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Skills Building at Home

Skills Building at Home

Written by Chris Litherland

Skills building is more prevalent than it was prior to the pandemic. Schools and universities have closed due to the coronavirus, but that doesnt mean that learning must stop.

The COVID Pandemic and the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 were undoubtedly taxing and stressful for many people, especially people with elderly relatives or people living far from home. However, studies show that for some the lockdowns brought positive changes, with 87% of those surveyed reporting feeling more appreciative of things they had previously taken for granted, having more time to spend with loved ones, and spending more time on activities that they enjoy.

While COVID restrictions may be gradually lifting and we are returning to something like normality, many people have woken up to the possibilities. From reading more (and better) to learning dance online, from household management to unlocking your creative side, in this article we are going to look at how you and your kids can learn skills at home and develop old ones, all from the comfort of your living room.

Painting and Drawing

Painting & Drawing

Painting and drawing are examples of excellent kids’ activities at home. Just sitting down and painting is a great way to get kids quiet, relaxed, and concentrating on something they really enjoy doing. Painting, drawing, or any kind of creativity can be just a fun pastime or an obsession, but it’s great for kids’ physical and mental development.

The benefits of art for children are well-known. In young children, painting and drawing develop fine motor skills and help with hand-eye coordination. It also improves concentration and, most importantly, allows children to build their cognitive understanding of concepts, from simple stick-figure people to more abstract concepts like self-awareness, family, primary school, etc. This doesn’t have to stop when the child is older either. When older children draw or paint, create posters, or design objects they are still practicing this way of familiarising themselves with concepts, albeit more complex ones. Calligraphy and design are great ways to further develop fine motor skills, and anything using patterns or symmetry is a great way to understand mathematical concepts.

Indeed, “The Arts” and “The Sciences” are often seen as opposites, but they are actually deeply linked. For students who like art but perhaps struggle with physics or mathematics, art can be a fun way of understanding mathematical and physics concepts. For older teens of a more technological bent, there are lots of apps and programs that can be used to create incredible Algorithmic Art.  These programs are great for developing mathematical and programming skills. Indeed, art can be used to develop mathematical abilities for all ages.



With so much of our life existing online and literacy rates soaring around the world, reading is an increasingly indispensable skill. Not only is it useful in work, academia, or as a relaxing pass-time, but it also helps to build vocabulary, strengthens your brain, reduces stress, and increases empathy and emotional intelligence. There are lots of great apps to help children and adults get into reading, from Blinkist (which condenses the contents of famous books into short essays) to Audible (great for bedtime stories), Kindle, and many more. Reading is also likely to encourage children to try to write their own stories, which helps their creativity and imagination.

However, reading is not simply a case of interpreting signs on a page and translating them into language. To truly develop our reading skills, it is important to read critically.

What is Critical Reading?

Critical reading means understanding your own purposes and opinions as you read and being able to recognize the author’s purposes and opinions in their writing. It means distinguishing fact from opinion, detecting bias (both your own and the authors’), and understanding both what and why you are reading.

Think of all the things you can read: from pamphlets to poems, novels to newspapers, tax forms to tweets… the list is pretty much endless. But the way we read things depends on why we are reading them: you wouldn’t normally read a recipe for the beauty of the language any more than you would read a poem to find out how to make a soufflé. When you, or your child, read something, ask “What is this? Is it a story, an article, a recipe? Why are we reading it? Do we want to find information? Are we looking for beauty or instruction?” What you read will change how you read, and it is important to notice this.

Equally important is asking “Who wrote this? Why did they write it? And how does this affect the way they are writing?” In the age of the internet, with so much information at our fingertips, and often contradictory or downright fake news stories circulating more than ever, this kind of critical reading will be an indispensable skill for both you and your child. Nonetheless, developing critical reading is an excellent way how to improve reading skills.

Sport and Fitness

Sport and Fitness

From physical benefits like increased fitness and stamina, muscle density and coordination, and balance, to mental benefits like better sleep, improved memory, and better social skills, sports and exercise are great ways to improve your or your child’s life.

Exercise is important because so much of our life today is sedentary. Homework, computer games, apps, watching TV shows, all require very little physical activity. So, get up and do some exercise regularly. You can use exercise videos on YouTube, or any of the many exercise websites that exist. You can even learn dance online! Remember that you don’t need to push yourself too much. Sure, “no pain. no gain” and all that but remember that overdoing it can cause injuries and result in being unable to exercise for long periods of time. Start slowly, if you can do ten minutes of exercise today, that’s great! Try to twelve minutes tomorrow, fifteen the day after. After a few weeks, you’ll be working out for an hour or more.

However, whilst exercise alone is good for your health, team sports (especially for young people) can have life-changing benefits. Not only are there physical benefits from playing a team sport, but the mental and emotional benefits are vast. People who play team sports are better at teamwork, leadership and have better developed social skills, they are less likely to suffer from depression, more likely to have a true sense of their own capabilities, and have a realistic understanding of their goals and how to reach them. This benefit goes beyond the sport itself and influences other aspects of life (academic, work, and social life).

Family Games

Family Games

Family games can be a great way to build kids’ social skills and self-discipline. Even a game as simple as Uno can be a great way for the family to connect, have fun, work together, and learn about each other and themselves.

Games like hide and seek, tag, or blind-man’s-buff help little ones to deal with and overcome their separation anxiety, and therefore build self-confidence. Board games help to build strategic thinking and help children come to terms with defeat and failure. There are also games that teach behavior like Simon says, mimicking games, staring competitions, and role-play.

It is interesting to note just how often games that build social skills are based on mimicry and repetition. Mimicking and repeating actions have many useful benefits. Firstly, it encourages the child to mimic, which is the best way to learn. Secondly, it makes the child self-aware and increases their own understanding of how they are perceived by others. Finally, by simplifying and codifying behavior in a game, the adult is providing the child with a safe environment in which to explore and better understand their own emotions and behavior.

Online Learning 

Online Learning

So far, we have talked about some of the things you can do to improve different skills, from the comfort of your living room. However, the easiest way to learn from home is online. Nowadays with MOOCs, blogs, online learning platforms, and instructional videos, it’s never been easier to learn something new.

Online learning has loads of benefits. It’s more efficient (no journey to and from class) often cheaper and offers a much wider range of subjects to learn about than in traditional schools or colleges. Most importantly, it’s a great way for students to meet people from all around the world and learn about different cultures.

It can be difficult to motivate yourself, especially when you have other commitments, which is why it is best to try to find a learning platform where you can interact with teachers and other students. And once you get into the habit of learning at home, you will find you have increased self-discipline, motivation, and a sense of accomplishment.

In conclusion, these are just a few ways in which one can work on soft skill development which many have become necessary in school, the workplace as well as at home.

Chris Litherland is a facilitator at Shiminly.

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Chris is from Devon, in the south of England. He has been teaching English as a foreign language for over six years and has taught in China, the UK, Hungary and Spain. He has a background in Music and studied Composition at the RSAMD in Glasgow, Trinity Laban in London and at the University of York. After finishing his master’s at York, he travelled to China to teach and fell in love with it. He has been teaching ever since.

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