Our world has gone digital, but there are so many analog life skills that our kids still NEED!

It’s no secret that life has changed in the past 25 years. When I was in high school, we didn’t have internet either at home or at school. No one owned a cell phone, except for wealthy business types who had a big brick “car phone.” If you wanted to communicate with someone, you either made a phone call or wrote a letter. Long distance calls were made sparingly, as they quickly racked up extra charges on your phone bill. What a contrast from today’s connected world!

I do love technology. Social media has its downsides (and some of them are serious), but overall it’s awesome to be able to text, send photos, and keep in touch with people via Facebook. It’s amazing how much information is at our fingertips.

However, at times I have concerns about how the digital world will affect our kids, who have never known anything different. Digital media by its nature can lead to self-centered interaction and LESS social skills, rather than more.

My husband and I were talking the other day about simple, old-fashioned skills that kids need to know. We may not need to send letters anymore in order to communicate, but you sure can’t save a meaningful text the way you can a card or a letter! Do kids today know how to write a letter? Or a quality thank you note? Kids may be able to chat with friends all over the country via texting or social media, but do they know how to be a friend to the elderly lady next door? Do they know how to take a message if someone calls and they need to answer mom or dad’s phone?

As I was compiling this list of skills, it reminded me how much I need to continue investing in the lives of my kids and teaching and modeling life skills that are vital for their lives. I also need to make it a priority to facilitate interactions for them with people of all ages. I fear that our culture is losing its respect for older adults. We tend to mock old age and consider older people “outdated” and “irrelevant” rather than benefitting from the years of wisdom and maturity that the elderly in our community have to offer.

Simple tips for teaching practical knowledge and social skills:

You can print the list of 40 old-fashioned skills below. I won’t repeat all the items on the list here, but I want to share some tips for incorporating these skills into everyday life.

Oh, and do note that neither this list of old-fashioned skills nor the tips are not meant to be exhaustive, and it’s not realistic that everyone will be able to do everything on it. It’s just meant to get you thinking!

  • Host a dessert night and invite a few neighbor families over to visit and eat treats.
  • Visit a nursing home – plan to hand out flowers, children’s artwork, or cards. Or maybe sing songs or play games with the residents.
  • Get some neighborhood kids together for a Saturday morning shop class. Maybe some dads can take turns teaching car maintenance skills.
  • Establish one night a week as “the kids cook dinner” night!
  • Try planting a raised bed garden this spring. It’s really not difficult, and it’s so fun to watch the progress. We like to grow cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, and bell peppers.
  • Make time in your family’s schedule for everyone to help with chores. It will be normal for the kids to be resistant at first, especially if they haven’t done chores before. Persist. Aim to make it a pleasant working time (i.e. have a good attitude yourself), and don’t give up!
  • Host a breakfast for moms and sons, and make the boys dress nicely and use good manners!
  • Set an example of working through disputes with neighbors, rather than complaining behind their backs.
  • Help kids set a savings goal and give them jobs around the house instead of handing them cash for the toy they want.
  • Offer to babysit for a friend or neighbor. Include your kids in caring for the children. Let them fix a snack, read a book, etc.

Ready to print your list of 40 Old-Fashioned Skills? Click the link below. The file will open, and you can either save it or print from there. Please do not distribute this file or post it on social media.

CLICK HERE: 40 Old-Fashioned Skill Printable Poster


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  1. Annie Jan 29, 2019

    Will try it

  2. Mark Feb 1, 2019

    Excellent list. Think about adding howto change a tire

    1. Ginger Bueker Feb 7, 2019

      Yes! Girls, too! May need the skill... Certainly builds confidence, knowledge of how "things" work & appreciation.

      1. Taylor H May 13, 2021

        Funny you say this....I’m a mom of 3 and my husband works out of town a bit so I’m very independent and can do most things without assistance...until my daughters bike went flat and I needed to YouTube what to do to fix it because my dad or my husband as always handled those things. Definitely something I wish I would have been taught to do.

    2. Desire Apr 4, 2020

      My son helps me change the oil on our car. He also jacks the car up ... 9 y.o. Boy

  3. Brenda Gerry Feb 2, 2019

    Great list & good idea. Better idea - Explain how to accomplish each task in a kid friendly book/pamphlet format that could be given to children, so they can learn and practice these skills. Many adults don't know how to do this or are not equipped themselves to pass this information on.

    1. Colleen G Gagnon Feb 10, 2019

      I think it's better to have a teacher instead of a book that they will most likely not use. I have taught little niceties to my kids and grandkids whenever the opportunity arose. I think they made an impression because I explain why and we practice it at that moment.

  4. Pat Feb 2, 2019

    I saw this on Facebook, even though it wasn't supposed to be there. I clicked on the link to find it so I could copy it. I wish I'd had a list like this when my children were small. I taught them a lot of things, but it's good to have such a comprehensive list just to be complete. These are excellent skills to teach children, especially in this time of "tech".

  5. William Grothus Feb 3, 2019

    Keep up the good work! God bless.

  6. J Feb 3, 2019

    A few of these are painful for me to read. I have have no idea how to invite the neighbours over - how am I going to teach my Kids? I agree with the point of the post, it just makes me feel inadequate.

