I was blessed to never have had to do the laundry growing up. My Mom took care of everyone’s laundry, although I’m not really sure how she stayed caught up with so many people in the house. In fact, I don’t even remember putting clothes away, so I imagine that means she did that too.
This meant, however, that as I was 19 and gearing up for my wedding and moving out of my parents’ house, I also needed a crash course in doing the laundry. It was not exactly the most ideal time to learn, but at least I had a tiny bit of training (I took notes) for when I became the one doing laundry in my new household.
While it was nice to never have to worry about laundry, I have hoped to give my kids some lessons earlier so that we don’t have to do the same crash course right as they move out.
Activities for Teaching Children How to Do the Laundry
Beginning and Intermediate Laundry Activities
Remember – beginning doesn’t necessarily mean young children. It’s just a starting point, though I do have one activity listed that is decidedly more for younger children.
Putting Their Clothes in the Hamper
This is a simple, but important, skill to acquire very early on. Without it, either clothes are found throughout the house or Mom (or Dad) are constantly picking up after the kids. Even toddlers can put their clothes in the hamper, so teach them this early on.
Even small children can work on sorting laundry items into appropriate piles. However, they will need your watchful eye if you have some tricky clothing items (like things that need hand washing or the gentle cycle, for instance).
For simple sorting, you are really focusing on the big picture. Throw whites into the whites pile, towels into the towels pile, and so on. We’ll tackle sorting again later. This one is just to help children to become familiar with laundry.
As a fun activity for younger children, you can set up a tub of water and sting up a “clothes line” to allow them to launder some doll clothes. This is a great way to allow them to mimic some of your activities.
This may be a difficult one for smaller children, but older children that are just new to laundry can be taught how to appropriately fold clothing. All ages can help match up socks though! (It’s one of my least favorite laundry things to do, so I love to have my kids help because they look at it as more of a fun challenge.)
In our house, we hang far more clothing than we fold. (We just have more hanging space than we do space in drawers.) Hanging clothes is a great, easy task for children. Although, keep in mind that you only know how to hang clothes because you learned it at some point. You may need to take the time to actually teach your child to hang clothes. (Mine sometimes do crazy things, like putting a hanger the completely opposite way of how it is supposed to be in a shirt.)
Putting Clothes Away
Don’t make children believe that clothes somehow magically just show up in their drawers and closets. Put them to work in putting them away themselves!
You can also do what we do at our house – a “game” called Special Delivery. I am stationed in the laundry room, Eric is in one of the kids’ closets, and the kids run back and forth delivery clothes to Eric and then running empty hangers (from the closet) back to me. They try to beat each other and laugh telling us “Special Delivery!” as the bring us whatever it is that they are delivering.
Empty Lint Traps
This is an activity that I always thought was fun (and still kind of do). It is important for safety reasons that the lint trap be cleaned out after each load of laundry. This is a wonderful task for children of all ages.
More Advanced Laundry Skills (aka Ready for Laundry Duty)
More In-depth Sorting
As children get a better understanding of simple sorting, you can start introducing more complex sorting issues. It will be important that your children are reading before doing this, as it requires the ability to find and read garment tags (and follow those directions). This will involve being able to find clothes that need to be hand-washed, line-dried, and any other special care.
Checking Garments for Repairs
It’s a great idea to do a quick check of laundry before actually washing it to see if any garments need small repairs such as a button sewn back on or a fix a rip. Teach children to set these aside to repair before throwing them into the wash.
Although not a repair, per se, children should also be trained to watch for stains. These laundry items should then be pre-treated before putting them in the wash.
Choose Correct Laundry Settings
Children will need to be taught which laundry settings to choose for various loads of laundry. This will probably vary by household, as different families have their own preferences. Give your child your general guidelines. As they are learning, consider posting a paper near the washing machine to give them a “cheat sheet” to help them gain more independence.
A vital part of this skill, however, is to also teach children that they will need to look at washing instructions for some garments. (You’ll also need to give them a heads up on the various places you might have to look to find the washing instructions tag.) Help them gain the knowledge of the types of garments that will likely have special washing instructions.
Wash, Dry, and Put Away Three Loads on Their Own
Here we are to the “final exam” of their laundry journey. When a child appears to be ready to tackle laundry on their own, have them go through the whole process from sorting the dirty garments to putting away the clean ones, with at least three different types of loads of laundry, independently.
Ideally, of course, this final exam just leads to more helping with laundry in the future!
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Laura Putnam says
At what age do you think a child is ready for full laundry responsibilities?
I don’t think there is any particular good age. It really varies by the particular child. I would just see how they do with assistance and base it on that.
What a great post! All I had to do as a kid was fold laundry, but my kids do a lot more than that mainly because they are home all day and I wasn’t. If you look at the laundry machines as machines, boys are much more open to operating these machines.
My kids were all about 10 or so when I turned their laundry duties over to them. I still switch loads in and out for them and help them when they’re busy, but it’s their responsibility to make sure their clothes are clean and put away.