A Five-Step Process

As Lynne transferred the dirty clothes from the hamper in the boys’ room to the laundry basket at her feet, she noticed David watching — again. David loved to follow Lynne around the house, watching everything she did. A thought popped into Lynne’s head: “I wonder if he could learn to sort this laundry. It’s certainly not heavy or dangerous work, and it would reinforce his learning the different colors.”

So Lynne invited David to take one side of the laundry basket and help her lug it to the larger bathroom, where she usually sorted the clothes. She sorted about half of the basketful, making sure that she had a pile for each category she usually used. Then she handed David a white T-shirt from the basket and said, “This shirt is white; it belongs in the white pile.” She pointed to the pile of whites on the floor and watched as he happily dropped it in place. “Good job! Thank you, David,” she beamed at him. “Do you want to do another one?” David nodded and smiled.

Lynne held up a navy sock. “OK, here’s a sock. What color is it?”

David said, “Blue.”

“That’s right,” agreed Lynne. “So let’s put it in the pile with the blues and greens and other dark colors.” She pointed to the correct pile again.

David deposited the shirt in the correct pile, glad that he was helping. They continued the process until the basket was empty, long before David got tired of “the game.”

“Thank you for helping me sort the laundry, David. You did a great job!” Lynne affirmed when they were done.

As David continued to grow and learn, Lynne soon let him grab items from the basket and toss them into the correct piles while she did the same. She kept watch out of the corner of her eye to catch any incorrect placements, but David got to the point where he rarely put an item in the wrong pile.

Soon Lynne let David sort the whole basketful by himself while she stood nearby watching or cleaning. The situation ironically reminded her of that first morning when David had been standing nearby, watching her. She answered any questions David had about unusual items of clothing, but her confidence in his skill grew stronger each laundry day.

One day she simply said, “David, will you please sort the laundry for me?” and continued working in the kitchen. David obeyed, and in a few minutes came back to tell her that he was done. Lynne accompanied him to the sorted piles to see his work. “Great work, David. Everything looks good, and you saved me a lot of time. Thank you!”

Lynne used a simple five-step approach to teach David how to sort laundry. You can use the same five steps to teach just about any home skill to your children. The five steps are:

  1. Watch – The child watches you do the skill.
  2. Help – The child helps you do the skill.
  3. Work side-by-side – The child works with you as you do the skill together.
  4. Do – The child does the skill while you watch.
  5. Inspect – The child does the skill alone, then you inspect the work.

Use these steps to teach your child how to empty the wastebaskets, load the dishwasher, sew on a button, cook a roast, feed the fish, search the Web, paint a room, mow the lawn, wash the windows, set the table, track expenses, wipe the counters, clean the bathroom, bake cookies, change a diaper — you name it.

This five-step process is a natural learning cycle. Most young children follow Mom around the house, watching; then when they get big enough, they eagerly want to help. Take advantage of that innate desire to learn home skills.

Yes, it will take a large investment of your time to begin with. Of course, it will be easier and quicker for you simply to do the skill or task yourself. But intentional parents don’t base their decisions on what is easiest or quickest. Intentional parents think long-term. Time invested now will reap big dividends when your children are able to do much of the day-to-day housework for you, and when they can enter their own households thoroughly equipped with the skills you have taught them.

Q & A

Q: Shouldn’t we be teaching our children how to serve in the church? What do home skills have to do with ministry?

A: Home skills have everything to do with ministry. A simple clarification should make the picture fall into place. When people refer to “the church,” most of the time, unfortunately, they are referring to the building and the meetings that occur inside it. But the Biblical definition of the church is a group of believers — people. We should be teaching our children how to minister to, or serve, other people — and especially those of the household of faith.

Ministering to the church means providing acts of service to the believers with whom we fellowship. Service and ministry should be a way of life — all day, every day. Please don’t restrict ministry to only certain actions that occur within a certain building and only on certain days. When your children have been trained in home skills like cooking, cleaning, mowing the lawn, doing laundry, painting, fixing appliances, formatting and repairing computers, sewing, and more, their opportunities to serve are virtually unlimited!

In younger years they can help you prepare and carry out acts of service to other believers within your church family. For example, as you bake a casserole and make a card for a newly-widowed saint, the children will practice cooking and craft skills. (Notice how many Enjoyable Pastimes can be used for ministry, as well.) As they go with you to deliver the items, they will observe how you interact with the person to whom you are ministering.

As the children become proficient, they can do the preparation tasks themselves. For example, older children could gather the painting supplies and load them in the van so everything will be ready when Dad says it’s time to go. By this time in their training, they’ve probably seen him gather the supplies many times and they know what is needed. Then they can go with Dad to minister by painting a fellow believer’s house.

When they become older teens, if they have been faithfully trained in home skills, they can be sent to represent your family in acts of ministry to other believers in need. For example, think what a blessing your family would bestow if two of your well-prepared-in-home-skills teenage daughters stayed in the home of a new mother in your church family for several days. Imagine all the ministry your daughters could do to serve that sister-in-Christ: cooking, cleaning, child care, laundry, encouragement, laughter! Think how well your son could serve a family with a terminally ill child. He could do the yard work, run errands, do Web research, and play with the other children while the child’s mom and dad navigate those never-ending doctor appointments or hospital stays.

Sending your children out to represent your family by serving reminds me of Psalm 127:4 and 5. The psalmist paints the word picture of children’s being arrows in the hand of a mighty man. A mighty man would shoot his arrows in various directions to accomplish his purpose. In the same way, a parent can send children who are well trained in home skills in various directions to accomplish abundant ministry within the church family.

Yes, home skills are fundamentals that provide a multitude of ministry opportunities.

Q: Which home skills would you recommend starting with?

A: Start with home skills that can be done with the least amount of danger. Do not start with skills that involve chemicals, sustained heavy lifting, sharp utensils, fire or heat, or machinery. At our house, we started with sorting laundry, folding washcloths and towels, feeding the dog, and lots of stirring (cold items off the stove, like juice, Jell-o, and pudding). We also encouraged skills like planting seeds in the garden, picking blueberries or strawberries, and setting the plates on the table (adding forks and knives later).

3 Responses to “A Five-Step Process”

  1. Hey, Mom, What’s For Supper? - Intentional Parents Says:

    [...] children is not enough to make it an engrafted home skill. Use the five-step process we discussed way back at the beginning: 1. Watch – The child watches you do the skill. 2. Help – The child helps you do the skill. 3. [...]

  2. Cleaning and Laundry and Dishes (Oh, my!) - Intentional Parents Says:

    [...] you read through the ideas below, you might also want to review the five steps of teaching a home skill that are posted on our [...]

  3. Tammy Says:

    I am finding that Pamela is so much more capable than I had assumed. By starting small like you recommended, she has gone far in learning life skills! I love how you organized this process into something simple for the busy harried parent!!!