I know you might not believe me if I told you that my girls started doing their laundry when they were 3 ½ and 5 ½ years old. And now that they are pre-teens, they are, in fact, doing their laundry on their own!
Think about how much free time you would have if you didn’t have to do so much laundry. If you have an infant, laundry, lots of laundry, is a fact of life. But your child will grow out of that stage and you will have a jump start because you read this in advance.
So, what have you got to lose? A sock? The possibility of a shrunken shirt? Or what if it’s a total flop and you end up going back to doing all of the laundry by yourself?
If you choose to start with the laundry, begin by teaching and modeling. This might take multiple loads, even a few weeks. Most young kids love to sort clothes and put them into the machine. They also like to measure and pour detergent into the machine and press the buttons or pull the knobs. It’s a bonus if you have a see-through door so your child can watch the water come in and the clothes spin.
Here are some tips to get you started.
Draw a line with a permanent marker on the measuring cup to the “fill” line you want.
Put detergent in a smaller container if necessary to make it easier to pour.
Put arrows where your child should press buttons or pull knobs to start the machine. Sticky notes or flags work well.
Sorting clothes offers a great chance to teach/review colors.
Teach your child how to ‘inside out’ any shirts with designs (prints) on the front.
Teach your child to check the pockets. I often let my children keep any coins they find (bonus!).
Let your child play basketball to put the clothes into the machine. This works for both the washer and the dryer.
The older your children are, the more you can let them do (under your supervision) without your help. You will still need to be very involved while your children are younger, but I promise you it’s worth it in the long run.
I often still help my daughters when it comes to determining which clothes go in the dryer and which clothes need to be hung up to dry. They are old enough to read the labels, but it is quicker (and there are fewer complaints) if mom helps. Sometimes I’ll even help them hang the up those ‘line dry’ clothes (great time to connect!).
When my girls were younger, when the clothes came out of the dryer, they would help by sorting clothes into each family member’s pile and help by finding clothes I was looking to fold, such as ‘Mommy’s shirts’. They could also match socks and learned to roll them together earlier than I expected.
For the most part, my girls are pretty good at doing their laundry from start to finish. We have had a few bumps here and there along the way. I have heard more than once that “no one else has to do her own laundry” and I’m sure I’ll hear it again. I’ve also witnessed some ingenuity and creativity. My younger daughter is ahead of her time. She used her allowance to buy more underwear so she wouldn’t have to do laundry as often – a trick most people don’t learn until they get to college…
So, was it worth teaching my girls how to do their laundry at such an early age? For my family, I have to answer “You bet!”
Pick a life skill, any life skill: mopping floors, making a meal, washing the windows, or weeding the garden just to name a few. I’m challenging you to teach, supervise, and then to trust and let go. Under your gentle guidance, your children can learn to do all of this and more.
When your child feels loved (taken care of, understood and protected) she will be more likely to respond positively when you ask something of her. There is less of an argument when something needs to be done because there is a sense that you are not making a crazy or unreasonable request.
Does that mean that you will never have problems? No. Problems can still occur, especially if you spring something on your child or if you are interrupting something fun that he is focused on. However, if you have a solid connection with your child, hearing “It’s time to go – I can’t wait until we get to come back again” or “Time’s up – where shall we start the next time we come to the zoo?” should go over pretty well.
So, how does a parent connect with a child in a way that will strengthen their bond? There are many ways and they do not need to be expensive! In fact, some of the best bond-strengthening activities are FREE and don’t even take a lot of time. Here are four ways to strengthen your relationship with your child:
Special Time. Pick a date and time to spend with your child and schedule it in your calendar. Let your child see that this special time is on your calendar and do everything possible to keep your date. Sometimes things come up and you need to change the date or time, but let the child know when you will be re-scheduling your date and mark it on the calendar.
Turn off the TV, computer and, yes, even your phone. If someone does call and you need to (or accidentally, out of habit) answer the call – notice your child’s reaction. Typically you will see shoulders slump, a sad face and sometimes even tears. But don’t worry, you can work magic and fix that. Continue to watch your child as you tell the person on the phone that you can’t talk right now. Throw in the fact that you are having Special Time with your child if you can. For some kids, it’s as if you hung the moon in the sky when they hear you value this time with them and that it is not going to be taken by or given to others.
Let Your Child Lead. This can be a challenge for some parents, but if you are able to follow your child’s lead during your special time, she will feel respected, understood and loved. Let her choose, within reason, what the activity will be – or, if the activity is already chosen, follow her lead while you do the activity. If you are playing legos, let her decide what to build. If you are walking the dogs, let her decide which path to take. If you are playing school or cars, let her take the lead on the story line.
Be Curious About Your Child. Ask questions, learn about your child’s favorite things, friends he hangs out with, games he likes to play. You don’t want to question your child with the 3rd However, asking a few well thought out questions here or there, especially during Special Time or when you’re driving somewhere in the car, will provide some insight into your child’s life that you might not get otherwise.
The key to a great relationship with your child is connection. Connect with your child and watch bonds strengthen and doors open that you might never have known were there.
Can you think of a time you had a key connection with your child? What were you doing? What was the result? I’d love to hear about it.
When was the last time you played as a family? Or just “hung out” together? Sometimes you need to call a Time Out of your hectic schedule, ignore your To-Do List and just take time to play. The laundry and the dirt in the corner of the bathroom can wait until tomorrow. When you take a break from the rat race, you give your family time to get to know and enjoy each other.
While time away can be a vacation or a pre-made adventure (amusement park, mini-golf, roller skating), it can also be simple and cheap. Here are the top 5 favorite Family Fun Escapes contributed by some of the families with whom I have worked:
Have a Picnic in the Den. Instead of sitting at the dinner table, lay a table cloth on the floor and eat picnic foods. You can play music that reminds you of summer and have popsicles or ice cream in cones for dessert!
Go on a Night Walk. One night, when no one has a super busy schedule the next day, surprise your kids after PJs and teeth brushing and go outside for a walk. Listen to the night sounds, look at the night stars or the snow if it’s falling. What does the night smell like? Is it the same as during the day or does it smell more clear and fresh?
Go on a Hike. Explore your local parks and paths. Bring plenty of water, a few snacks, and most importantly a camera to save your family memories!
Have a Family Game Night. Depending on how much time you have, each family member can choose a game to play or you can write down everyone’s ideas and pick one out of a hat. Serve a special snack (popcorn or fruit kabobs).
Have Ice Cream for Breakfast! You might have heard me mention this as a special surprise to get kids out the door on time or as a reward for getting all of their “To Do’s” done, however, if you haven’t done this in a while (or ever), serve ice cream for breakfast for a fun morning. You can balance it out with fruit toppings, or go all out and enjoy chocolate syrup and sprinkles. It’s such a fun way to start the day off with smiles and giggles, give it a try!
These are just a few ideas you can use to get to know your children better and to experience how much JOY and FUN you can have playing together. Can you think of more?