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From darning socks to making chutney, how traditional skills are dying out in family home

Research suggests mums are no longer passing on many basic domestic tasks to their children. But as you can find out how to do almost anything on the internet, does it matter, asks Lisa Salmon.

In the past, when children of any age needed to know how to perform basic domestic tasks, from sewing on buttons to getting stains out of clothes, they'd ask their mum.

But these days, it seems that wealth of everyday know-how is either being lost because it's not relevant to modern life, or found on the internet, instead of being passed down.

New research suggests letter writing, how to sew, washing-up, ironing, and how to spring clean are among the things mothers aren't teaching their offspring any more. Organising the laundry and making 'proper' gravy, cakes and biscuits are also on the list of skills casualties, compiled from a survey of 2,000 mums of children aged two and above.

The Addis Housewares study found over half of mums just don't have the time to teach their kids domestic know-how, so instead of asking mum how to do something, one in 10 kids are turning to the internet for help.

But as the top skills not being passed on include darning and patching clothes, crocheting and polishing brass and silverware, it could be argued that most of the skills that face extinction are outdated and no longer needed in today's 'throwaway' society.

"Being a parent is all about preparing your child for the life ahead of them, and of course being practically able to look after yourself in terms of being able to cook a meal and do the washing up are important," says Anne-Marie O'Leary, editor in chief of the parenting site Netmums.

"But the majority of this list are life skills that simply aren't needed.

"Luckily, parents nowadays are aware that softer skills that ensure emotional well-being are as much, if not more, important than making chutney."

Indeed, nearly two-thirds (64%) of the mums questioned thought much of their know-how is no longer relevant to modern kids, although eight in 10 said their offspring enjoy learning things from them.

The research found modern mums estimate they learned 22 skills from their own mums, and use seven of them every day, with six in 10 saying they wished they'd learned more skills from their mums.

And the mums thought the most important skill to pass down to children was cooking, followed by looking after money and moral values.

O'Leary suggests the most important skills to pass on to children these days are how to be a good role model, how to be a good listener, how to express yourself, how to give back, how to multi-task, how to self-soothe, and how to motivate yourself.

"The list of life skills required for a meaningful and fulfilled life in 2017 is very different," she says, "so I'm delighted parents aren't wasting time on teaching kids how to landscape a garden and polish silver.

"Hopefully, this means they're spending time with them on far more important things instead," she adds.

Justine Roberts, chief executive of the parenting site Mumsnet, wryly points out that busy modern mums just don't have the time to pass on outdated skills - but there's always the internet.

"Mothers tend to be fairly busy these days, what with earning a living and, as surveys show, doing almost all domestic and childcare work," she says.

"If only there were another kind of parent available to teach children how to darn socks, starch shirts and crochet," she adds. "Until we find them, we'll just have to turn gratefully to YouTube tutorials."

Top 20 skills mums should pass on to their children

1. Darning socks

2. Patching trousers or jeans

3. How to darn a woollen jumper

4. Re-heeling shoes

5. How to polish brass and silverware

6. How to recycle soaps

7. Letter writing

8. Making jam/marmalade

9. Handwashing clothes

10. Crocheting

11. Making chutney

12. Knitting

13. How to hem a dress

14. Sewing buttons

15. Making a trifle

16. Making homemade ice lollies

17. Descaling a kettle

18. Sewing

19. Making a white sauce

20. Storing winter/summer clothes away properly

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