Tips for Teaching Kids to do their own Laundry

Hi Friends! As I sit down to write my blog posts I often get butterflies in my stomach because I worry that my posts won’t be received with the intent that they are written. I am by no means an expert on family, food or fashion and I don’t want my readers to assume that I think my ways are the best ways. Then, I take a breath and remind myself of two moments in my life. The first is a memory I have of when my oldest was just a newborn. Our days consisted of feedings, naps, diaper changes, tummy time, repeat…  I remember wondering Is this is how every new mom is spending her day? In that moment I wished that I could peek into the lives of other families to see what a day in the life looked like for them and pick up tips that might work for our family. The second is a conversation I had just after I volunteered to be president of a local moms club. I was feeling frustrated by the low attendance at  playgroups and asked a former president for advice. She very wisely told me that if a playgroup gives just one parent an opportunity to get out of the house and connect with another parent, it is a success. I have taken that advice to heart in many situations since. I want you to know that every time I click the publish button my hope is that just one person will learn something from my day to day experiences that will make their day a little brighter and their life a little easier. In a nutshell, that is why I write Parker Posts.

One of my goals as a parent was to make sure that my kids could do their own laundry by the time they reached high school. We started working on this goal back when our kids were barely preschoolers, but this is one of those skills that is never too late to teach children. I am going to walk you through the steps our family followed through the years, but they can easily be adjusted to your own timeline. Every year we add a step to our children’s laundry routine until they are able to do all nine steps by themselves.

Step #1 – Place dirty clothes in the hamper

This step is as easy as it gets and quite doable for young children. We have always kept a hamper in the kid’s bedroom for them to deposit their dirty clothes into. I like this hamper because it holds at least a week’s worth of clothing and is nice enough to be displayed in plain view.

laundry hamper
Pottery Barn Kids Sabrina Hamper

Step #2 – Put folded items away neatly in a drawer

My husband and I would fold the clean laundry and stack similar items together. The kids would then put the piles away in the various drawers or baskets that they belonged. I have been known to hold drawer inspections every once couple months. If I find the drawer to be an overstuffed, crumpled mess, I will dump all the unfolded items into a pile on the floor and the kids will need to re-fold them all and place them neatly in the drawer. It only takes a couple times of having to refold the contents in their drawers before they realize its easier just to put them away nicely the first time.

Step #4 – Hang clothing in your closet

This can be especially tricky for little hands, but it is great opportunity to practice at buttoning and zipping so that items don’t fall off the hanger. I learned from our preschool teachers that if the kids place the item on the floor, they have an easier time fitting the hanger inside each sleeve, then buttoning or zipping the clothing item.

Step #5 – Take laundry out of the dryer, fold and put away or hang in closet

I stressed the importance of folding or hanging an item shortly after it has finished drying to avoid wrinkles. We also talked about shaking an item out, then matching the corners, before folding.

Step #6 – Sort laundry into light and dark piles, empty pockets, turn clothes right side out

In our household I have the kids separate their laundry into three piles; lights, darks and athletic wear. I find that they don’t have a lot of delicate items when they are younger. I have them do a separate load for athletic gear. This was especially important for my daughter because she likes to wear leggings that tend to pill when washed with cotton. Kids have a tendency to collect wrappers, tchotchkes, and who knows what else in their pockets, so it is especially important to explain the need to check pockets in order to avoid a laundry disaster (e.g. the orange crayon incident I share later in the post). One of my biggest pet peeves is having to turn socks right side out, so early on I refused to wash a sock unless it was turned the right way. I  would place inside out socks back in the hamper until it was time to do laundry the next week. Once the kids started running short on socks to wear during the week they made a point to remember to fix each sock while sorting their laundry.

Step #7 – Transfer laundry from the washer to the dryer and start dryer. Hang air dry only clothing on rack

I taught both kids where they could find the care instructions on the clothing tag. I encouraged them to read the tag the first few times they transferred clothing to the dryer until they had memorized which items needed to be hung dry. Now, they are great at checking the tag on a new item of clothing the first time it is washed and remembering how to care for it in the future. We have a collapsable drying rack in the laundry room that they can place hang dry only items on to dry.

Target Compact Drying Rack

Step #8 – Add detergent to washing machine and wash clothes according to instructions on tag

The biggest challenge for this step was teaching the kids how to turn on the washing machine and turn each knob to the correct setting. They learned rather quickly that their loads tend to follow the same settings week after week.

Step #9 – Iron clothes the are wrinkled

My 8th grade daughter is still practicing this last step and my son hasn’t started ironing yet. We have gone over checking an item’s tag first, so that she knows how to adjust the settings on the iron. She will often plug the iron in, start ironing the larger sections of the garment and I will assist her in ironing some of the tricky areas. Sometimes I will show her how its done on one side and let her practice on the other side.

Our kids have been slowly learning tho do their own laundry for about 10 years. My husband and I do our best to guide them along the way. Each step has transferred more and more responsibility to our children. This process has not been without hiccups. For example, this past weekend my daughter opened the dryer to find that an entire load of laundry had numerous bright orange splatters covering every single item. We were unable to find the culprit, but believe that an orange crayon from our time spent volunteering at the Crayon Initiative made its way into the dryer. Although we were able to remove the stains from a few of the items with a lot of hard work, my daughter was beyond upset that we were unable to save some of her brand new back to school clothes. We both are chalking it up as a learning experience and I can almost guarantee by her reaction that she is going to triple check her pockets every time she does a load of laundry in the future. Mistakes happen!

Do your children do their own laundry? How old were they when they started? Leave a comment below if these tips helped make your life a little easier. Hearing about how you use my tips definitely makes my day a little brighter. 

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