How to prepare children for the jobs of the future? The 2-part answer may surprise you.

Today's parents are preparing their children for self-sufficiency in an economy that will look very different from our own. According to the World Economic Forum, most children now in elementary school will grow up to hold jobs that don't yet exist.1

What can parents do to ensure their children will thrive on the job, manage their money wisely and protect their own families? Here are two key places to start:

  1. While you may have read that schools do too much "teaching to the test," many educators recognize the importance of problem-solving as both a life and a job skill. 2 One approach to teaching it is "invention-based learning," in which students tackle problems on their own, absorbing underlying scientific principles in the process. 3

    Students might, for example, pair up to build catapults that knock over a pile of blocks, learning not only some physics, math and engineering but also how to problem-solve and work with a group.

    At home, you can supplement their school-based learning with activities to further help prepare them for the economy of tomorrow.

  2. Encourage free play—both independently, with you and with their friends.4.
    A hallmark of free play is creativity, a key prerequisite for problem-solving. Alarmingly, a child's ability to think creatively typically declines over time, according to one widely used measure, the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking. 5. Kindergartners asked to come up with uses for a paperclip can name dozens. Older children, more rigid in their thinking, usually come up with only a few.

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play can foster creativity and imagination, as well as dexterity and physical, cognitive and emotional strength. Through play, children can explore the world, practice adult roles and develop new competencies and the resilience to face challenges. Play also supports a child's ability to find their own interests and pursue them.

    There's not much call for switchboard operators, lamplighters or wheelwrights in today's economy. Likewise, many of today's jobs will certainly disappear in tomorrow's. Happily, skills like problem-solving will remain irreplaceable. If you want your children to enjoy financial security in the future, encourage them to play today. 6 7