Sharon Schnupp Kuepfer, Mom to five children ages 4 to 10, including twins, is the author of a book Homeschooling Moments and Child-Friendly Recipes: A Collection of the Unique Adventures of a Mennonite Family. The following hints for encouraging children to assist in the day-to-day household tasks are adapted from her book and an article in The Toronto Star (27th April, 2002).
Delegate – Each child takes one weekday to help with lunches and suppers. Sharon’s oft repeated rule: “If everyone does a little bit, no one has to do a lot.”
Assign new jobs periodically – As the children get older, they can handle more challenges. A five year old can easily handle the job of bringing the laundry down to basement on washdays. By aged three, Sharon’s twins were capable of putting the clothes in the washer, then transferring them to the dryer. To make the job easier for them, she bought them a two-step stool. They were thrilled!
Assign the same task for long periods – Not only does this lighten the workload, it makes the children competent in their assigned task. Sometimes they may even enjoy the task. At 9 years old, her daughter had had floor care for a year. Not only did she become adept at floor cleaning, she advised that she liked her job.
Use the five-minute motto – Sharon told her children that a job shouldn’t take more than five minutes. It is helpful to a child to realize that a job doesn’t have to take “half a day” to complete. Five minutes to empty the dishwasher, five minutes to sweep the kitchen floor, five minutes to sort the laundry, five minutes to wipe down the bathroom. Soon the jobs are done.
Kids complete chores even if there is company – Company kids are invited to join in the tasks, but don’t have to. Often when company sees your own children working, they will pitch in too. The timer is set for five minutes and everyone works like mad and Sharon finishes what is left. *Everyone contributes to the mess and everyone contributes to the clean-up.
Let them work when the mood strikes – Sharon wanted to spend some time with her only son. “What shall we do?”, she asked him. “Let’s organize the closets”, he responded. While Sharon had had a play task in mind, she didn’t argue with his suggestion.
Be a role model – Even when the kids were not in the mood to work beyond their regular chores, Sharon cleans regularly. In this way, the kids observe that there are other tasks around the house that also need attending to.
Be consistent – Sharon notes that she is a stickler for having the tasks completed. Unless the child is very sick (or has another good reason), tasks must be done!
Make moves and minutes count – Sometimes multi-tasking is really helpful and even the children learn how to double up on their chores. Sharon’s seven-year old daughter advised “While I am waiting for my hot chocolate to get warmed up, I do my dishwasher. This way I have less to do later on.”
Make sure you have the right cleaning and organizing tools available – Make sure that you have the right tools on hand to complete tasks. Purchasing a good dust mop, for example, saved Sharon’s daughter a good deal of time daily when mopping the floor. It’s no good to begin cleaning the mirrors or glass, for another example, if you do not have the right products on hand to do so.