Crumpled on the bathroom floor, flung on top of dressers, inexplicably found in the playroom and occasionally, actually in the laundry basket, every mom I know has a mound or various mounds of laundry in her house.
The question is:
What do we do with all this laundry and how do we keep it from taking over our lives?
In the first few years, I had set laundry days and did a load or two on those days, usually with the “help” of a younger child. As they’ve gotten older and more children have been added, I decided to just teach them how to do their own laundry and assign them a day on which to do so. What I’ve discovered throughout this process is that kids like doing their laundry when they’re little, it’s actually relatively easy for them to do and if you get them in the habit of doing their laundry when they’re little it creates an expectation when they’re older. So, while you may be shocked to discover that my 4 year old does her laundry and my 2 year old regularly helps. I don’t think they are too concerned, they like it. And while my older children may not necessarily enjoy it, they do their own laundry every week, mostly, without complaint.
That being said, this system may not be for you if you are worried about your clothes being washed properly, if you like the feeling of everything being clean at once or if your oldest child is less than 2.
I persist against these obstacles because it means my sanity. This system also takes into account how I work best (little chores every day, rather than one big chore) and what my priorities are (teaching my kids). So, I realize there are other ways to do this that also work out well, but as others have expressed surprise that my kids all do their own laundry, I thought I’d explain how to implement this, in case it is of use to anyone else.
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How to Teach Your Kids to do Their Own Laundry
Step 1: Give each kiddo in your house a laundry basket to put in their room. Make sure it is tall and can hold at least one load of laundry, like this one.
Step 2: Assign a day to each kiddo in the house. On the days for little ones (younger than 5) focus on assisting them with their laundry that day as your laundry chore for the day. Here is my basic laundry day schedule:
Step 3: On said kiddos day, say cheerfully “Oh good, Friday, that means it’s your laundry day.” Depending on the age and responsibility level of your child that may be enough. Most will require an actual request to do their laundry; smaller children will require help in getting their basket to the laundry room.
Step 4: Starting at age 2 or walking teach them how to put their clothes in the washer, this is pretty easy if front loading, if top loading, purchase a stool before getting to this point.
Step 5: Have children put clothes in the washer. Just dump the whole thing in there. Told you this might make you squeamish.
-If younger than 5, give them a high five and start the washer for them, they usually like to push the buttons if you can figure out a way for them to do this.
-If older than 5, what are you doing in the laundry room? Teach them how to properly add the soap the first 5 times or so, but then exit yourself from the space and let them try.
Step 6: Listen for the sound of the washer being done and say helpfully “Oh was that a Jeopardy button buzzing or is the laundry in the washer finished?” To which they will either roll their eyes or pretend not to notice your existence. If the latter, you may want to state the obvious “Hey, kiddo, your clothes are done in the washer.”
Step 7: Help the child, if under 5, to switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer. Again they usually like to do this, so only help if you feel some reason to do so. Let them push the button to start the dryer. If older, don’t do anything, gently push them in the right direction and continue reading your book/eating your chocolate.
Step 8: Once the dryer button buzzes, repeat step 6. For younger children, you will want to help them get down a basket to put their clothes in and carry it together to their room or have them push it, whatever is funner/easier. We have two white laundry baskets that we only use for transporting clean clothes.
Step 9: Put the clothes away. With my younger kids, I sit in as their helper and ask what they would like me to look for (socks, underwear…) we put them all in piles and they are expected to put the piles in their drawers. Having them tell me what to do makes this their responsibility and not mine, an important distinction.
*Side note, our drawers are pretty messy. If you don’t like this you can either buy hangers and encourage your child to hang things, buy less stuff or make this nifty little laundry folder.
So, that’s how I’ve grappled with the question of what to do with all the mounds of laundry in my house. I gave my kids the necessary tools and instruction, created a schedule and an expectation. Doing it this way also means, I never feel overwhelmed by laundry, there’s a plan already in place, I don’t have to sort a lot of socks, since they should technically always be kept with that child’s clothing and it allows me to teach a necessary life skill to my kids. It’s not perfect, but it works for us.
Write it down in a journal, talk it over with a friend
or leave a comment below or on Facebook.