How early can you teach your children to do laundry? I’ve been wondering this given how much laundry our family creates. Let me rephrase that – given how much laundry my son Gray and I create. As I thought about whether he was ready to learn, I remembered a conversation I had years ago with Crystal (Nickel, member of the A Cleaner World office staff) and decided to talk to her about it again to refresh my memory.
My first question – how old were your kids when they started doing their own laundry? Her daughter Stephanie was in third grade, and her son Mark was in first grade. In fact, she remembered that Mark had to push a chair or stepstool up to the washer to reach the controls. Gray is also in the first grade, and we have a front load washer so no stepstool required here. But thinking more about Gray, I was curious about how they handled it. She said they were good sports about it – they had an agreement up front, and there was no fighting about it. She actually thinks they kind of enjoyed it. So here are her tips on how she made it work for her family:
• Keep it simple.
• Wash everything in cold water.
• Give them a marked measuring cup and point out the maximum fill point.
• Make marks on the washer and dryer so they know what settings to use.
• Stick with everyday clothes – don’t have them do delicates or good clothes.
• Have them fold the clothes and put them away as soon as they are dry.
• Initially have them do their own laundry. Once everyone is comfortable, they can combine items and take turns so that someone has a day off.
Of course there were a few hiccups along the way, like the red item that snuck in and created a pink load. Then during the high school years when they wanted to wear something that was dirty. But overall she said it taught them responsibility, cleanliness, and how to plan ahead. It also made her life a bit easier given all the responsibilities a working mom has. And as Crystal said to me, “it is the gift that keeps on giving.” So says Mark’s wife who has thanked Crystal many times for teaching him how to do laundry.