Laundry is one of those things I actually don’t mind doing. Before we had kids, folding laundry meant I could sit down and watch an episode of “Friends” guilt-free because I was still doing work while having fun.

But with 3 kids, a husband and ME to do laundry for, it can be hard to keep up. Plus, I really hate when laundry gets behind. Seeing a basket of clean clothes that need to be folded is like seeing the last chocolate chip cookie on an empty plate. The clothes scream at me to be folded and the cookie screams at me to be eaten. I almost always acquiesce to one of those screams for help. I’ll let you guess which one it is.

So back to how I teach my kids to do their own laundry.

Let me first say that teaching your child to do laundry is a process. You will want to decide what aspect of laundry you want them to do. Do you just want them to learn how to run a load of wash? Or do you simply want them to fold their own clothes? My kids start their own laundry, switch loads, fold clothing, and then put it all away. But we had to build up to that. Here is what I did to teach them to do their own laundry:

Training is key. Two summers ago, I implemented a summer chore system that involved teaching the kids to do laundry, among other things. I taught them every single step in the process.

I first explained how laundry was done, and then we did a load together. I also designated roles for each kid. At the time of training, my oldest was the only one who could reach the knobs on the machine so, to this day, she’s the one who actually starts the washing machine and dryer. Her brothers help get the clothes in and out of the machines and they also switch the loads.

how i teach my kids to do their own laundryWhen the clothes were all clean, the kids carried the basket upstairs and dumped the clothes on the floor. Don’t worry, I asked them to do this. With all of the clothes dumped out, it was easier for them to search for their own clothes and pull them into a pile for folding. Once they had created their own pile of clothing, I showed them how to fold a shirt. Then a pair of shorts. And so on and so forth. Their clothes were not folded perfectly but that’s ok. The point is, they were learning to clean their own clothes and put them where they belong. I didn’t care if the clothes were folded perfectly.

Have low expectations. Let’s talk about expectations for a minute. When I say I taught my children to do their own laundry, I don’t mean I taught them to do laundry like I do laundry. To be honest, the boys are TERRIBLE folders. The 5-year-old is the worst. Their shirts look more like a wad of clothing than a neatly folded shirt. But I’ve learned to let it go. Also, their shirts are often falling out of their drawers because they don’t fit in as well when they aren’t folded neatly. Again, I’ve learned to let it go. There are more important things to be doing in their little lives than perfecting their shirt folding skills.

At the end of the day, my children clean, fold and put away their own laundry. Even though it’s not done to my standards, it’s still done.

A few final thoughts:

  • I have bins for their play clothes that are separate from their dressers. Play clothes do not have to be folded. That helps the task of folding clothes not take as long.
  • Socks and underwear also don’t have to be folded. They just have to be organized and placed in the correct drawer.
  • None of my kids have traditional dresser drawers. We use a variety of Ikea organizers with plastic bins. This makes it easier for the little boys to put away their own laundry.

And lastly, a true confession: I go into the boy’s room every once in awhile and fix their shirts because sometimes I just want the drawers to look like I fold their clothes perfectly. Yes, I lower my expectations. But sometimes, I just have to raise them even if it’s temporary.

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