Life Skills


Life Skills

As children grow they need to learn lots of skills.  Below you will find resources to help you teach your child the skills they need as they grow up.  The top life skills that families tell us they want to do by themselves are riding a bike, dressing, using a knife and fork and making a snack. 

Top Tips

Here are our top 5 tips to help you when teaching new skills.

Choose the right time.
Set the 'Just Right' challenge.
Find what works for you and your child.
Keep it Fun!
Practice, practice, practice together


Learning to dress independently is an important life skill.  Not only does it give the child a sense of achievement to master a new skill but also buys the parent a precious few minutes first thing in the morning! 



Buttons are a hard skill to master as it involves both hands working together but making slightly different movements.  Your child will not have the skills needed to be able to do this until the age of 4.

Start by teaching unbuttoning first as it is easier.  Make sure to start with large buttons and work to smaller ones.  Practising as part of play can help too, see the Button Programme and Activity Information Sheet for ideas.  You can also practice by dressing teddies and dolls.  It is easier to practice with the clothes lying flat on a table so your child can see what they are doing.  Once they have mastered unbuttoning move on to buttoning.  Finally get your child to put the clothes on and undo and do up the buttons this way.


Zips are usually the first fastenings that children learn to do.  This is usually on their jacket and they always require help to put the zip together initially.  Children should be able to pull up a zip once the adult has put the pin into the box by the age of 3.

For more information see the Zips Information Sheet.

Buttonholes in a Vertical Direction 

Step by step video with instructions on how to do up and how to undo buttons which run in a vertical (top to bottom) direction.

Buttonholes in a Horizontal Direction 

Step by step video with instructions on how to do up and how to undo buttons which run in a horizontal (left to right) direction.


This short video shows the best way to start teaching your child to zip by placing the item of clothing on a table in front of them first.  Then once they have mastered all the steps they can place the item of clothing on their person and follow the same steps.

Socks and Shoes

Babies love to take their socks off they can usually manage this by themselves by the time they are 15 months old. Putting on socks is a skill that children can often find challenging particularly for those children who experience difficulties in using both of their hands together to complete a task.


Children learn to take their shoes off first and can usually pull on wellies, slippers and slip on shoes by the time they are 2 years old.


Shoelace Tying

Tying your own shoelaces requires a level of dexterity (using both hands together) most children don't possess until they're between five and seven, so take it slow!

New Modern Method for Shoelaces

New Modern Method for Shoelacing from KIDS Scotland on Vimeo.

This new method is another way to tie your shoelaces. This method is good for right and left handed people. Before teaching your child this new modern method we would recommend you take time to practice on your own. Being confident in the method yourself will reduce any anxiety and confusion when teaching your child.

Click here to access Step by Step (Photograph) Guide for New Method

One Loop Traditional Method

One Loop Method for Shoelacing from KIDS Scotland on Vimeo.

This video shows the One Loop Method that most adults use.

Click here to access Step by Step (Photograph) Guide for One Loop Method

Initial Knot

Alternative Knot Method for Shoelacing from KIDS Scotland on Vimeo.

This video shows your child an alternative technique to create the initial knot.

Click here to access Step by Step (Photograph) Guide for Initial Knot

Hint to Ensure Initial Knot is Secure

Double Secure Knot at Start from KIDS Scotland on Vimeo.

This technique helps to stop the laces becoming too loose when starting to tie a shoelace. It involves wrapping the lace round twice instead of once.

School Tie Tying

The further up the school your child progresses the more likely they are to require to wear a school tie.  During primary school this may only be needed for school photographs or special occasions but by secondary it is normally expected that children wear a school tie everyday.  It is important to be able to tie a tie independently so that changing for P.E. is not an issue. 

Using Cutlery

Children begin to develop self-feeding skills from birth.  Self-feeding is a very complex task and it is common for children to have difficulty using cutlery to feed themselves.  It usually takes until a child is 7 years old before they can successfully use cutlery to feed themselves without being too messy.

Click here for more information on Eating

Making a Sandwich

Bike Riding

Learning to ride a bike is a complex task involving balance, motor skills and visual skills. There are lots of community resources that can help you teach your child how to ride their bike. It can be helpful to start with a balance bike.

If your child continues to find this challenging check our strategies for learning to ride a bike. This technique takes time, but the idea is that your child gets a sense of achievement from mastering each step one at a time.

Click here for more information

There are also good videos for you to watch with your child