Summer Skills Series Part 2: 10 Life Skills Activities
At a Glance
In this series, we are going to focus on some activities that are oriented around different types of skills, from self-advocacy to broader life skills to executive functioning.
For part 2 of our summer activities series, our focus is going to be on life skills activities.
Here are 10 activities to focus on this summer during the break from school. Make sure to tailor activities to fit the age and needs of the individual you are supporting!
Welcome back to our Summer Skills Series where in part 1 we focused on activities for practicing self-advocacy skills and in part 2 we are focusing on activities for working on life skills. Life skills are an important component of independent living and typically requires both practicing lots of little skills and figuring out how they best fit into our day to day lives.
With that in mind, it’s a good idea to think about some ways we can practice life skills during the summer but also should not feel too much pressure to be perfect or finish everything. In fact it is a great idea to tailor activities to fit the age and needs of the child you are supporting, to be there to offer your guidance when needed, and to go at a pace that feels manageable. Creating a positive and supportive learning environment will make it that much easier to engage with these activities throughout the summer.
Here are 10 areas where you can potentially get started!
1. Money Management
Money management can be a crucial component of independent living, and over the summer there are plenty of opportunities to teach and learn about saving, budgeting, and making wise spending choices relative to age and personal needs.
Two classic examples are saving up for a big purchase and planning out how to spend the summer budget. You can always adjust the complexity of these activities to fit the needs of your child.
2. Time Management
Time management is a crucial life skill that helps us accomplish all we need to in a daily routine and effectively work toward long-term goals. Balancing work and play can be one of the most challenging skills to learn but also one of the most rewarding when we find a system that works for us!
A few ways we can work on time management over the summer include actively planning daily activities, setting goals for how we spend our time, and establishing regular routines for whatever block of time feels manageable. It’s always worth remembering that if you start small, you can build on successes and create bigger or more complex routines!
3. Cooking and Meal Planning
Knowing how to cook and meal plan can be hugely liberating and a major component of independent living, but can also involve selecting from a huge variety of smaller skills, only some of which may be necessary for the specific needs of your child. Broadly speaking, however, there is often room for practice in the areas of meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, and fitting all of those components together in a practical way.
Practicing specific cooking skills, specific recipes, planning out meals for the week, preparing grocery lists, and finding items from a grocery list in the grocery store are all practicable activities that can be adjusted as needed!
4. Household Chores
A great starting point for household chores is to assign chores that can be practiced and that are relevant to your child’s future independent living situation.
Some great examples include keeping a tidy living space, doing laundry, and cleanup after meals. If a particular chore turns out to be too complicated or challenging that is an excellent opportunity to break things down into more manageable pieces and try putting it all together again once the individual components have been mastered!
5. Self-Care and Personal Hygiene
Self-care and personal hygiene kind of fall into the chore category since they are a necessary part of independent living, but whereas sometimes we can get away with being a little bit sporadic about when we do our household chores, it is crucial to work self-care and personal hygiene into our regular routines to stay happy and healthy!
Summer is a great time to practice skills such as proper handwashing, grooming, teeth brushing, and getting dressed independently. It’s also a great time to try fitting those activities into a consistent time frame that can grow into a regular routine!
Problem-solving is a crucial life skill as independent living will often throw abstract problems our way that may require creative solutions.
The great part about practicing problem-solving is that fun activities like puzzles, riddles, brain teasers, mysteries, or even bigger activities like escape rooms can exercise our critical thinking skills and translate to solving other problems in the future.
To further generalize problem-solving to life skills, think about common problems that may arise while doing certain chores or activities. Based on their experience level, needs, and comfort level with navigating such problems, you can walk through the problem with your child, identify solutions, and decision-making, all while staying self-regulated.
7. Communication Skills
Communication skills can be a somewhat tricky and fraught area, as many activities centered around communication also run the risk of centering allistic social norms and focusing on a singular “proper” way to communicate rather than thinking more broadly about how an individual can use their communication skills to navigate situations and reach their goals.
Some examples of skills that can be practiced that aren’t inherently enforcing a particular social norm include practicing active listening, expressing our feelings, and engaging in conversations with our family, friends, and peers. As someone providing support and guidance during these activities, rather than seeking to “correct” certain styles of communication, it can be helpful to talk over points of frustration and brainstorm different strategies for navigating the situation so that your child can decide what best fits their style.
8. Digital Literacy
The internet is a crucial component of most people’s lives, but navigating the internet comes with its own set of risks, pitfalls, and potential for misleading information. Some great starting points for children exploring online is to establish some credible safe spaces for them to explore.
As your child gets ready to explore more of the internet as a whole, you can move on to topics like what kinds of information is OK to share, online safety, and how to identify good and helpful resources. One great opportunity to segue into one of these activities is if your child has a question that could be researched online! Finding the answer together can help impart some of the navigational knowhow we pick up over a lifetime of internet use.
Another often crucial component of independent living is self-regulation. It is not always easy to be perfectly in tune with our emotions, and it’s no fun to suddenly feel overwhelmed without any great strategies for trying to feel better. In other words, it’s a skill like any other that feels much better to practice and prepare for than be scrambling for solutions in an emergency! Some examples of strategies you can practice are deep breathing, mindfulness exercises, or identifying activities they enjoy that can help to take their mind off the challenging situation.
One thing to remember is that practice here is as much about figuring out what works as it is about trying to improve at it. We all have different techniques that work best for us when it comes to self-regulation, so don’t be afraid to set aside solutions that just don’t seem to work or to embrace solutions that seem unconventional when the person using them finds them to be effective. If it helps with the problem at hand and is not creating a different kind of harm then it’s a reasonable candidate to be a self-regulation technique!
10. Community and Personal Safety
Community and personal safety covers a whole variety of skills, from practical first aid like treating minor cuts and burns to recognizing emergency numbers to seeking out help and limiting risk in the event of a serious accident or injury. Talking out scenarios regarding what to do in different emergencies can make a major difference should such an unfortunate situation ever arise!
Safety skills can also include some basic information on what to do and what not to do when out in the community to limit the possibility of ending up in an unnecessarily risky situation. Talking about how to identify who is safe to talk to in public, making plans for specific activities, and coming up with contingency plans in case something goes wrong are all ways to add an extra safety element to our day to day community activities.
We hope that these categories and suggestions have spurred your thinking on how to set up some potential activities that fit the specific needs of the person you are supporting.
If you would like to see us go deeper on this topic and potentially get into planning some more complex activities we would love to hear from you! Just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be back next week with the third part of this series: executive functioning activities!