We get it, it's tough to get your kids to do the easy stuff like eating and brushing their teeth, let alone teaching them new life skills such as laundry. But trust us on this one: You'll be glad when you do.
Teaching your kids how to do the laundry at the right age not only sets them up for success, but you as well. But it shouldn't be such a hassle! Laundry is one of those chores that will never go away, and your kids will be able to handle their own laundry as they get older.
How to Make Laundry an Opportunity
Our little people create so much laundry from wearing multiple outfit changes daily and are the victims of frequent spills and stains from living a completely chaotic existence. If we start teaching our kids about laundry while they're young, we have an incredible opportunity to make all our lives easier in the future.
What we adults think of laundry as a simple task can be a significant challenge to kids. Multiple loads of laundry, detergents, dryer sheets, operating two separate machines, planning future laundry, folding… this is not a simple task, and it'll take time to teach kids to think through the process. If you're successful at teaching them how to do laundry, it can set them up to be independent, self-reliant and environmentally friendly (wow, look at all that water; I should curtail my outfit-changing sprees!)
Teaching Kids How to do Laundry
There are three types of learners: Visual (I need to see it being done), auditory (I need to hear instructions) and kinesthetic (I need to do it myself). Figure out how your child learns best, and play to your audience!
For those visual learners, you'll want to repeatedly show them the motions every step of the way. For auditory learners, consider this a show AND tell: Say what you are doing out loud every step along the way. And finally, for the kinesthetic learners, let the child mimic everything you are doing. From lugging their own laundry basket to the laundry room while you do the same, or allowing them to help you open the washer lid or door, to throwing each item of clothing in, and so on.
Regardless of learning type, children innately want to please their parents, and will appreciate the tactile nature of following the steps in the laundry process themselves with a little tutelage, practice and oversight.
The 5-Step Guide to Passing the Laundry Baton
- Identify your apprentice. That's right, we're talking about a true-to-life apprenticeship here, where the identified applicant (your messy child) is hand-selected to follow you through the process of doing laundry many times before actually doing the laundry him or herself.
- Start small. From the point in time that you identify your fabulous new apprentice, don't let the process of doing the laundry be a solo effort. Even if you're putting loads of laundry in while your child is sleeping or at school, wait to fold the laundry until he or she can take part, and then have them clean out the dryer's lint receptacle.
- Repeat the motions again and again. Repetition is key to learning, and the process of doing laundry is no different. Walk, talk and show your child through the series of steps it takes to do laundry, and slowly over time, they will follow suit independently.
- Have patience. Again, laundry is a fairly sophisticated process for a young person. Let them fail. And fail. And fail. Finally, they might start guessing what the next step is, or what load goes next. There is a point the complaining subsides and the feelings of self-reliance and of being a "big boy" or "big girl" take over.
- Sit back and enjoy! It will take time to get to this place, but, in the end, you will have a sidekick to share the load of household chores alongside you. We don't recommend completely taking off their training wheels without appropriate supervision for some time, but no one ever complains over extra help with laundry chores - even if it's just little tasks!