15 little laundry jobs kids can do
Wash your kids clothes for them and they will be clean for a day. Teach them how to wash and … they will still be clean for a day but at least when they’re helping with the laundry it won’t feel like they are dirtying their clothes to spite you.
Like with anything, teaching kids how to do the laundry is going to take patience and diligence. Far more patience and diligence than any of us actually possess, of course, but ain’t that just the way of parenting? The good news is that rather than being an endless chore, getting the clothes clean has the potential to turn into both an important life learning experience and a quality way to spend time with the kids. Result!
We all know that their early enthusiasm will soon dim to a throbbing headache (we’ve been there ourselves), but at least if you catch them young they will grow up with the understanding that laundry is just what we do. Not just what Mum does.
There are plenty of laundry jobs that kids can help with or do entirely on their own. Try these to get your routine started …
1. Start with a colour coding game
You can turn pretty much anything into a game, even laundry. To learn the basics of sorting the wash, set up three baskets in the laundry – one for whites, one for brights and one for darks (or however you sort your wash). Get the kids to sort the washing from the laundry basket into each of the three colour coded baskets. Young kids will simply enjoy the task of sorting and matching the colours. Older kids can throw the laundry in from an ever growing distance or they can race the clock to get the wash sorted as quickly as possible. Fun, huh?
2. Checking the load
Next, show them how to put the washing from one of the baskets into the washing machine. Make sure you teach them how to check pockets for anything that shouldn’t be there (tissues!). They should also learn to pull things out of the load that are delicates (soft and silky or lumpy and bumpy material is a giveaway). Once they’ve mastered that, they’re ready to earn their pilot’s license.
3. Measuring out the detergent
Unless your kids are teenagers, they are probably too young to measure out the required dosage of detergent, however, there are canny ways to help them out. You can pre-measure a few doses of detergent and fabric softener and decant them into small jars, ready for small hands to deposit them into the machine. You could also use those detergents that come in dosage packs that you just throw in with the wash. Either way, kids all the way up to teenagers will enjoy measuring the dose and pouring it into the little slots in the machine.
4. Putting the load on
Only you will know when your child is ready to control the washing machine. Turning the machine on and setting the correct temperature, spin speed and wash cycle can be a tricky thing to do for anyone (says she who once washed a red silk top at 60C!). When they’re ready, show them the sequence they need to stick to and then watch them like a hawk for at least their first 107 goes. Mind you, lots of machines have a ‘favourites’ setting that I happily put to good use. My six year old has been putting on the load and pressing ‘favourite’ for about two years now.
5. Hanging out the clothes
This is a job that little kids relish. Set up a small drying rack and give them their own basket and pegs so they can hang out their load of smaller items while you hang out the big stuff. Of course, if you’re anal like me you will be quick to show them how to colour coordinate their pegs with each item of clothing. When they’ve finished pegging out their load, young kids will also enjoy passing you the pegs as you hang up the bigger items. Older kids will have run away and busied themselves with less boring activities the second they finished.
6. Checking the washing
This job can be left in the capable hands of the kids – regular checks of the washing on the line to see when clothes are dry is a necessary and important household job. Remind kids that these things take time and give them a long and involved lesson about heat, ventilation and time being the trinity of clothes drying success – introduce charts and diagrams if you have to. By the time they’ve woken up after your lesson, the clothes may well be dry.
7. Bringing the washing in
This is a job that anyone can do (even dads have been known to excel at it). If you’ve got a clothesline that will lower enough to be safe for the kids to bring the full load in, by all means let them. Otherwise, they can bring in their drying rack load and you can get the big stuff down for them. Remember too that they’ve got all the time in the world to do a good job of bringing in a load – insist they shake out each item and carefully lay it in the basket to prevent excessive creasing.
8. Sorting out the washing
I don’t know anyone who has time for folding the minute the load comes off the line (mainly because the load generally comes off the line at about the same time that dinner preparations get under way). So, it’s a natural state of affairs that the laundry basket sits in a big heap in some corner or other waiting to be folded by the fairies. This is absolutely fine, of course, but what a good opportunity for the kids to sort the washing out into various helpful piles. Let them sort things into ironing/not ironing, or into piles for each person or into colours or … whatever you fancy. Personally, I think separating the school clothes from the rest of the load is a godsend and getting the socks out of the general pile is equally heavenly.
9. Pairing up the socks
If they play ‘find the socks’ in the general washing pile, the kids can have the socks paired up before you’ve even started the folding. Even the smallest toddler can put the socks into pairs (the coloured ones, at least). I’m not especially good at pairing up the whites and blacks myself, so I wouldn’t actually notice any difference if the kids did it for me. Black is black, right?
10. Rolling the socks
The actual rolling of the socks together can be a little harder for little kids to learn, but it’s by no means off limits. Older kids can go straight from pairing to rolling in one fell swoop. Now, you can teach your kids how to roll up a pair of socks in person if you like, but there’s always a YouTube tutorial if you’re pressed for time. Here’s a link to a video of a US Air Force guy showing us how to roll socks US Air Force basic-training style: click here to watch him in action. But we can probably set our standards a little lower than that (the video is over four minutes long … dude, they’re socks!). Yvonne’s version takes about one minute, so I’m thinking we’ll go with that:
11. Helping with the mother load
There are lots of other items that kids can help fold and there’s an opportunity for a fraction lesson in there, to boot. These include:
- Underpants – fold in half and then in half again to make quarters.
- Tea towels – fold in half then into thirds.
- Towels – fold in half then in half again, then into thirds.
- Sheets – fold in half then half again, then half again, then half again, then half again, then into thirds.
You can see how the mathematical learning opportunities can really stack up.
12. Folding more complicated items
Older kids can learn how to fold any item and should definitely be put in charge of folding their own clothes. Smaller kids (and grown-ups who are into precision), can use a folding board. What’s a folding board, I hear you ask? This is a folding board:
You want one, admit it. Watch the video again for instructions or simply read this:
- Neatly fold a shirt and measure the dimensions
- Cut six panels of box cardboard to the same dimensions as the shirt
- Lay out your cardboard panels into a grid, three panels wide by two panels high
- Space the panels about 5mm apart
- Use duct tape to tape along the inner edges of the panels
- Done – look at your kids’ lovely new shirt folding board!
13. Putting the clothes away
Everyone agrees that this is the worst job in the world, so it’s fitting that kids should do it. Kids of every age should be responsible for putting their own clothes in their drawers (I guess babies might struggle, so they are off the hook). You can tape up photos or drawings of the clothes that go in each drawer to help them. Simply label the drawers for older kids.
14. Setting out their school uniforms
School kids can definitely be in charge of setting out their clothes and shoes ready for the morning rush.
15. Stripping their beds on wash day
This is a job for kids big and small. Smalls will need some help, but bigs can have the sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers waiting in the laundry ready to go every Monday (or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday or Saturday or Sunday – I’m not trying to interfere with your wash day routine, I promise).
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This article was written by Maxabella for Kidspot.com.au and has been adapted for Kidspot.co.nz