Life Skills Activities for Teens

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Preparing your teen to live on his own may seem like a huge undertaking. The task is easier, though, if you break down necessary life skills your teen needs to acquire and then provide plenty of opportunity for hands-on practice. Teens who learn skills such as budgeting, cooking and cleaning by helping around the house will be much better equipped to live on their own than teens who aren't given a chance to practice these skills in a safe and supportive environment.

Financial Literacy

Basic financial literacy skills for teens include knowing how to develop a budget, understanding the deductions that are taken out of a paycheck, opening and balancing a checking account, planning to save for future purchases and using credit responsibly. One way to teach teens these skills is have your teen open a bank account and give her specific bills to pay each month, such as her cell phone bill or car insurance. It is also helpful to have your teen sit down with you as you're paying bills, budgeting for the month's expenses or having your accountant file your taxes.

Cooking Simple Meals

Your teen may think it's possible to live on takeout food alone, but learning how to prepare simple meals is an important life skill. Recipes with five ingredients or less are a good place to start, since these dishes are easy to prepare and tend to be very affordable. Help your teen assemble a binder filled with simple recipes that suit her personal food preferences. Then, try giving your teen a set amount of money for a week's worth of groceries so she can shop for and prepare all of the meals that you'll need. When the week is finished, compare the cost of cooking at home to the cost of ordering meals from a restaurant.

Doing Laundry

Many parents are reluctant to let their teen handle the laundry because of the possibility of ruined clothing. But accidentally turning a white T-shirt pink or shrinking a favorite sweater by three sizes is the best way for teens to learn the importance of separating colors and following clothing care instructions. Explain how to use the different settings on your washer and dryer, provide your teen with a list of laundry stain removal tips and let him handle the task independently using his own clothing.


Contrary to what many teens believe, there is no magic fairy who appears to dust, take out the trash or clean the bathroom. Provide your teen with a caddy full of cleaning supplies and instructions for how to use them. If your teen does well with a set routine, help him come up with a schedule outlining when each cleaning task needs to be done. If your teen will be living with a roommate, discuss how to share responsibilities fairly.


If your teen will be driving when he leaves for college, knowing how to handle basic car maintenance tasks like changing oil and checking tire pressure is essential. If your teen does not drive, walk him through the steps of using public transportation safely. Knowing how to read a map is another important skill for teens, regardless of how they plan to get around town. Have your teen practice this skill by making him the navigator during your next family vacation.