Teaching Your Kids to Do Their Own Laundry

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Teaching Kids to Do Their Own Laundry | RaisingArrows.net

Over the years, I’ve had many laundry systems.  With every age, stage, new home, new circumstance, I’ve had to revamp how I did laundry.  This past year, I finally brought my 12 year old daughter on board as a laundry helper, but it seemed that even between the two of us, we were never caught up with the laundry.  The stuff multiplied in corners and on bedroom floors, taunting us.

I also noticed an alarming trend.  The very item of clothing a child (or husband) needed for the next day was the very item of clothing that managed to get buried beneath the pile.  And wet towels somehow always snuck their way to the bottom of the pile, creating a smelly mess.  I was sick and tired of it, but with 9 people in the house, it seemed my lot in life.

And then Kendra from Preschoolers and Peace posted about how she got all 8 of her kids to do their own laundry, and I suddenly saw a ray of hope.  While our family dynamic is different, I felt like I could take what she had done and make it my own, so that very day I started planning and the next week I introduced my plan to the children.
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I did a quick inventory and realized we needed one more large laundry basket so that each room (Parents, Boys, Girls) had a large laundry basket in it for dirty clothes.

Then, I made a Laundry Chart:

laundry chart

I wrote out simplified instructions and laminated the sheet.  I put at the top a space where we could change out whose day it was to do the laundry, and I affixed velcro dots to the chart as well as three laminated tags for Mommy, the Boys, and the Girls.  Then, I attached it to the laundry room wall and gave the children a run through of specifically what I expected when it came to doing laundry.

I divided the children by days of the week.  So, Mommy has Monday and Thursday, the Boys have Tuesday and Friday, and the Girls have Wednesday and Saturday.  That allows for Sunday to be free.

The oldest of each group is ultimately responsible, but they are to enlist the help of their younger siblings.  So, on my day, I wash my clothes as well as Daddy’s and the 6 month old’s clothing.  My 15 year old son is responsible for the boys in his room, but they all pitch in to sort and put away.  The girls are both capable of doing their own laundry, so they switch off and on.  Everyone washes sheets every other week, something that was not getting done prior to implementing this system.

The one issue we came across that was easily solved was that of towels.  We use a lot of towels.  Those towels are often wet and nasty.  Because the laundry room is just off the kitchen, we decided to throw towels and bibs on the floor next to the washer and whosever day it happens to be is the one responsible for that day’s towels.

This system has given me back my laundry room!  No longer do I have to crawl across piles of clothes to get to my pantry.  No longer do I have to stare at the piles, wondering how I could possibly wade through it all that day.  No one ever has more than 3 loads on their day!

I am so thrilled to finally have a handle on the laundry.  But I am even more thrilled that my children are learning to do their own laundry.  This is one of those skills so many leave home without.  My husband tells stories of guys in his college dorm coming back from the laundry room with pink socks and underwear because no one had ever taught them to do laundry.  He was so thankful he knew how!

By the way, if you subscribe to Raising Arrows (see top right hand sidebar), you will receive a Home Management Training Checklist.  Doing laundry is on there. 😉

So, do any of you have your children do their own laundry?  How do you have it set up?

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52 Comments on Teaching Your Kids to Do Their Own Laundry

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52 thoughts on “Teaching Your Kids to Do Their Own Laundry

  1. I have a front loading washer so the children will frequently switch the loads for me. I don’t quite trust them to put in soap yet (eldest is 6) so I do that and check the settings, then any of the three bigs (6, 5 and 3) can load and unload the washer and dryer and turn them on.

    I have a set of shelves back there with a bin (about the size of a dishpan for each person) I fold and sort and they put away. Since I recently reduced the number of clothes each person has, the amount of laundry is much less!

  2. I love your post. Ours small family has two working adults and two preschool boys. Maybe not the challenge faced in your family however the husband works six to seven days a week and the children are too small to help effectively. I did recently add five stacking bins and two large tubs to the laundry area of the garage. The bins are pantry bins and perfect for holding folded preschool clothes. So you take laundry out of the dryer – fold the children’s clothes and place in the bins by type of clothing, separate the adult clothing by person. My husband is responsible for folding his clothes and putting them away. I take the bins two at a time and put them away as needed. So far it’s wonderful after months of not being able to finish a laundry day completely. When the time comes I will certainly be implementing your poster instructions for the boys. :)

  3. I tried the system of laundry baskets in the kids’ closets last year so they could easily do their own laundry (I had each room, boys and girls, scheduled one day a week to do their laundry). However, I found that we were slowly starting to drown in mounds of laundry and no one had any clean clothes they needed. It was so overwhelming that they couldn’t keep up, even after I stepped in to try to get it under control! It was c-r-a-z-y!!

