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Teach kids basic household skills

I’m not much into doing crafts. I can’t sew a button onto a shirt. But I can do laundry, cook a basic meal and handle chores around the house.

When I was not much older than 4, my grandmother used to sit me on top of her old Kenmore clothes dryer and let me start the washing machine. On this 1960s-era unit, this involved pulling out a big round knob and carefully — not too fast, not too far — turning it to the desired time and temperature combination. Once there, I’d push the button in and the water would start to fill the tub. Although she also explained the basics of sorting clothes, I was much more interested in the mechanical aspect of the process.

As I got older, I had to help out with the laundry, and I learned even more skills — never to wash a red shirt in hot water with white towels, for example. Years later, those skills ensured a supply of clean clothes. By the time I was 9 or 10 years old, I could also make a basic tuna fish sandwich, and not long after that I generally took control of the barbecue grill. I’m sure I served up more than my share of overcooked burgers or dry chicken, but the nearly instant feedback encouraged me to hone my grilling skills. These days, I know my way around charcoal, gas and wood pretty darn good.

Today’s children seem much less aware of such basic skills as cooking and cleaning. I know college students who cannot do laundry. And I know young adults who are so bad in the kitchen they claim to have burned water. The truth is, we need to teach our kids — from an early age — how to cook, how to clean and how to do basic things around the house.

I suppose the cold days of winter are as good a time as any to teach kids how to do household chores. However, we all know all work and no play equals no fun.

That’s why in this month’s edition of Upstate Parent, you’ll find a story full of great ideas on things to do indoors on cold, winter days. While some of these indoor activities happen at home, many take place at indoor locations elsewhere. Turn to Page 29 to find out more. And, on Page 34, writer Kate Churches has some great ideas on crafty things to do with your preschooler.

Have a great month and happy Valentine’s Day!