Teaching Children to Do Laundry

Every parent wants the best for their children. Teaching them basic life skills and how to be independent is part of the parenting process. Parents can start teaching these skills much younger than some may realize. Basic life skills begin almost without parents realizing it, as a small child learns to pick up his toys after himself, or begins washing himself during bath time, or begins the first attempts to brush his teeth. Learning more difficult skills does not have to wait until the child is older. A parent can begin teaching these skills a part at a time, very early in the child’s life.

Laundry is one such skill that can begin being taught very early in a child’s life. By age 10, or even sooner, a child can be taught the skills to be completely responsible for his own laundry. Children are often eager to do something “like a big kid” or that they see their parents doing.

First Things First

As soon as child is old enough to begin imitating a parent, he can help fold towels. He can carry or push the basket to the laundry room and watch as laundry is loaded into the washer or moved into the dryer. He can watch as the parent performs the various steps of laundering. As in most learning, watching is the most initial step in learning to do laundry. He can begin doing simple parts of the laundry process. When a child begins learning his colors, certainly by age 3, he can begin helping to sort laundry. He will be able to recognize the difference between light, dark and colored clothing. This is a wonderful opportunity for the parent to ask, “What color is this?”, and then praise the child for his correct answer. Follow this with asking to which pile that color belongs. Soon a child will learn to sort laundry by lights, darks and colors.

Another easy beginning lesson is with folding. A child can easily imitate how a parent folds towels or clothing. A note of caution, however, is for the parent to be careful of how much is expected. Even if the towels aren’t folded exactly the way you prefer, the value is in the learning process. If you refold all the towels after the child has worked so hard alongside you, he will feel his work was displeasing, despite your words of praise.

What’s Next?

After a child has learned to sort and fold laundry, these responsibilities can be handed over to the child. A parent may wish to supervise for a time but eventually the child should be left to complete the tasks on his own. After a time for the child to get into a habit of performing these tasks, other parts of the laundry process can be taught to the child. A child can be taught to check his laundry for stains that need pretreatment as he loads the washing machine. He must learn to load the washer evenly to prevent “walking” during the spin cycle. He can begin transferring his laundry from the washer to the dryer. He can be taught to check the dryer vent for lint, as well as the safety reasons for this important part of the laundry process. He can be taught the proper setting on the dryer for his clothing. He can be taught to respond to the dryer’s buzzer or to set a timer for removing the clothing from the dryer. A child can learn where and how to store his clothes. He can be taught the desired way to hang clothing on hangers. He can be assigned a day each week to do his laundry.

The Final Steps

It may be some time before the parent feels comfortable allowing the child to perform the final steps of adding detergent and fabric softener or pre-treating stains. However, as the child learns the responsibilities of doing laundry, these final tasks should also be taught and turned over to the child. Children can learn these steps much younger than one would think. By age 9 or 10, a child can be completely responsible for his own laundry from start to finish.

Teaching a child to do his own laundry not only relieves a parent of one item on their long list of things to do, it encourages a sense of responsibility in the child. Children should share in the running of the household to teach them the importance of family and working together. Teaching a child to do laundry is a great way to facilitate that attitude.

Another great benefit? When the child goes off to college, they won’t have to bring their laundry home for the parent to do!

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