You know that when you have kids, your dirty laundry multiplies exponentially. But having kids doesn’t mean you are stuck working on piles of laundry all alone. Here are some ways you can enlist the help of kids at any age. After all, when they leave your home, you want them to be able to do their own laundry.
Playing peek-a-boo with mom while she folds laundry is a great wake time activity. Let the baby lie safely near you on their back while you are folding. Then take a clean t-shirt or towel and lightly and gently drag it over the child’s body. When their face sees you again, say “peek-a-boo.” You can also put clothing in front of your face and drop it down. This simple game is very stimulating for a baby and activates their sense of touch, sight, and hearing. Plus doing laundry with a cute baby next to you makes it feel like much less of a chore.
They may not seem very helpful, but there are ways you can involve toddlers in folding the laundry. Hiding under a clean sheet bubble is great fun, and they can also bring you items to fold. When you name the item they bring you, you help to build their vocabulary. A laundry basket gliding on the carpet or with a towel under it on hardwood floors can make a good support for new walkers.
When kids are learning their colors, you can play “I spy” or ask them to bring you all the clothes that are a certain color. You can even have them start to match the socks and find ones that are alike. Working alongside you, they can sort dirty laundry by color, and you can teach them how to turn clothes right side out. This is a skill they need to know as they begin to dress themselves.
Elementary School Age
Kids can participate in sorting laundry and also help put their laundry away. Before they can read, have them empty their own laundry baskets into family ones that are sorted by light and dark. As they get older and learn to read, you can have them sort by temperature as well. Once the laundry is clean, give each kid a basket and put their folded laundry in it. Let them put it away in their room, even if they don’t do it exactly the way you would. It builds their autonomy and sense of responsibility when they take care of their own things.
Middle and High School Age
This is when you begin the transition to letting them manage their own laundry completely. Make sure you take the time to teach them how to do it. Let them watch you do it and explain each step and why it’s important. Then have them do a load with you, and then have them do a load on their own. Make sure you are close by to answer questions and offer support. But sometimes the best lessons—like making sure you don’t mix red clothes with whites—are learned by making mistakes. You might also want to post signs in the laundry room that give the steps or help them read the labels. Teach them how to adjust the wash levels to match the amount of clothes they are washing so they don’t waste water. Giving each kid a day to do their laundry also helps manage the workload, and don’t forget to pick your day too.
Washers and dryers today have many features that can help make doing laundry with kids easier. Auto-sensing features make sure the water level is just right, and delay features run your load while you are sleeping so clothes don’t get musty. Appliances with smart features allow you to monitor a load’s progress from your smartphone—great for watching with your preschooler or tracking your teen’s first independent load. Enjoy watching your kids grow and learn. Someday they will be on their own and appreciate all the things you taught them—like how to do their own laundry.