Adulting 101

Unfortunately, I regularly hear (from my husband, a college professor) about, read stories about, and witness for myself situations in which young adults don’t know how to behave and/or take care of themselves like adults. I had no idea how widespread this epidemic had become, however, until I came across this article a few months ago.

In a nutshell, an actual school – The Adulting School in Maine – now exists to teach millennials the basic skills - think budgeting, paying bills, meal planning, sewing, and simple "making" and "fixing" - needed to survive and thrive as adults. The founders of The Adulting School reference changes in school curriculum, family dynamics, and the pace of society as contributing factors to the need for this special kind of education, and if growing enrollment in the live and online classes is any indication, that need is only increasing.

I certainly didn’t have it all together when I first moved away from home for college – heck, I don’t have it all together now, as a married mom of two in her late 30s – but thanks to my own mom’s hard work, I knew how to do my own laundry, shop for groceries, cook a meal, schedule a doctor’s appointment, and put together an Ikea shelf…using my very own flowered screw driver, I might add.

Out fear that my children – 10 and almost eight years old – might one day need to enroll at The Adulting School, I have embarked on a mission to intentionally prepare them for adulthood. In my mind, part of this process involves teaching them basic household chores so that when they leave my home, they will know how to take care of their own. (My kiddos already care for their cat, gather and take out the trash and recycling, and pick-up and vacuum their rooms, bathroom, and playroom, but they still have a l…o…n…g way to go). The other part of this process involves teaching them how to survive – and thrive – outside of their homes.

Below is a list of chores and skills – broken down into smaller groups based on age range – to help you get the ball rolling and eventually set your children up for success as adults!

Preschool Chores
• Pick up and put away toys, books, jackets, clothes, and shoes.
• Gather and sort laundry by color.
• Set table and clear dishes (non-breakables only).
• Gather trash and recycling.
• Make bed.

Preschool Skills
• Say “please”, “thank you”, and “I’m sorry”.
• Cooperate with others.

Elementary School Chores
• Fold laundry (start with matching socks, then move on to folding simply shaped items like dish towels).
• Set table, clear dishes, wash dishes, and unload dishwasher.
• Wipe down kitchen and bathroom surfaces.
• Dust and vacuum.
• Take out trash and recycling.
• Water indoor and outdoor plants and pull weeds.
• Care for pets.

Elementary School Skills
• Wake up with an alarm clock.
• Shake hands and make introductions.
• Follow a basic calendar and begin planning ahead.
• Make simple meals (cereal, oatmeal, toast, sandwiches, fruits and veggies) that don’t require cutting or using the stove/oven.
• Use table manners.
• Write thank you notes.
• Talk on the phone.
• Call for help in an emergency.
• Change a light bulb, hammer a nail, screw in a screw.
• Compromise with others.

Middle School Chores
• Fold all laundry.
• Sweep and mop.
• Thoroughly clean bathrooms.
• Change sheets.
• Rake leaves and shovel snow.
• Wash cars.

Middle School Skills
• Carry on a conversation/make small talk.
• Pack for a trip.
• Read a map.
• Make simple meals (pasta, eggs), follow a recipe, and use knives and the stove/oven with supervision.
• Follow a recipe
• Defend themselves.
• Know what to do and/or who to call in an emergency.
• Financial Literacy:
o Plan and save for a purchase
o Calculate a tip.
o Make a donation.

High School Chores
• Mow lawn.

High School Skills
• Iron and mend (stitch a rip, sew on a button) clothing.
• Cook and bake using all kitchen appliances.
• Shop for groceries and clothing.
• Know when to call a professional.
• Write a resume and interview for a job.
• Pick up a date.
• Insure, maintain, and jumpstart a car and change a tire.
• Complete basic home repairs (unclog a drain, paint, patch small holes, assemble furniture).
• Administer CPR and first aid and treat basic illnesses.
• Financial Literacy:
o Create and stick to a budget.
o Open a bank account.
o Use an ATM.
o Credit card.

Perhaps by this time next year you’ll come home to a dinner they’ve made, served at a table they’ve set, in a house they’ve cleaned. Ok, maybe not…one can hope though, right?

About the Author...
Erin Ferris
My name is Erin, and I’m a wife, mother, and writer living in College Station, Texas.






A few notes:

  • Children learn at different rates, and their unique skill sets, sizes, and physical strengths will impact the point at which they can begin to learn and then eventually master these skills. The guidelines below are just that – guidelines – and should be adjusted according to each individual child and family.
  • For the reason above, I have intentionally omitted self-care bullet points from the list. From toilet training and teeth brushing to applying deodorant and shaving, the time frames during which these skills should be introduced vary dramatically.
  • Just because a child can’t complete a task perfectly doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. When I started teaching my kids to make their beds I could barely stand to look in their rooms after they had “finished”. But over time, and because once a week I gave them a new tip and helped them make the sheets, comforters, and pillows look the way I wanted them to look, they can now both handle this job. (Better than my husband, I might add…)
  • These tasks are cumulative, meaning that at any age a child should start working on the chores and skills in their category but also in previous categories if appropriate.