"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
June 17, 2015
A Bucket List for Kids
by Carolyn Nicolaysen

On a recent television show the host was talking to people about the things on their “bucket lists” — in other words, the kind of things they wanted to do before they “kicked the bucket.”

This got me thinking about the bucket list a parent or grandparent might have for their children and grandchildren. What skills and knowledge need to be passed on to the next generation, before we — “pass on”? It’s summer, and there’s no better time to do some teaching.

Several years ago I was teaching a group of promising 12- and 13 year-old girls. I really can't recall the topic of the lesson but I do remember the girls’ reaction so well.

At one point one of the girls raised her hand and said, "But we are never going to be good grandmas like our grandmothers. We don't know how to do anything. We don’t know how to sew or bake bread or can vegetables or grow a garden like our grandmothers."

As we continued to talk, it became clear that these girls were genuinely concerned that they might grow up and not know some of the hands-on things their mothers and grandmothers took for granted. They wanted to do things more meaningful than craft projects. So as a result, we had some activities to teach these skills. These girls learned to cook, make jam, sew and knit.

My boys, on the other hand, learned many of the skills they needed in Boy Scouting — everything from basic knots and map-reading, to helping with a cattle roundup. If some of these skills seem irrelevant to them today, they helped provide the kind of self-confidence that would allow them to become self-reliant adults.

Not every child has equal opportunity to learn the practical skills necessary for self-reliant living as adults. What might be overlooked, unless we add some key abilities to our bucket list of skills we will teach our children and grandchildren?

Five Skills Every Child Can Learn, and Every Adult Should Know

1) Making family meals. There is a big difference in the quality of home cooking, family-to-family.

Even if your skills are limited, children and teens can be taught to do a few things very well, such as:

  • Make a healthy breakfast for the family.

  • Pack a healthy lunch without expensive and unhealthy pre-packaged snack foods.

  • Cook a well-balanced and delicious dinner.

Decide what your family’s strengths and weaknesses are in the kitchen, and build on your strengths so that your kids have the confidence to say, “Nobody makes ______ better than our family.” Make it tradition that everybody in your family knows the “__________ family recipe,” or the proper way to make an omelet. Have fun with it.

2) Baking. Everyone should know how to bake something, even if only cookies or brownies from a mix. Try various kinds of bread, dinner rolls, pies, and perhaps even making your own pastries. It’s not as hard as you think. Ovens are for more than frozen pizza, speaking of which, homemade pizza is really yummy and very easy to make.

Life skills are no longer being taught in our schools, which is where many of us learned them. We took home economics and shop classes and then went home excited to practice what we had learned. Not only did this classroom education spur our creativity and imagination, but also it brought us closer to our parents and grandparents as they helped us hone our newfound skills.

I spent many hours baking with my grandfather. His father owned a bakery as he was growing up in Brooklyn and he loved to do the baking for Christmas and all the other important family celebrations. Our family still bakes his cookies every Christmas.

3) Kids Can Do Laundry. Teach your children and grandchildren to do the laundry. Do they know how to use the washer and dryer? Do they understand how to separate clothing into lights and darks? Do they know how to treat a stain?

Do they know how to hang clothing on a clothesline to dry when a dryer is not available or the power is out? Could they wash their clothes by hand if the need arose?

I remember a time when we were first married that I did not have the money to dry our clothes at the Laundromat, and brought them home and hung them around the apartment to dry.

We all have different circumstances and budgets, but everyone has to deal with laundry, and every member of the family can share in the responsibility. Many missionaries are called upon to do laundry under very primitive circumstances, help them prepare just in case.

4) We All Have Chores, and We Can All Do Them. What a shame it would be to become an adult without having shared in household work and responsibilities… yet it appears that many in this world do exactly that.

Every member of the family can share in age-appropriate responsibilities for cleaning, maintaining, organizing, cooking, laundering, trash and recycling, and caring for the outside areas of the home. Make sure everyone has a responsibility, and knows that others are relying on them to do it. Teach them to

  • Know their job.

  • Do their job (without being asked and when it needs to be done).

  • Report when the job is done.

5) Grow Something for Your Menu. Everyone can have a garden, whether large or small. No matter the amount of land, or lack of it, there is always a way to teach this skill. Nothing tastes better than a strawberry or tomato that you pick and eat right out of your own garden.

Let every young member of the family be responsible for something in your garden, even if it is just a potted tomato plant. There may come a time when we will need to provide food for our families.

A few years ago I taught an afterschool cooking class at our local elementary school. I discovered the kids would try anything we made using ingredients they had grown in the school garden. Want your children to try more fruits and veggies? Grow them!

Self-reliance is a lifestyle we seek to teach our children and grandchildren from the time they are born — at least I hope so. They will not learn self-reliance from the world. We cannot assume they will understand how to handle life's challenges from observing how many of the adults in our communities behave.

I love watching young parents who take time with their children. When these families work on a project or fix a broken lawnmower, their children are right there looking over their shoulders and helping. There are always opportunities to teach a valuable skill, and young people who are eager to learn, if we take the time to include them.

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About Carolyn Nicolaysen

Carolyn Nicolaysen grew up in New Jersey and joined the Church while attending Central College in Pella, Iowa. With a degree in Home Economics, she later worked as a high school teacher, and served as an elected trustee of her local school board. Carolyn has taught personal and family preparedness to all who will listen. Having lived in areas that were threatened by winter storms, hurricanes and tornadoes, and now living in an earthquake prone area, she has developed a passion for preparedness. Carolyn started her own business, TotallyReady, when she saw the need for higher quality emergency information that could truly sustain families in a disaster.

Carolyn is FEMA trained and is an Amateur Radio first responder. She serves as Relief Society president of her California ward.

Carolyn is the author of three ebooks, Mother Hubbard, What She's Doing Now (food storage for the 21st century), Prep Not Panic (preparing for a pandemic of medical emergency) and That Won't Happen to Me (a discussion of disaster preparations). She has also authored a glove box book, Totally Ready for the Road and writes a monthly newsletter and the Totally Ready facebook page.

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