When most families think “fun,” they probably don’t think about laundry. Teaching kids to do chores like cleaning and laundry can be daunting, especially during the early years when kids seem to be making more messes than they could ever possibly clean up.
However, setting the foundation for doing chores early in life can prepare children for these tasks while making them seem less like work. Though a toddler can’t sort, wash and fold clothes by themselves, they can learn the basics and be your washing machine wingman until they’re old enough to start doing the chore themselves.
Below, we’ll break down the basics for teaching kids to do laundry without throwing in the towel.
When should kids start doing laundry?
Kids of all ages can be involved in the laundry process. You can teach children ages 2 or 3 how to sort by color, which will help set the foundation for sorting clothes while doing laundry. You can even make this an educational game that can give your kids the basics of color-coding.
Once children are school-aged, they can actually start helping with folding and putting laundry away. Though they still shouldn’t work the machines, kids ages 4 to 9 can help with other parts of the laundry cycle like folding and organizing. With supervision, kids this age can also start learning about loading and unloading the machines.
Once they reach age 10, kids can start being in charge of a full cycle of laundry with supervision. They’ll be mature enough to understand how the appliances work and how to use them carefully without breaking the machines or hurting themselves.
Teenagers can be fully in charge of their own laundry without supervision.
The general age breakdown for different parts of the laundry cycle is the following:
- Age 2–3: Learn how to color code and sort
- Age 4–9: Help with folding and organizing the clothes, and loading and unloading the machines
- Age 10–12: Do laundry with supervision
- Age 13+: Be fully in charge of their own laundry
How to teach kids to do laundry
Teaching your kids to do laundry doesn’t happen overnight. Below, we’ll break down some tips to lighten the load.
Sort their clothes
Most people sort their laundry by color and fabric type. Dark, medium and light-colored clothes can be separated and washed together to avoid bleeding colors. In addition, heavier fabrics and bulkier items like towels and sheets should be washed separately from fine fabrics.
To help teach kids to sort clothes, first give them an easily understandable system for doing this chore. You can provide separate bins away from the laundry machines so they can sort clothes as they wear them, rather than when it’s laundry time.
Explain how to remove stains
Any parent knows that stains happen. Your kids should know how to solve them. Explain to kids that when their clothes are stained with grass, food, mud or any other sneaky substance, cleaning them will require more than a toss into the washing machine.
Walk kids through the process of removing a stain by showing them how to use stain removers like bleach or vinegar. Put a bit of stain remover into an accessible, child-sized container like a small spray or squirt bottle for easy access.
If you’re uncomfortable with your child using bleach to remove stains, a few natural stain removers include:
- Vinegar and water
- Lemon juice and water
- Baking soda and water
Show them how to use the machines
Set aside time to show your child how to use the washing and drying machines. Though it might seem like second nature to you at this point, keep in mind that this chore is completely new to your child and might be confusing.
It may help to create a cheat sheet explaining the controls and functions of each button on the machine. You can tape the sheet to the machines, or leave it nearby for your kids to reference while they’re learning to do laundry.
Teach them how to fold clothes
The first step is to teach kids that folding laundry straight out of the dryer cuts down on wrinkles, so it’s best to do it as soon as possible. The easiest way to teach kids to fold clothes is to do it with them until they get the hang of it. You can also print out cheat sheets like the ones below to show kids how to get started.
Show them different techniques for folding clothing items to cut down on wrinkles. Also show them how to transport their clothing back to their room for storage in a way that won’t negate their folding work.
Keep them organized
Part of teaching kids about laundry is showing them that they won't have clean clothes to wear without doing this chore. Come up with a system for doing laundry that will keep them organized and prepared for each day.
You can also use this opportunity to teach your kids about proper clothing storage. Show them what gets hung up and where each item goes in the dresser. Supervise them a few times to make sure they get it right, then let them do it by themselves.
Making laundry fun
While learning to do chores, games and activities can help keep your kids engaged so they don’t even realize they’re working. We’ve listed a few fun games below that you can play while learning to do laundry.
A perfect pair
Matching socks can be tedious — but no one wants a mismatched pair! Use this printable game to teach kids to match socks in a fun way. Print out the sheet of socks, cut each one out and put them face down on a table. Have your kid turn over two tiles. If they match, leave them turned over. But if they don’t, put them back face down! Keep repeating until all the socks are in their matching pairs.
Once they’ve mastered this game, take it to the dried laundry and have them match their real socks.
Shoot for the moon
While learning to sort clothes, turn your laundry baskets into basketball hoops and your pile of dirty laundry into basketballs. Use tape to designate one-, two- and three-point lines on the floor, starting at 10 feet from the laundry basket then moving to 15 and 20 feet. Take turns shooting the clothes into their correct basket and tally up who has the most points once all the clothes are sorted.
Other ways to make laundry fun include performing a laundry room concert, hosting a timed folding race, hiding treats and other fun toys in laundry bins, and getting the family involved to talk and joke during the process.
Laundry room safety
It’s important to not only teach your kids to do laundry, but to teach them to be safe while they’re doing it. Of the nearly 3,000 dryer fires per year, 34% are caused by failure to clean the dryer. Teach your kids to clean out the lint trap before or after each dryer load. Show them where the lint trap is, how to remove it and what to do with the lint once it’s removed.
You should also teach kids safety around laundry machines. Tell them not to climb on the machines, or hang on any open doors. This could cause the machine to tip or fall over and potentially cause serious injury.
Labeling bleach and detergent bottles in the laundry room can also teach small kids not to touch or ingest them. Using printable stickers like the ones we’ve provided below can help kids remember that detergents and bleaches are potentially dangerous and should be handled with care. But when possible, these items should be placed on high shelves out of reach.
To take laundry room safety to another level, you could provide your kids with a designated area for them to sort, wash and fold. Pour them their own detergent in child-size bottles that they can't open, and provide a shorter table where they can sort and fold their clothes. This separate kid’s laundry area can stay clean and away from the machine while they’re learning to tackle this chore all on their own.
How to do laundry in an eco-friendly way
The average washing machine uses 41 gallons of water per load. On top of that, a dryer contributes to 6 percent of a home’s annual energy use. You can help reduce this environmental strain by being smart about doing your laundry and instilling the same values in your kids. Always make sure to do laundry with a full load to prevent the number of times you have to do laundry per week. When you can, take advantage of a nice day and hang clothes on a clothing line outside instead of drying them in a machine.
You can also invest in smart appliances to save you money while also helping reduce the amount of water and energy used to do laundry.
The benefits of smart laundry machines
There are smart devices for almost every different aspect of the home — including laundry. The global smart washing machine market has a value of nearly $5 billion, and it’s only growing annually. With the growth of the smart device market as a whole, more attention is being given to a broader range of devices, leading to an increase in smart laundry machines.
Smart machines use about 4,000 gallons of water per year. If that seems like a lot to you, compare it to the 12,000 gallons per year used by traditional washing machines. Investing in smart appliances can be an asset to your utility bills and to the environment.
You educate your kids on how to do chores because you love them. Guiding them through their laundry is a way to teach them responsibility and prepare them for their adult lives — with the added bonus that it can take some of the pressure off of the adults in your home. There are many ways to provide for your kids at home, including investing in a home insurance policy that will keep them safe and protected. Let Hippo handle that load — get a quote today.