll enjoy learning that, but we'll see. I'm working now on getting them to consistently clear their plates, but that's maybeeee 50/50 (ages almost 4 and almost 2). They usually "make" their beds (pull up the comforter/blanket) and are getting pretty good about putting dirty clothes in the hamper. They like "helping" cook by cutting with a butter knife (4yo) or stirring (2yo). They also have to help take out the trash. At this age, they're not actually helping a ton but I'm hoping this sets the stage for more truly helpful behaviors later??? (Paging parents of older kids- does that ring true? Any regrets in not making them help/learn earlier? Tips?)
It is so kid dependent. My 2 year old will do some of the four year old’s chores. The four (almost five) year old just whines and refuses. I feel like i can almost see the two year old roll her eyes at him while she empties the napkin laundry.
Also the four year old is a boy and the two year old is a girl and I can’t help but to think I’m contributing to the patriarchy here.
I’ve found as they get older the capacity for making useful contribution is greater, but I still have to ask them to do it.
Yeah I think 2 and 3 year olds often have less capacity to help but more willingness to do so than older kids. Toddlers want to do anything they see their parent doing, and don’t really understand the concept of a “chore” as something they should want to avoid.