Teaching your child to put dirty clothes in a hamper or bring them to the laundry room is only the beginning. If you simply take the dirty clothes and give him back clean ones a few hours later, he will remain oblivious to what goes on in between and find himself lacking in a key life skill when the day comes for him to move out on his own. You will want to supervise the whole process with young children or beginners, but the more hands-on experience you can give your child through observation and participation in the laundry cycle, the better equipped he is to take on this responsibility as he grows older.
Things You'll Need
- Laundry soap
- Stain remover
- Fabric softener
- Static dryer sheets
- Laundry baskets
Orient your child to the contents of the laundry room. Show her where you keep soap, spot remover, dryer sheets, fabric softener, hampers and laundry baskets. Keep any chemicals that she should not handle out of reach or locked away. Demonstrate what constitutes a small, medium, and large load of clothes and explain that overloading the washer can interfere with the washing cycle.
Let your child help you sort the laundry until you are comfortable that he has a good grasp of your sorting rules. Common sorts include, darks, lights, heavies, such as jeans and towels, and delicates, such as nylons and undergarments. Some people sort reds (to include orange, maroon and pink) separately from other darks or subdivide colors into pastels and darks. Bulky items, such as sheets and blankets, can be separate loads as well.
Teach your child the habit of checking pockets for items that should not go through the wash, such as MP3 players, phones, and wallets. Show him how to read and follow the washing instructions on the clothing labels for any special requirements or restrictions, such as dry cleaning, hand washing or hanging dry.
Show your child how to load the washing machine evenly to keep the machine balanced. Explain the settings on your machine and which settings to use for which types of loads. Demonstrate how to stop a load midcycle if there is a problem. Let her practice measuring the correct amount of detergent -- and fabric softener, if you are using it. Show her where to put the detergent and dryer sheet to reduce static.
Explain that laundry is a chore that happens in stages so you need to remember to come back when the washing cycle is done or set a timer to remind yourself to check on the laundry. Help your child transfer the laundry load to the dryer when it is done in the washer. Acquaint her with the dryer settings and emphasize the importance of cleaning out the lint trap before every load to ensure sufficient airflow to dry the clothes. Explain that the sooner she takes the laundry out of the dryer at the end of its cycle, the less wrinkled it will be.
Demonstrate how to fold the various types of clothing, towels and blankets according to your preference, and let your child work alongside you as he learns. Show him how to stack the folded clothes separated by owner, towels, sheets and blankets. Finally, have him deliver each pile of clothes to the owner's room and put away his own.
Tips & Warnings
- Older children or teens can learn to use a steam iron on slacks, dress shirts, or blouses and dresses before putting them away.
- Tack a written copy of your laundry instructions to the laundry room wall so your child can refer to it if he forgets what to do.
- Let your child practice removing spots with stain remover -- both quick sprays for minor stains and overnight soaks for heavy-duty or stubborn stains. Teach him how to treat different kinds of stains with different products or solutions that are most effective on the particular stain.
- Do not let your child handle laundry bleach or liquid bluing to avoid skin or eye irritation or accidentally ruining your family's clothes with bleach spots.
- Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images
- University of South Florida Parental Information and Resource Center: Busy Parents Helping Busy Children
- Colorado State University Extension: Children and Chores
- University of Nebraska at Lincoln Extension: Laundry Safety
- The Children's Trust: Raising a Can-Do Kid
- New Jersey Statewide Parent Advocacy Network: Teaching Your Child Science Skills While Doing Laundry