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.