Image: Finley Rose Tracy, daughter of Puracy Co-Founder
Let's face it: Children go through a lot of laundry. Whether it's a towel they used once and tossed in the hamper, or an outfit that was the unfortunate victim of a spaghetti spill, doing laundry weekly (or even daily for parents with multiple children) is an inevitable fact of life.
And since little ones are often intrigued by laundry, it presents the perfect opportunity to get them excited about a necessary chore before it becomes, well, a total chore. It's also a great way to incorporate responsibility and life skills while taking a bit of the (literal!) load off your shoulders.
To introduce your children to laundry, first thing's first: Set up a child-friendly laundry space. You'll need sorting bins and a step stool. Keep detergent tucked away—even if you're using gentle detergent, it's safest to keep the solution out of reach until your child is green-lighted for full laundry responsibilities.
Toddlers famously emulate most everything adults do. If your little one enjoys choosing her own outfits, for example, she'll probably love doing laundry, too. First, make sure your child understands the difference between clean and dirty clothes. Then, she can start helping you separate lights from darks.
Moving forward, this time can easily be used to demonstrate learning skills that transcend the laundry room. Consider color: from a pile of clean clothes, ask your child to find the yellow socks, a green shirt, and so forth. Move your way to textures, such as smooth silk versus a coarse towel. You could even work in shapes and patterns, using the triangles or stripes in a material's design.
Don't forget about counting, too! Whether it's asking your child to add up all the socks or label the piles "one" and "two," it's a great way to reinforce an important skill. Basic folding lessons become intros to shapes when you make a towel into a rectangle or triangle.
And load on the compliments! As Parents magazine points out, even children as young as three crave knowing that they're helpfully contributing to the family.
At this age, your child may have a noticeably short attention span. Child development expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa suggests keeping your child on task by asking him to tell you when he's finished with his chores.
Try incorporating new additions to the laundry routine, too. While sorting through dirty clothes, add the additional step of examining pockets and zippers. Have him help you wash and dry the sheets for his bed, which he can then help make.
With all the excitement of school and homework, your children may lose sight of their chores. Keeping them involved during laundry day will ensure they don’t forget how to wash altogether.
Adding additional responsibility will hold them accountable, too. With your oversight, let your child pour the detergent in the machine. Enlist her with moving clothes from the washer to the dryer and teach her how to run the dryer on the correct setting.
Children this age are usually in charge of keeping their room tidy. And the biggest culprit in any messy bedroom? Dirty clothes! If your child is up to it, at this age she can start folding her own clothes and putting them away properly.
By mid-to-late elementary school, children are often capable of handling full laundry responsibilities. With a bit of guidance, they can be in charge of sorting, washing, transferring loads to the dryer, folding, and putting away clothes.
By teenage years, most adolescents are capable of advanced laundry skills such as stain removal and ironing.
No matter at which age you decide to teach your children laundry, try utilizing these organizational leadership tips. Over time, they'll help to ensure your little ones fully grasp each new step in the process:
Your child simply observes as you do a full load of laundry. Take care to fully explain what you're doing as you do it.
Your child helps you out with certain tasks, such as measuring detergent or setting the dryer to the correct setting. Repeat this as many times as necessary until your child fully understands each step.
Your child has full responsibility, and you take the backseat. Have him "instruct" you in sorting colors or folding. Continue these roles until your child can confidently do a full load of laundry.
The initial roles are reversed—your child takes over laundry duties as you watch!
Whether your little one is swaddled in cotton fresh from the dryer or singlehandedly operating the washing machine, make sure your laundry provisions are formulated with gentle, child-friendly ingredients. Since our Puracy Natural Stain Remover and Natural Laundry Detergent are free of SLS, dyes, and chlorines, they're safe for clothing wearers and washers of all ages.