Kids love learning homesteading skills that can help them to pitch in as part of the family team. These homestead skills are things my kids loved learning between the ages of 3-5, and yours might too!
One thing I often get asked is, “How do you do all those “homesteady things” with young children to care for?”
The most simple answer is that I do almost all of my homestead chores with my kids. They both started out in a carrier on my back when they were babies, then toddled along beside me. Now, at 4 and 6 years old, they are both a big help, even taking ownership of some of the homestead chores themselves.
Every kid is different, and not every child is naturally drawn to every part of homestead life. But one thing I have noticed seems to be true of just about every kid I know: they love to “work above their pay grade.”
Trying new skills and taking on responsibilities is deeply wired into growing children. As a rule, kids don’t want to just watch – they want do. “Do it SELF“, as my daughter used to say, when she was just a year old.
Here’s a list of homestead skills that my kids wanted to learn for themselves at very young ages, and that they were ready to competently help with between the ages of 3 and 5.
Homesteading skills for young children
Cooking from scratch
Cooking from scratch is one of the most important homesteading skills anyone can learn, and the sooner children learn the basics of making good, healthful food, the better!
When kids are very young, it might be faster to make dinner without their “help”, but involving them in meal preparation lays the groundwork for raising them to be competent, self-sufficient cooks.
You know your child best, but here are some food-prep tasks that many young children can help with:
- stirring batter
- mashing potatoes
- buttering bread
- cracking eggs
- scooping batter into muffin tins
- stirring scrambled eggs on the stove
- cutting fruit or vegetables with an age-appropriate knife
- shelling peas
- snapping beans
You get the idea! Again, every kid is different. Some kids won’t be ready for cooking on the stove until a little later. Others will be making over-easy eggs and toast for the whole family when they’re five.
It truly depends on the child. Kitchen safety is all about knowing your child, fostering capability, and closely supervising little ones at all times.
While baking bread does fall under the category of “cooking from scratch”, it’s such an important and unique cooking skill, I think it deserves to stand alone. We bake a loaf of fresh Einkorn bread every day, and my kids love to get in on the process.
My oldest child just turned 6 and can make a loaf on her own, while my newly 4-year-old is still working on his kneading technique. There’s something about getting your hands on a pile of bread dough that’s just so tactile. Kneading bread can be an especially great activity for sensory-seeking kids.
Feeding & watering animals
Even very young children can help to sprinkle scratch grain to chickens, and hold the hose to fill their water buckets. As kids grow in age and maturity, they can start to take on responsibility for feeding and watering smaller animals on their own.
As kids spend time with the animals during the day, I like helping them to see themselves as caretakers of the creatures in our care. My goal is to raise children that don’t just willingly do animal chores, but who truly understand and respect the responsibility that goes along with animal husbandry.
Gathering and washing eggs
Gathering eggs is probably one of the happiest chores any young child can have. Smaller kids will probably need a stool to reach the nesting boxes, and if you have any nasty hens that are prone to pecking, you may find it necessary to stay close and keep a protective eye out.
Once the eggs are gathered, kids can help to wash them. When each of my kids were first learning to wash eggs, I found that it helped to have them wash the eggs in the shallower bathroom sink, rather than my deep kitchen sink. I put a washcloth or towel in the bottom of the sink, which helped reduce cracking in case any eggs got bumped on the bottom of the sink. I’d run a small and steady stream of warm water, and let the kids take as long as they wanted, carefully washing each egg.
There are bound to be a few broken eggs when kids are first learning, but before you know it, they’ll likely be taking ownership of egg-washing altogether.
One way that homesteads can be self-sufficient is to hatch and raise each new generation of poultry, rather than buying chickens or ducks from the feed store. Kids LOVE learning to hatch out chicks, ducklings, and quail chicks!
Even the youngest child can help to carefully set eggs in the incubator and turn them each day. As they get a bit older, children may be able to monitor the thermometer and hygrometer, making sure the incubator stays at the right temperature, and adding water if the humidity starts to get too low.
Candling the eggs is a uniquely magical part of the hatching process, and kids can learn to identify which eggs are thriving, and which are failing to develop.
This printable incubation chart is a great way to get started hatching chicken eggs with kids.
Many young children are ready to learn sewing at quite a young age.
