30 things your tween should know how to do

How many life skills on the list has your tween mastered?

We reached out to our readers and social-media followers asking what skills a (typically developing) kid should have under their belt by the time they’re 12. Well, you sure didn’t disappoint. The list is long, so don’t despair if your 12-year-old hasn’t mastered every skill yet—just make the remaining milestones their #BigKidGoals.

1. Cook for themselves. Domestic Goddess and mom of two, Nigella Lawson, had her kids practice and perfect one dish at a time until they had a repertoire of five to leave home with.

2. Do their own laundry.  This one isn’t just to help Mom and Dad, it provides kids a sense of autonomy and privacy following nighttime occurrences like menstrual leaks and wet dreams.

3. Use public transit. Practise with your kid so they know some basic routes and understand how to read a subway or bus route map, before going solo. Brainstorm what to do if they accidentally miss their stop or get on the wrong bus or train. And teach them to sit or stand as close to the driver as possible and to ask for help if they feel unsafe.

4. Get to and from school on their own.

5. Do a groceries run. And calculate the change they should be getting back from the cashier.

6. Have non-electronic fun.

7. Watch over a younger child for brief stints. (With or without an adult in the room.)

8. Maintain a calendar. By 12, your kid can keep track of their own social engagements, field trips, assignments, and loved ones’ birthdays, thank you very much.

9. Display basic good manners. Even in the computer age, it’s vital to be able to look someone in the eye when meeting them and offer a firm yet friendly handshake.

10. Show compassion for others—human and animal. That means putting themselves in a friend’s or stranger’s shoes and standing up in safe and effective ways for the bullied or abused.

11. Take responsibility for basic household chores. Kids without significant physical challenges at this age can shovel snow, take out garbage and recycling, and load the dishwasher—properly—for starters!

12. Develop a relationship with the natural world. Start with classic scouting skills like making a campfire and identifying a few local birds, animals, and plants—especially poison ivy! Graduate to skills like telling the time by the position of the sun in the sky and using a compass.

13. Use the phone. Not to text. To speak. It’ll make Grandma’s day!

14. Keep a pet or plant alive. Caring for another living thing teaches responsibility and compassion. Hammy the hamster may also provide a child’s first valuable experience of grief and loss, which brings us to…

15. Understand the basics of what happens during death, sex and birth.

16. Cope with getting lost. You should draw up a plan with them, which should include an emergency meeting place, a list of local police stations and other safe places to go to, such as libraries, doctor’s offices, security and information desks; phone numbers to call.

17. React in an emergency. Even little kids can dial 911, but by 12, your kid should be able to locate a first aid kit and administer some very basic first aid; use the fire extinguisher, and calmly douse a grease fire with the pan’s lid or a box of baking soda—never water.

18. Swim. Knowing how to swim, tread water, and float on their back may save a kid’s life one day. Invest in those Red Cross badges.

19. Cultivate their own opinions. OK, most kids don’t need parental nudging to voice criticisms, but tweens should be articulating their opinions, feelings and views with solid arguments to back them up. It’s time to answer questions with more than: “’cause it’s awesome” or “’cause it sucks!”

20. Manage their allowance. By 12 kids need their own bank account. And for short-term money management, they can use the three-jar method of SAVE, SPEND, and SHARE. It’s also time to start chipping in toward their own cell phone or saving up for the little extras they want.

21. Engage with their community. A kid this age can make themselves useful as a volunteer or even spearhead a fundraiser.

22. Get themselves up and ready for school on time. Bonus points for packing their own lunch and making their own bed before they race out the door.

23. Take responsibility for their homework. Let the kid paint their own damn baking soda volcano.

24. Pack a suitcase.

25. Calculate a 15 percent tip. (Short-changed diner staff everywhere thank you!)

26. Clean their own room. No dirty-dish or sock-stashing under the bed allowed.

27. Write cursive and sign their names. Even if you have to home-school them on these ones!

28. Fix a flat bike tire. Every kid with their own two wheels should also own a rubber repair kit.

29. Girls only: use a pad or tampon. (Whether they’ve started their period or not.)

And according to one pithy reader:
30. Make a decent gin and tonic.” Just kidding. Sort of.

This story was originally published in 2018.

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