    Then I realized what the problem was: my kids (mostly my girls, ha!) were changing clothes several times a day and leaving them on the floor. When I would walk into their rooms and see the mess, I would ask them to clean it all up, and move on to the next problem to solve on my list. The result? They would gather up all of those clothes, which were still CLEAN, and put them in their laundry baskets! Then on their particular laundry day, they would easily have 3-4 times the amount of laundry to do!!

    Once I realized what was happening, we went back to the system I had before, which was separate hampers in the laundry room, numbered & labeled for easy sorting (1-whites, 2-darks, 3-lights, 4-light towels & sheets, 5-dark towels & sheets, 6-dry cleaning—the numbers enable me to tell my non-readers where to put their clothing). Then I laid down this new rule: you can only put socks & underwear in the hampers. Everything else you must have permission to put in the hampers. If you think it’s dirty, come show me and I’ll tell you whether or not it needs to be washed. If not, then you need to fold it or hang it and put it away.

    This new system has gotten the MOUNDS of laundry for our family of 6 down to 4-5 loads a week which can easily all be done in one day!!

    And so on laundry DAY (I can’t believe I can say that again!!) my big kids run the wash, with littles helping to move loads from washer to dryer to basket. We usually do all the washing and drying in the morning in between school and activities, and in the afternoon we congregate around my bed (Command Central) as the big kids and I sort, fold & lay out the items to be hung on hangers. The littles start putting their stuff away. Then the bigs help me put away the rest. We are done with all that in just about 30 minutes!!

    This has worked so well for us and I’m relieved not to be consumed by the Laundry Monster anymore!! I feel so free! :)

  4. Several months back I read a blog post about letting kids do their own laundry without (gasp) sorting it. I opted to implement it because laundry was also a mess at our house. It has worked out very well for the most part. I was always a ‘get the laundry done in one day’ kind of girl so this was an adjustment. On Mondays I do mine, hubby’s, and baby’s laundry. I do separate that into 2-3 loads…whites/towels and everything else. We reuse our bath towels through the week which cuts down on THAT load. The other kids (9, 12, 13) each do their own load on Tuesdays. They also each take turns doing a load of the towels from their bathroom downstairs. I don’t get sheets/blankets done as often as I’d like, but this has worked fabulously for me. One other note…once a week or so I do a delicate/hand wash load for those things belonging to my daughter and myself that need special care.

  5. My mom had my sisters and I doing our own laundry from a young age (although I don’t remember what age we were when we started). I remember shocking and surprising multiple people when they found out how early we began doing our own laundry. I’m glad Mom taught us how to do it. There were only three of us so we each had our own day of the week to do laundry.

  6. We have something similar in our home. The instructions are laminated and on the wall. I have 2 children who can run the washer without my assistance, so they do laundry 2 days a week, and I do laundry 2 days a week. Each day there is a type/color of laundry assigned, so the kids know what they are to do on their day. Sometimes we get behind and I do a laundry reboot day where I may catch up on the fancy clothes, and anything else that there is a full load. Everyone is responsible to put their own in the dirty laundry.

    • That’s what I rather do as my kiddos get taller. I pre sort laundry in the laundry room. Towels and jeans would be great for kids. But they’re so heavy to move from the wash to the dryer for them at this point.

      • Stephanie, my kids are 7 and 9. They aren’t tall enough, so they either hang upside down in the washer or use a chair to give them height to get the laundry out of our washer. Sometimes they get one of the younger kids to help them put the laundry in the dryer. They also sort everything on their day and put the laundry they aren’t washing back into the baskets. Sometimes I help pour vinegar if the bottle is more than 3/4 full.

        • I’m all for making them do it. I have front loads on a pedestal. I worry about them crawling half in and tipping it. I honestly doubt it. But it’s just too much weight if it fell on them. If I ever anchor them to the wall I will have them changing it over. They do help some. But I want their feet on the ground always. And the towels are so heavy it’s hard for me to drag them out of the washer then over to the dryer. My oldest is 6. A bit short for her age. I’m slowly making them bring their clothes in to sort. And if their clothes are on their floor or left in their hamper and do not get washed they do without them.

          • I would probably feel differently if I had a front loader, mine is a top loader. It sounds like you are doing a good job with having them help you with what they can do.

  7. I know what you mean about the wet towels. You’d be surprised what can start growing on them! Gross! In our house we have a similar system. 12 yr old son takes care of all the sheets in the boys room and same for my oldest daughter. My two middles (9 & and almost 8) are in the process of learning how to take over the rest of the clothes. My hubby blesses me by doing his own laundry. (had to let a lot of guilt go over that one) I basically do odds and ends. Shower curtains, bath mat, slipcover, clothes that didn’t make a load, stuff like that. I like the idea of having a little as I’m always forgetting who’s day it is. :)

    • Wow! Ty occasionally does laundry, but his hours are so crazy, I don’t think he could consistently get it done. What a blessing to you!

