Laundry is like dust – it’s everywhere and it never ends. The more children you have, the more laundry you have to wash and the more important it is train your kids with good, helpful laundry habits. I’m a firm believer in training our kids to take care of their own things and to help with the upkeep of their things–and that goes for everything from putting away their legos to doing their own laundry.
It’s hard to stay on top of laundry, but here are a few ways that I’ve taught my kids to help.
6 Habits To Help Kids Learn To Be Responsible For Their Own Laundry
1. Give Your Kids Their Own Laundry Basket
We use small “kid-sized” laundry baskets for hampers, the perfect size for one load of laundry.
The same basket can be used to carry laundry to the washing machine, carrying the clean laundry from the dryer to wherever it’s folded, and if needed, carrying the folded laundry to the dresser to be put away. Plastic baskets are easy to wipe out regularly and keep clean. When your kids get bigger, wearing bigger clothes, just upgrade them to a bigger basket. It’s EASY. I like easy!
The most important tip here is reinforcing the habit of putting dirty clothes IN the basket, and then washing clothes when the basket gets full instead of continuing to heap clothes on top!
2. Teach Your Kids To Fold (or Not.)
Some of you may gasp, but when the kids start “folding” their own clothes, I don’t make them refold–or even fold their clothes at all!
I decided to let that go. I decided that my bigger goal was to have them GET their clothes IN the dresser, get the drawers closed, and be able to find something to wear. I’ve learned that most five-year-olds aren’t concerned about folding but as kids grow, they begin to fold their clothes on their own – especially when they see everyone else doing it. As kids grow, folding becomes more important if you want everything to fit and the drawers closed. At that point I’ve stepped in to teach them that folded clothes fit better, and help them learn how to do it well.
My “important tip” here is to choose your battles, and focus on your main goal of teaching them to be responsible for their own laundry. The precision will come with time.
3. Solve Your Sock Issues
Here’s another crazy idea – stop matching socks! Why stress yourself out?
We solved our sock issues with three simple steps. First, we bought the kids all one kind of sock, and second we bought different brands (different colored toes, etc.) for each kid. They WILL have some other socks of course – maybe some church socks, maybe some Christmas socks but the bulk of their daily wear socks will be the same. The last thing we did was to skip the “folding” (I despise turning socks together and stretching out the elastic anyway) and assigned a drawer or basket in a drawer for socks. It keeps all the socks together, and it skips the hassle of matching and folding.
Tip for sock drama: Make it easy on yourself – and your kids! Again, I like easy. =) If you prefer, you can also teach the child to set the sock bag aside for you to wash all the socks together in one bleach load.
4. Teach Your Kids To Do Their Own Laundry
Teaching the kids to do their own laundry is probably the scariest part – but also the most liberating!
When my kids were little I realized that since we wash our clothes with cold water anyway, their clothes were small, and most of their wardrobe was the same color — all of their laundry could be washed together! If you want to bleach their socks or teach them to sort into lights and darks, you can do that, too, but we skipped it. Focus on checking pockets, setting aside items with stains or brand new items that haven’t been washed yet, the settings for the machines and soap, and checking the lint trap. Observe at first and give them more freedom and independence as they get the hang of it.
Tip: Relax and let the little things go. It may not be the way you wash your own laundry, but clean is clean, right?
5. Have set laundry days.
This one is kind of a no-brainer, but one I frequently forget about.
Depending on the number of kids you have, set one laundry day, give each kid their own day, or assign multiple kids per day. Reinforce the laundry day habit by marking it on the calendar, adding it to your chore chart or maybe even an app on your phone! One week’s worth of laundry isn’t more than they can manage in one day, so it won’t be overwhelming to them. And if you also have laundry to do or another child does, you’re not trying to get too much done in one day.
Tip: I wash at least a load of laundry a day myself. There are towels, sheets, special wash items and mine and my husband’s laundry still to stay on top of. Giving a child a day during the week to get their laundry done also frees up the weekend for me to get caught up on the rest of it.
6. Adjust for age.
Grow your kids into these healthy laundry habits, start when they are young and eager to help and add responsibility as they grow.
Children from 2-5 can learn to put clothes in the hamper when they take them off, help load things into the washing machine, help switch over to the dryer (I hang them to the child to put into the dryer), and can help put folded items in drawers.
Children from 5-7 can “fold” and put away their own clothes and load the washer and dryer with supervision at first and then increasing independence.
Children ages 8 and up can pretty much do their own laundry from start to finish. They can also assist younger siblings with the washer and dryer settings! Yay!
All of these habits work together to create an easy laundry system your kids can help with. By having their own basket, they are responsible for their own laundry. By having laundry days and small baskets you are limiting the amount of laundry they have to wash at one time. By foregoing sorting, sock matching and folding, you’re preventing your children from becoming overwhelmed with the details of perfection and focusing instead on being responsible and the joy of independence.
What tips do you have for teaching children to be responsible for their own laundry?