Now's the perfect time to teach kids some life skills
Kids and teens learning life skills while stuck at home during pandemic
Kids and teens stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic are picking up life skills from older siblings and parents — the kind that result in messy kitchens and less-than-bright whites.
But as CBC discovered, parents and experts alike welcome this development.
Chef Cory Haskins is the academic chair in the culinary arts and baking programs at Algonquin College. He's also got four teenagers at home, and since COVID-19, they've found their culinary groove.
"The kids are all at home. They don't have the same activities that we previously had. And [their] mom and I are here to be able to provide some guidance," said Haskins.
They started with eggs, pancakes and waffles. Now one daughter has learned to bake bread. Another is making cakes and cookies, and a son has mastered pasta carbonara.
For a life-long foodie, Haskins said it feels good to see his kids find their culinary footing.
"Everybody needs to learn how to cook," he said. "This is a perfect time for kids to get in the kitchen and do some experimenting."
Food educator Carley Schelck heads up The Urban Element, and believes heartily in building kids' culinary literacy.
It's cultivated independence in an age where there's a lot of dependency on the parent.- Carley Schelck
With kids at home during the pandemic and parents stuck on Zoom calls, Schelck's nine-year-old son is learning to forage.
"It has forced my son to go fend for himself a little bit more. It's cultivated independence in an age where there's a lot of dependency on the parent," she said.
Schelck's advice to parents is to show kids how to use knives and appliances safely, and then step back and stand by.
Dollars and sense
For some families, COVID-19 has meant a change in income and spending habits — and that's led some kids to learn about the importance of budgeting and the value of a dollar.
"Honestly, this is the best time," said Tecla Kalinda, the founder of Zalasmart, an Ottawa-based organization that helps teach kids and teens about financial literacy.
"Especially as parents are losing jobs [and] things are getting tighter."
Kalinda says there's a fine line between sharing financial realities with kids and protecting them from worry.
"It can be tricky. Parents should be open about talking about money, and talking about in a positive way. [But] you don't want to stress the kids out," said Kalinda.
"The best time to teach someone is doing their core development phase. And that's when they're a child. That's when they start building their habits. And a lot of the stuff you learn during that time frame tends to stick with you for life."
Think kids can't wield a hammer or screwdriver? Think again, says Bettina Vollmerhausen, co-founder at the Ottawa Tool Library. The pandemic has created conditions for handy parents to show the way.
"There's so much organic learning that goes on when the kids are at home," said Vollmerhausen.
Even minor drywall repairs or switching out spent washers can be conquered by kids and teens, although Vollmerhausen's caveat is that potentially dangerous tools only be used "under guidance" from someone with experience.
And if no one has that experience? Fire up a YouTube video, Vollmerhausen suggests, and watch it together.
"There is so much happening right around us that we can do together to build cohesion in the family. We're in this together. We're learning together."
Keys to success
Extra time at home could also be spent in the driveway or garage with the family wheels.
Teens can learn to check things like tire pressure, wiper blades, and oil and windshield washer fluid levels, said Martin Restoule, the co-ordinator of transportation trades at Algonquin College.
Even changing a tire isn't out of the realm of possibilities, he said — albeit with parental supervision.
"All this stuff would be good for them to know before they go out and get their licenses," said Restoule.
"Lift the hood and have a look around. It's a valuable lesson."
Tech-savvy students are rapidly outpacing their parents and, in some cases, their teachers.
"Kids are troubleshooting issues together. They're learning about how to present on video, how to connect, how to be aware of their background," said Mark Nunnikhoven, vice president of Cloud Research at Trend Micro, a cybersecurity software company.
"All of these skills are going to follow these kids throughout life."
Kids who are already "very comfortable in a digital world" are going even further, said Nunnikhoven.
"To take that already high level of digital fluency to truly understanding how to make things bend to their own will, that's going to stay with them throughout their educational career as well as their professional career."