Laundry 101 for Kids

Teaching kids how to do laundry

Like grocery shopping, laundry is a task that never goes away. As soon as a load or two is complete, it seems that another is waiting in the wings. The nice thing about laundry is that as long as you are washing everyday items—like towels and T-shirts—you can ask kids to get involved. Not only can they lend a much needed helping hand, you’ll be teaching them valuable skills they will use all their lives.

Sorting laundry tasks by age group

Pre-school children: Children as young as 2 or 3 can help with simple laundry tasks. Start by teaching children to put their dirty laundry into a hamper or basket. Then, on wash day, ask them to help you load the washer (if you have a front loader) or dryer. When older preschoolers learn about colors, show them the proper way to sort laundry. They also are old enough to check pockets. As kids join you in the laundry room, talk them through what you are doing and why.

Elementary school children: Children ages 5 to 7 are old enough to transfer washed clothes into the dryer and add dryer sheets. As the children advance, explain the use of detergents and fabric softeners. Explain washer and dryer settings and how they relate to different colors and types of clothes. Some parents say that by age 10, their children could do a laundry load from start to finish with little supervision.

Tweens and teens: By this age, children should be able to do laundry on their own without supervision. But, have them complete some cycles under your supervision before you set them out on their own. And, be prepared for that one colorful sock to make its way into a white load! Like anything, learning laundry skills can be a trial and error process.

Children of all ages can help fold and put away clothes. Young children may begin by matching socks and graduate to more detailed folding techniques.

Making laundry day easier for kids

Kids may forget your instructions or may not fully understand why you have certain laundry “rules.” These tips will keep them on track:

  • Organize your laundry room to make it easy for kids to help. Keep in mind safety considerations.
  • Help children sort by putting signs on laundry baskets that are available for each type of load—darks, colors and whites.
  • For older kids, keep a laminated cheat sheet or checklist near the washer and dryer. The cheat sheet should include washer and dryer settings to use for each load.
  • Teach them to clean up after themselves—the cheat sheet should end with cleaning spilled detergent or softeners and cleaning the dryer lint trap.
  • Use products that are easy for kids to use:
    • Stain sticks
    • All-in-one detergent and softener
    • Dissolvable laundry packets (keep these out of reach of very young children)
    • Dryer sheets

Most of all, be patient. Your children may not wash or fold laundry exactly as you taught them, but if they get the job done, they will learn better techniques in time. And, by teaching your kids how to do laundry, you’ll have fewer loads on your to-do list!