No More Magic Laundry Fairies
- What: Doing laundry with kids
- When: 12 months and up
- Why: Get kids involved in household tasks
- Where: Your home
I’ve read plenty of stuff that points to the benefits of kids helping out, from How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids to Achtung Baby. I want my kids to pitch in around the house, and with three kids, laundry can quickly get overwhelming.
I personally love laundry, so this task hasn’t been a challenge for me even as our household grew from two to five members. But one day my eldest son demanded clean clothes, and I realized I needed to change my attitude and theirs. I also started earlier with my other kids to avoid making the same mistake of doing everything for my kids and expecting nothing, not even gratitude, in return.
Because I like laundry, I have no trouble making it appealing to my kids. I start by asking who wants to join me anytime I have a load of laundry. (I now divide laundry by kid, to keep the piles manageable, and each kid has their own laundry bin so they can recognize the need to do the task.) My kid crawls onto the bed, where I dump the entire bin of warm, clean laundry on top of them. They burrow or roll around in it, and then I recruit for the serious stuff.
We sort clothes by type: shirts, pants, socks, underwear, pajamas, dresses, activities (ballet, swimming, sports, etc.). Even the youngest kid can tell a pair of pants from a shirt. Another easy task I give them is finding socks that match. We often race to see who can find the most, or how many they can match in the time it takes me to fold or put away other clothes. Once they graduate from sorting and matching, they can start putting away the folded stacks in drawers and putting clothes on hangers. Then comes learning to fold. My daughter mastered this step by age three, while my oldest still can’t really fold at age nine, so it depends on the kid. But even if my son stuffs all his shirts in his drawers willy nilly, I leave them that way and let him deal with the mess.
I also find involving kids in the different steps means I only do the labor intensive portions of the chore when my kids are home and awake, so I don’t spend my precious downtime tending to these tasks. It also means they see me making it happen, so they know it involves effort instead of magic.