Self Reliance: 10 Parts of Teaching Your Children How to Do the Laundry

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Self Reliance: Teaching Children How to Do Laundry

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Since all of our Powerful Words schools and families are focusing on Self Reliance this month, it seems like it would be a good time for children to learn how to do some things on their own. We already talked about learning how to tie their own shoes and pack their own bags, so how about we focus on how to teach children to do the laundry?

As parents, we often get in the habit of doing many things for our children. After all, it started out that we needed to do everything for them! However, even young children can help out with the laundry.

Laundry is a skill that every young person, both boys and girls, should know how to do. We all want our children to grow into responsible adults—and responsible adults do laundry! Perhaps you might be worried that your child will ruin a piece of clothing or get detergent all over the floor, but wouldn’t you rather make mistakes now while you’re there than when he’s older and away from home?

Practicing this skill as a child, while you’re around to supervise, is a great way for your children to build their confidence around the task and learn the right way to do it. Then, when they go off to do it themselves, they’ll be prepared.

Where should you start? You can teach them how to…

(1) Sort their laundry: Young children can easily learn the rules of “colors,” “whites,” “darks,” linens, and towels.

(2) Read labels: Tell your child that different types of clothes get treated in different types of ways. Does it say dry cleaning on the label? Then it goes to the dry cleaner. Does it say hand wash? Then it gets washed in the sink. Show them where to look and help them to understand what each direction means.

(3) Prepare the laundry for washing: Children need to understand that it’s important to check pockets before throwing items into the wash, turn items with patterns or buttons inside out to prevent wear and tear, and judge whether a load is too big for one wash.

(4) Work washing machine: Show them how to turn the knob to the appropriate setting and how much soap to put in as well. Be sure to teach them the dangers of using bleach and how to protect themselves and their clothes. If you would prefer that they don’t fumble with cups of soap, there are kid-friendly pre-packs that can be used. You can also teach them when to use the different temperatures, fabric softener, and stain stick.

(5) Put in the clothes: We know that we can’t just dump in a load and have the washer work well. Teach your children how to create a balanced load by putting in clothes a piece or two at a time, alternating sides of the machine.

(6) Hand wash: Show children how to fill up the sink and which detergent to use for hand cleaning. Then show them how to use their hands to clean the item as well as how to squeeze out the excess water without hurting the delicate garment.

(7) Use the dryer: Show your children where the lint trap is and how to clean it before they load any wet clothes into the dryer. Then show them how to load the clothes into the dryer (shaking them out first to untwist or unwrinkled them). Be sure to remind them to check the label to make sure that the item can go into the dryer or if they need to be dried flat. You can also explain when to use the different dryer cycles and how much time is need to dry a batch of clothes. Finally, show them which knobs to use and how to turn them correctly and responsibly.

(8 ) Hang clothes on a line or dry flat: Line drying can take some dexterity due to the clothes pins so it may be a difficult task for young children. However, a drying rack is perfect for young or school-age children. Teach your children how to smooth out the wrinkles and hang the clothes so that every part of the garment has air around it.

(9) Fold laundry: My own mother started me on socks. It’s a great place to start. Teach children how to match up the socks, fold them together, or roll them into balls. Learning to fold towels and washcloths is also a great place to start because these items are easy. Show them how to fold shirts, sweaters, and pants neatly so that they don’t get wrinkled. You may even get them a folding board to teach them in a way that makes it easier and neater. Also, show them how to hang up dresses, dress, shirts, and dress pants, on a hanger and put them away in the closet.

(10) Iron: This task should only be undertaken by a very responsible child. Most parents should wait until their child is a preteen before allowing them to use the iron. Show them how to turn the iron on and stress how hot it is once it is plugged in. Talk to them about keeping the iron moving so that clothes are not burned.

When teaching children how to do something new, it’s important NOT to overwhelm them. Teach them one or two parts at a time and let them get comfortable with the task. Then you can show them something new.

Not only will learning how to do the laundry help your children become more self reliant, more empowered and more knowledgeable about how to take care of themselves, it will also likely be a big help to you (over time) and provide you with some more quality time with your family.

Happy Washing!

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2 Responses

  1. […] children need to engage in tasks on their own if they’re ever going to learn how to do them well. Laundry, shoe-tying, packing their own bags, making the bed, and are great places to start. Older children […]

  2. […] that teach self reliance and responsibility feature (1) Learning how to my own tie shoes; (2) Learning how to do the laundry; and (3) learning how to pack my own […]

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