Four of my five children know how to do their own laundry. Some still need help, but overall, they’re well on their way to having this important life skill. As with most skills, it didn’t happen overnight, but here’s how the process looks at our house.
First, I involve the child in laundry day. Even before they do anything on their own, they see me moving baskets, and they hang out on the bed while I’m folding. Pretty soon they start with simple things like folding kitchen rags in half or matching up socks.
We do these things starting when they’re 2 or 3 years old, and at that point, they think it’s fun! They just love being involved in those parts of everyday life.
Sometimes it happens sooner, but at least by the time one of our kids turn 5, they get to start doing the whole laundry cycle on their own. We make a big deal about them getting their own laundry basket. It’s usually a small round one from the dollar store, but it’s THEIRS, and that’s important to them.
I show them how to put clothes in the washing machine one item at a time. We use lingerie bags like these for socks, so that they don’t get lost in the dryer. So as they take a dirty item out of the basket, they either throw it in the washing machine or the sock bag.
At first, I measure out the soap and they just pour it in. Eventually I teach them how much to use. For things like this, I’m still very much involved and around if they need help, but they start doing parts of the process on their own and they think it’s cool.
Once they’ve mastered loading the washing machine, I use the sticker trick to help them learn the settings. I put a sticker next to the correct settings for their load. They may not know to use cold water or to turn the knob from delicates to casual, but they can find Batman and point the arrow at him.
And then they can take their clothes from the washing machine and put them in the dryer. The same sticker trick still applies there too.
Finally, they learn how to fold. Let me tell you, a 5 year old will not fold a shirt as neatly as you can. But guess what? It still gets folded and put away, and you don’t have to do it!
I teach them this step by focusing on halves. Lay the item on the floor and spread it out. Then fold it in half. Some things, like pants or nightgowns, you might fold in half a second time.
This is definitely a skill that gets better with practice. My 8 year old is finally to the point where some of his folding looks pretty decent, but it’s taken years to get there. But when he can do the entire laundry process by himself, and get dressed by himself, and still look just fine (because kid clothes don’t really wrinkle anyways, even if they’re folded funny)? That’s one less thing I have to do.
Last step: putting your clothes away. This is actually another good step to start with, because your kids know where the different types of clothes go from getting dressed. So even before they learn how to fold, you can hand them a stack of shirts and tell them to put it away.
So here are the steps they need to learn (but they don’t have to learn them in this order):
- Load dirty clothes into the washing machine
- Set the washing machine to the correct setting
- Measure out the correct amount of soap
- Switch clothes from washer to dryer
- Fold clothes
- Put away clothes
Teaching kids how to do laundry takes time, especially since you’re focusing on one step at a time. But once you get through all the different parts of the process, they’ve learned how to do something that will serve them for the rest of their lives, and they’ve taken something off of your to-do list.
Right now, Jonah (age 8) and Matthew (age 7) can do the entire laundry cycle on their own. Hannah (age 5) can do most of it, although I still help with measuring soap, and she’s working on folding. Elizabeth (age 3) helps load her clothes in the washer and does a little folding, but I don’t force her to do all of it. She also puts her clothes away.
Every Tuesday is laundry day at our house. It’s easy for the kids to know that that’s the day they’ll be washing their clothes, and it’s nice for me to have a whole day to work through the cycle with them, and to help them with whatever step they’re working on.
I got the idea of having a focused laundry day from Stacy’s course, Home Management How-To, which I reviewed in full here. The idea is to focus on one area of homemaking each day, and it has definitely helped me streamline certain areas of my homemaking!
Do your kids do their own laundry? If not, pick one step in the process and teach them how to do it!
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