    1. Colleen Feb 10, 2019

      You don't have to feel inadequate. Just knock on the door and ask if they would like to come over for a cup of coffee or a drink so you could get to know each other a little better. Most people are kind and would be thrilled for the invitation. And the worst thing that can happen is that they will say no. And you will survive that. Or you will all enjoy the time and have made new friends. Each time you try, things get easier. The thing is that most people react positively to offers of friendship. Go for it and then teach your kids!

  7. Penny Tibben Feb 14, 2019

    I loved this! As a stay-at-home mom of four years ago, and a teacher now, I totally agree. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Diane Finster Feb 16, 2019

    After +40 years of teaching I've seen the gradual degeneration of our society occur over time. Such simple, common sense, well-mannered items which are needed for individuals to function independently in society. Many educational administrators unfortunately believe these items are "old school" and no longer relevant. So very sad and pathetic. I taught many of these things in my classroom but was criticized for doing so. Technology can only go so far before common sense must excel.

  9. pat Mar 20, 2019

    Seems like its a good list, but most of them aren't old fashioned, and I don't think their lack are caused by technology. My daughter (23), her boyfriend (28) my nieces and nephews on both sides of my family can do most (not all) of the things on the list. The reason is that these kids all have great parents who teach these things. we were taught them by our parents, who were taught them by their parents. It doesn't matter how many cell phones, or computers or emails are in our lives. It matters how parents choose to bring up their kids.

  10. Anoma Apr 10, 2019

    thanks very much, I'm already doing few things to get my 5 yr old to be involved and learn. But this article have shown me a great way and methods , also to have courage and keep trying to teach them well.

  11. Kellie Apr 11, 2019

    This list is a great starting point. One of the issues I have currently with my 12 year old is that she has been told that as long as what she says is a fact then it is ok to say it!!!!! I just go back to the Disney film Bambi, and what Thumper said "If you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing". Yes the kids can use there phones and apps to do so much more than I did as a kid, but they do not know how to talk to someone face to face.

  12. Lori McCall May 15, 2019

    Replying to J and Colleen: J, I totally agree with Colleen. I'm from the "older" generation, and I learned basic home entertaining skills from my mom who frequently hosted formal and informal get-togethers with folks from our church, my dad's work, and both kids and adults in the neighborhood. If you don't feel comfortable inviting someone in one-on-one like Colleen described, get on the Nextdoor website and find your neighborhood and join. You'll get to know some of the people living near you a bit. You might even propose some sort of informal get-together in the closest cul-de-sac where everybody can bring a light snack (cookies, veggie tray--totally low key) and get to meet each other. Then you can mingle and find folks you really connect with to invite into your home and get to know better. We used to do "Progressive Dinners" all the time. That's where you go to one house for appetizers, another house for your main meal, and still another for dessert. It was so much fun, and because it was reciprocated, no one person ended up spending more than the others overall even if your part was the main meal. There are so many ways to meet your neighbors in a safe and nonthreatening way.

    My dad is 88 years old, and one of our Hispanic neighbors saw him taking down a huge tree by himself, and he just walked right over and offered to help. Daddy's not used to younger folks doing stuff like that, and for a young Hispanic man to volunteer to help an old white guy in today's climate was really special for him to experience.

    Basic human kindness is sooooo very needed in our world today! Good luck making that first step to meeting your neighbors. Post here or back on the Pinterest site where I saw the list and let us know how it goes.


  13. John Barach Feb 3, 2020

    They also need to learn to do some of these things without being asked to do them. If it needs to be done, just do it. When they get into the work place, others will just stand around the water cooler during a "down time." A good employee will take advantage of the time and get needed jobs done.

  14. Linia Bugg May 23, 2020

    Thank you for the list Sarah, I hope this will help my husband and son.

  15. BArbara Neel Jun 10, 2020

    I teach Family and Consumer Science(Home Economics) to 7th-12th graders. I am using your list with my classes. Hopefully by 12th grade they will know how to do all the 40 things plus many ore. I am a hand'-on teacher so they will write a letter and address an envelope, sew on a button, iron a shirt, read and make at least 4 recipes starting in 7th grade, introduce themselves, shake hands and be able to tell about themselves without giggling. I only hve these -8 for 3 months, but by high school they'll be on their way to success. THERE IS A BOOK THAT i'D LIKE TO SHARE- What I Wish I Knew at 18 by Dennis Trittin.

  16. Debye Sep 7, 2020

    A important one to add - how to attend a funeral or memorial service and express condolences to grieving people. Many adults don’t know how to do this. It’s a very awkward situation and sometimes people say the wrong thing.
    Great list!

  17. Jenn Feb 25, 2021

    There are some things on that list that I would love to learn myself

  18. Theresa Aug 13, 2022

    You need to add to the list. How to make a bed. We had a 17 year old foreign exchange student who sadly didn't know how to make a bed. His mother did everything for him. He didn't know a fitted sheet from a top sheet, didn't know how to put it on the bed. I taught him that but poor kid still struggled with making the bed.


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