In talking to other mums, it seems to be a popular idea to get the kids to do their own laundry but I’ve taken another angle. The kids have always helped do the whole family laundry – just like they do the family dishes. In my mind the life skill of doing your own laundry is applicable for a few years of their life, whereas doing the family laundry will prepare them for further in life when they are a part of their own family.
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By doing the family laundry the kids have had to learn the skill of caring for clothes – rather than just throwing in one load a week which is what kids would most likely do!
The other skill that I have seen my kids learn is to stay on track with a task that takes a long period of time. As they have become more proficient they are able to start the machine, do some study, return to the laundry to hang a load and start another. This is a valuable life skill in itself.
When Jess was about 6 years of age my parents visited for a few weeks. My mum offered to take on the laundry for the time they were here. After a few days Jess made the comment to me: Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do the laundry like Grandma! Ahhh – out of the mouth of babes! I felt like throttling her because she was judging me at Grandma’s standard – and yet all Grandma had to do all day was get the laundry done! But yes, it would be nice to be able to put your clothes in the dirty clothes cupboard and have them clean and folded on your bed the very next day! A nice standard to aim for!! LOL.
But as you may imagine – we were a long way from that standard at that time. Over the years, as the kids have learnt to be more and more responsible for the laundry we don’t have a daily turn around, but we are on top of it!
Start from a young age
As with all household chores, I would have my kids working along side of me initially and gradually giving them responsibility for particular tasks. Doing the laundry was no different.
Teaching the kids to do the laundry I used the same four step process I use with every skill – model, teach/instruct, practice, expect. It isn’t until they get the skills well and truly that I give them the responsibility.
From around 4years old – they can help sort clothes. They can also hang underwear, t.shirts and teatowels – especially if you have a short clothes line. Children this age can carefully deliver a basket or armful to the right room for the owners to put away.
From around 6years old – they could start the washing machine – this included putting in the detergent. They can start to bring in washing, and fold (if we aren’t too pedantic – remember they are learning)
From around 8years old, if not earlier, they could hang a complete load and bring it in when dry, fold and put away. Our kids used a chair under the clothes line so they could reach.
Gradually I would increase their skills and awareness of what needed to be done that by 11-13yo they are able to do the whole family wash – for a whole week. For our family that is about 3 loads a day on the days that we are home.
These days (ages 18, 17, 14, 12) they are completely responsible for doing the laundry – from sorting, washing, hanging, bringing it in and folding it and have been doing so for a few years.
I really don’t like putting ages next to skills because it isn’t absolute. It will depend on your child, it will depend on how much you teach and train, and how consistent you are. I share the ages as things happened in our family to give you an idea of how young kids can help out around the house.
Laundry is more than washing and drying
Our housework roster is based on the kids being responsible for a particular area for a whole week when they are on laundry it also means they are responsible for deeper cleaning in that room. They need to dust, wipe cobwebs and fingerprints from the walls and cupboard doors as well as polish the sink. When this gets done each week (or mostly) then it is never a big job for any one person. The laundry is the biggest job that anyone does. (They took on these responsibilities around the age of 13years old).
When the children have something special that needs washing, or they have a particular timeline when they need things clean this becomes their personal responsibility, not the responsibility of the person on laundry. The person on laundry does bulk washing.
Any coins found in pockets becomes the property of the laundry person!
They are also responsible for their own ironing. This has happened since they were 10-12ish. They all have to opportunity to do my ironing for me and get paid for it which is a bonus!
I still help out
Though they are responsible for the laundry, there are times that I help them out. If they get behind and it builds up I often get things started for them early in the morning. Though they often have a load pre-set to finish at 5.00am, ready to hang when they wake up. If laundry coincides with another big project (such as an exam or major assignment), or sickness I will take over or someone else will pitch in. We are a family and I encourage others to help out when and if necessary.
One tip that worked well for us: I bought 6 small plastic baskets for them to sort as they fold – a basket for each person in the family. The kids find this really helpful. I saw Jess the other day actually line the baskets up under the clothesline and she sorted as she took the clothes off. Good idea and one I’ll be passing onto the other kids.
I have never been so on top of my laundry! My kids do an excellent job. Not only do they bless me in taking on that responsibility but they are learning a life skill that will be with them forever.
Over to you:
What is your best tip for teaching your kids to do the laundry?
- Do you Delegate? It is important that you do. When a mum or dad delegates to their kids we tell them they are responsible.
- Chores Teach our Kids Character: Character is not head-knowledge; it is a life of making wise choices. Chore time gives children an opportunity to make those choices – and grow in character.
- How Responsible are your Children: We teach our children to be responsible but if we never test them, we never know how responsible they really are.
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