5 things you might not think to teach kids, but should


Who keeps leaving the caps off the markers?!

Now that I work with adults, I thought it would be fun to think back to what I was doing last summer: supervising toddlers and young children at a day care. Before that I spent a good chunk of time working with elementary school kids at a before and after school program. And on some days, lord help me, I worked both child-filled jobs.

I found a small list on a Post-it note that I had created last year during my adventures with young people, and I thought it only right that I share it with the blogosphere.

Here are five things you might not think to teach your kids, but should.

1. How to put caps on markers

Every week, I threw away handfuls of dried-out markers. Why were they dried-out, you may ask? Well apparently it was too much work to put the caps back on. I can understand little kids not doing this; some of them aren’t strong enough to take caps off, let alone put them back on markers (in which case they should probably be using crayons). But elementary-aged kids? Let’s get real. This is basic art supply maintenance. Cap that sh*t.

Side note on markers. When I was a kid we had an ice cream pale full of markers, with the caps facing up out of the pale. One day my older brother got mad at me while we were coloring and said, “I’m going to switch all of the caps of the markers so you won’t know which colors are which!” He did. And to me, it was as terrible as he made it sound during his diabolical announcement. So maybe now I have a thing about marker caps.

2. Why one small mistake doesn’t make a piece of paper useless

I cannot tell you how many times I was hanging out at the coloring table when this situation would happen: A child starts drawing something on a piece of paper with a marker. After drawing several small  lines and shapes they crumple up the entire sheet of paper, say “I messed up,” and throw it in the garbage. This is done in an instant, and sometimes two or three times in a row. And it drove me nuts.

Let’s troubleshoot, kids. Maybe you could, I don’t know, turn the piece of paper over and try again? Or maybe the mistake wasn’t that bad and it could actually enhance what you were going for. Or maybe if the drawing is that important to you, you should grab a less permanent tool, like a pencil. You know. In case you make a mistake.

3. How to cut paper conservatively

Let me throw another situation your way. A child grabs a full sheet of construction paper and a scissors. Then that child proceeds to cut a line until they’ve reached the middle of that full sheet of paper. At this point, the child cuts out a very, very tiny circle. Done. In some cases, the child may then attempt to throw away the rest of the paper. Um, no. Just no.

Please, people, teach your kids the importance of conserving and only using what they need… starting with paper and why big pieces aren’t needed to cut out small things. Or that things should never be cut from the direct center. I think this became most frustrating when it happened during a unit we did on The Lorax.

4. What the word “accident” means

Kids have learned that if something is an accident, they won’t get in as big of trouble. They know this, and they use this to their advantage. So let’s teach our kids the difference between “It was an accident,” and “It was on purpose but I’m totally regretting it now.” If you’ve ever encountered a small child, or even a large one, I’m sure you’ve heard the term “accident” used incorrectly. I think it will be more effective if I use examples of this in adult situations.

  • You call your boss and say, “I accidentally drank lots of alcohol last night. I won’t be in until after lunch.”
  • You tell your significant other that you accidentally made out with someone else.
  • Oops. You accidentally spent your rent money on the newest Xbox.
  • And you accidentally didn’t get your parents Christmas gifts. Or another classic: You forgot.

The sad thing is that we all know adults who still use “accidentally” incorrectly. Start teaching your kids how to own up to their mistakes so they don’t become that person.

5. How to sneeze safely, and other sanitary things

One day an elementary school kid was telling me about why her sister wasn’t at school. In other words, she told me very detailed stories about her sister puking. Then she proceeded to sneeze, and I felt some of her ejected mucus go into my eye. My eye! One of the human gateways to disease. As a recovering germaphobe, I was convinced that death, or vomiting, was in my near future.

I think the proper way to sneeze is mentioned in school, but kids need this drilled into their heads. They also need to learn that sleeves aren’t tissues, dead animals should not be touched, hands should be washed, and many, many other lessons in cleanliness.

Bonus tip

Glitter. Just say no.

Oh kids. I love ’em, but they do silly things sometimes. Have you ever worked with kids (or do you have a kid of your own)? What other lessons would you add?


10 thoughts on “5 things you might not think to teach kids, but should

  1. All excellent points. Play dough and rugs do not mix! Everybody helps clean up a spill. We don’t have to get upset, but we do have to help.

    • Toddlers are not my specialty, haha. I feel like I am able to communicate with my cat better than I can communicate with a 2-year-old. I learned to not try too hard to communicate with toddlers at the day care unless I was making over-exaggerated facial expressions, strange noises or saying no.

      And of course I recognize you, new logo and all 🙂 I’ve already signed up to your new site!

      • Toddlers aren’t my specialty either….so you can imagine how much fun we’re having in my house these days (no wonder I wanted to create a new website – my brain cells are dying in mommy-of-toddler land!)

        And thanks for the recognition despite the surface changes. I never know if I’m being all stealth now or something! 🙂

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