Laundry is a never-ending job. There’s literally always more to do. Usually the brunt of the laundry falls to the parents — but why should it? Your kids wear clothing, they can help wash it. Plus, they’ll have to learn sometime, so you might as well start them young and lessen your load a bit. Teaching kids laundry skills early will help them in the long run!
Start Chores Young
Starting around age 2 kids can help with laundry, but, as with anything, you need to maintain reasonable expectations for both their attention span and ability. There’s a process to follow if you want to avoid frustration and promote success. Teachers call it “scaffolding” which basically means offering support and gradually taking it away. How to get kids to succeed at doing chores.
When you’re teaching your kids laundry, start early, start simple, and offer guidance. As they become more successful at that one task, add another aspect to a task or possibly another, more complex task. Repeat this routine until they’ve learned all there is to learn about doing laundry.
Kids Laundry by Age
Age 2: Matching Socks
This is such a simple activity, but it’s perfect for two-year-olds in so many ways. Matching socks build cognitive skills and reinforces color knowledge. Plus, it can keep them occupied while you’re folding. You’ll probably need to do fold socks, but your kiddo can toss sock balls into drawers!
Age 3-4: Simple Folding
Practice folding socks into balls after they’ve been matched (yay for building motor skills).
Kids this age can also fold napkins and washcloths. Teach them how to lay each item out flat and fold it in half, and in half again. Once they’ve mastered that, you can move them on to folding hand towels, shorts, pants, and simple t-shirts using the same “lay it flat, fold in half, fold in half” method.
Note: The folding will not be perfect. That’s okay. Don’t diminish their pride in doing the job by fixing their work!
You can also have your children put socks and underwear away with guidance. Hand them a pair or two of socks, show them the drawer the socks belong in. Guide them less and less as they get the routine down.
Age 5: Putting Kids Laundry Away
We’re getting closer! By this age, your children should be familiar with the concept of putting clothing in drawers. When you move on from socks and undies, guide them to open the drawer, hand them a pile of clothing, and let them put the clothes in. Use this method for folding to make the job easier.
Do not get upset if the piles get messed up.
Be aware — the more organized a dresser is, the easier time a child will have putting clothing where it belongs. If the dresser is disorganized, kids won’t be able to successfully put their clothing away. They will also have trouble if the dresser drawers are too full. If it’s hard for you to put the clothes away neatly, it will be hard for them, too.
Age 6: Hanging Up
Hangers can be tricky, ya’ll. Around age 6, kids are usually coordinated enough to get their clothing hung on hangers and put in the correct spot in the closet. Keep the organization simple — maybe just sorted by long and short sleeves.
Age 7: Washing Towels
Depending on the size and maturity of your child, you can introduce the actual washing part of doing the laundry around age 7 or 8.
Why does size matter? It takes a decent amount of muscle to carry a full laundry basket and dump clothing into the machine. It might be difficult to get the detergent and measure it out. And it can be quite a challenge to reach wet clothing in the washer’s bottom — even for some adults. If your goal is independence, make some modifications and organize your laundry room and supplies accordingly:
- Use laundry strips or pods instead of heavy bottles of detergent that require pouring and measuring.
- Keep a bench next to your machine for easier reaching.
I prefer to start with towels and let them complete the load start to finish. Folding a load of towels is a lot more straightforward than folding a load of clothing, and you don’t want to overwhelm them.
After they master towels, move onto loads of clothing. The most challenging part of kids laundry, hands down, is the folding. It can take a long time and be frustrating for kids. The most frustrating it is, the more whining and arguing they will do when you ask them to do laundry.
The first few times your child runs a load, guide them through starting the machine. Keep it simple — no need to teach them about specialty settings and water temperatures.
Age 8-10: Washing Clothes
Sit with them the first few times and guide them into pulling items out and folding them simply. Now’s not the time to teach file folding strategies or anything complex.
Kids Laundry, Done.
So, there you have it. By age 8 or 9, you can pass this job onto your kids. Is it easy? No. Is it quick? Also no. But if you’ve got kids, you know that 7 years goes by in a blink, so, in a way, it is quick.
Bonus: You know when your kids try on an outfit and take it off 4 seconds later and throw it in the hamper? Yeah… that doesn’t happen when THEY’RE the ones responsible for doing the wash.
So, does my 10-year-old do her own laundry?
Sometimes. She does the family’s towels every weekend. She starts loads often. She does her own laundry start to finish during the summer, but during the school year I usually run and fold her clothes for her. She puts her own laundry away 100% of the time. See what other chores my 10-year-old does.
I also have an 8-year-old who will join in on the fun this summer. See what other chores my 8 year old does.
Teaching Kids Laundry
Here’s the thing, we have them for 18 years and in that time we need to love them but we also need to prep them for adulthood and, unfortunately, laundry is a very regular part of adulthood. Don’t be one of those parents who sends your kids off to college not knowing how to do laundry. Teach kids laundry today!
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