Hand sewing is another important self-sufficiency skill, and many little ones love learning to mend holes in their dolls’ clothing. This crafting blogger has several good suggestions for teaching young children to sew, and I’m in strong agreement with her that many children are ready to learn sewing (both hand and machine) at much younger ages than are generally suggested as the usual age for teaching kids to sew.
I also agree with her in skipping those plastic “learn to sew” kits, which are so poorly made they’re enough to frustrate anyone. Far better to give a child the correct tool – a real needle and thread – and supervise them very closely. Learning to sew is a very “together” activity, and every stitch is done right next to mom, or even sitting in her lap.
Please hear me that I’m not advocating for just turning kids loose with a sharp needle, any more than we’d turn them loose in the kitchen with a sharp knife. But as with the Montessori model of teaching kids to safely use a knife at a young age, let’s do the same with sewing tools, if our kids are ready for them.
If you’re sewing at a machine, children may start by sitting in your lap while you sew, their little hands on yours as you guide the fabric, and while you control the foot pedal. Eventually, they’ll be ready to guide the fabric on their own, and in time, will be ready to do both parts of the sewing process themselves. Many kids might not be ready for a sewing machine until they’re a bit older, but I know there are many of us mothers with children under 6 who have learned to competently sew simple items on the sewing machine. As their parent, you’re the expert on your child, and I’d encourage trusting your instinct about when your child is ready to start learning.
If they really adore sewing, like my daughter does, they may eventually like to have a little sewing machine of their own. This is the children’s sewing machine that my parents gave her for Christmas when she was 5. She’s done SO much sewing on that little machine and just loves it!
My daughter was 5 when she learned to knit. Some kids are ready at 4. Some are ready at 8. Every child is different. If a kid can tie their shoes though, chances are they can also learn to knit if they’ve got a good attention span, and a strong desire to learn.
If your child is showing interest in knitting, give it a try! This is the best post I’ve read about teaching young children to knit, and it even has a sweet little video.
Spinning wool into yarn
Spinning raw wool into yarn is a wonderful way for children to work on independently using their hands and feet! With supervision, and a seat that’s the right size, both of my kids could successfully spin at the age of 3.
The way I taught my kids was to have them start by putting their hands on mine while I spun, then slowly teach them to take over feeding the wool with their hands, while I continued to slowly work the wheel with my feet.
Then, without wool, I had them practice working just the treadle, until they could keep the wheel spinning in the right direction, at an even speed. It can be tricky!
Once they’d mastered both the hand and feet parts separately, I let them try both parts together. Kids are very different! My daughter would still happily spin for an hour at a time. For my son, it was all about succeeding in learning a new skill. Once he felt like he’d “done that”, he was ready to move on to the next thing. Maybe one of these days he’ll want to pick it up again, and if not, that’s ok too!
Growing your own food is right up at the top, when it comes to important self-sufficiency skills! Kids LOVE planting seeds, and can learn to water, weed, and mulch around plants at a very young age.
By the time they’re 4 or 5, they may be ready for their own little garden. One thing my children love doing over the winter months is getting a small blank scrapbook, then poring over seed catalogs for pictures of all the kinds of vegetables they’d like to grow. They cut out their favorite pictures, and paste them into their “garden book” with glue stick. By spring, they are so ready to plant the garden they’ve been planning all winter!
Freezing vegetables for winter
Kids love helping to put away food for the winter, after they’ve helped to grow it! Foods that can be frozen are a great way to introduce children to food preservation.
Both of my children also love snapping beans and poking them into the jars before I pressure can green beans, but I personally like to have my children out of the kitchen entirely when I’m using the canner. When they’re older, canning is a skill I look forward to passing on to them, but for now, that’s one homestead skill that needs to wait.
Children have sharp little eyes, and can do a wonderful job of helping to make sure that any fences around the homestead are in good repair. Often in the spring, there are places where the earth washes away under the edge of our duck run, and the kids are the first to spot any areas where a duck could squeeze under.
This is one of my son’s favorite homestead tasks! Stacking firewood in the fall uses his muscles and strength in a way that gives him so much joy and fulfillment. He loves saying “I am strong!!!” and showing his little muscles!
Both of my kids have loved helping with this fall activity, ever since they were big enough to carry a single piece of firewood. It’s not a required chore of course – they’re still so young! But kids love helping with real work, and this is one family effort they just adore being part of.
How about you? What homestead skills did you teach your kids at a young age? Tell us in the comments below!