  8. I often have my kids fold and put away their own laundry, which I’m thrilled they’re learning so well at ages 7 and 5. When they’re big enough to reach to switch the clothes to dryer they will fully do their own. Of course I do everything for my 2 littles.

  9. I think this is great for your family and many families, but the argument that “kids NEED to learn how to do laundry at a young age so they know how to do it when they leave home” doesn’t mean much. Laundry is not hard to do. You could easily teach your kids how to do it right before they leave home and they’ll be fine. There really isn’t much of a learning curve.

    Again, I think if you are trying to teach responsibility, get some extra help around the house, etc., it’s great to have your kids help! But it just bugs me when I hear moms who admit they hate doing laundry saying their kids do all of it because they “need to learn.”

    • I’m not ok with any parent pawning certain chores off on their kids because they don’t like doing the chore. That is poor leadership and won’t be lost on the children. But, I do think the consistency of doing their own laundry will serve them well in their adult life because it will become one of those chores that is second nature.

  10. Sounds like a good plan. My children do the laundry. The two oldest swap off. For two weeks one helps in the kitchen and the other washes all of the laundry.

  11. Thank you so much for this post! I was just talking to my husband last night about my frustration with laundry! We only have 4 kids, but I do all the laundry & can rarely keep caught up. It seems like I am forever telling my kids “look in the laundry basket” when they need an article of clothing. I don’t have much trouble keeping things clean, it’s the folding & sorting. My boys do put their clothes away (if I get them folded & sorted into their own basket). I know I should get them more involved in helping, but I difn’t want to get them in a mentality of “I only wash my own clothes” instead of a family working together mentality. Thank you for posting the idea of a rotating system!

    • Having them all be responsible for the towels of the day helps teach them to do for others. And 4 kids is a lot…no need to say “only”. 4 was the point where I had to change all my routines because nothing worked anymore!

    • Getting things folded and sorted was the hardest for me too! Still is unless I’m careful, but I added a set of three wire shelves in my laundry room with a bin for each person and a place to put a laundry basket. Also a small rod to hang things on. I find that as long as I keep reminding myself that folding one basket takes less than ten minutes that I can stand there and fold and sort the clothes into the right bins. The children put their own laundry away and the 6 year old does the baby. I also recently cut everyone back to two-three play outfits, two-three nice/school outfits and one outfit for church, which made a lot more room in their drawers and actually made less laundry not more. Keep working at it, it’s taken me five years to get close to having all the laundry done and put away more than twice a month!…K

  12. we are about to implement a new system in our household of soon to be 9! I was literally drowning in mountains of laundry. i had a 6 foot picnic table in my bedroom and my daughter (12) began her job as the laundry mistress. she did loads everyday and then brought all the clean laundry up stairs to my room where the idea was we would dump and sort………..i gave up folding a long time ago! everyone just gets a basket with their clean clothes and has to fold and put away on their own. this would have worked nicely if we had done it. but usually the laundry got clean and dumped on the picnic table but never sorted until the pile reached the ceiling and overflowed around my bed! NOT GOOD! so our new system is everyones with their own basket lined up in the laundry room. when my daughter gets laundry out of dryer it will immediately be sorted into the right persons basket, everyone will be responsible to get their own basket, put away clothes and bring it back. still not 100% sure this will be successful. i am sure it will work great for a week or two, but I am just so happy the laundry piles are out of my room and i can make room for the baby! I love your idea, my son (7) would also love it because he wants laundry to be his job…….anything but picking up dog poop………..but i gave him the job for a few days and quite a few things got ruined. he will have to wait till he is older. when my kids do their chores things work great around the house. my problem is reminding them. its not really set in our routine for everyone to do their jobs automatically its more like they wait till mom or dad asks……….thats my challenge??

    • I’d implement a system the requires them to do certain things everyday. Then some jobs paid or rewarded. Choirs equal TV time tickets. If they didn’t do their work there would be no TV tickets. Or whatever. No fighting just responsibilities. A little love and logic. You made a choice not to do your chore. Therefore you have no TV coupons.

  13. My friends think I am drill-sargent because I make my 9 y/o and 7 y/o do their own laundry. I do the household linens, so their personal laundry amounts to one or two loads a week. We have a front loader that holds a lot. My husband has done his own for years. I figure if my kids are smart enough to use a computer, surely they can use a washing machine!

    • True! I don’t know why it is so shocking to have children actually work around the house. There is this whole “kids need to be kids” mentality that has managed to translate into “kids do nothing but play” and forgets that someday those playing kids will grow up. I know because I was one!

  14. Mine are 6, almost 3, and a 10 month old. My kids learn to sort, fold and hang right at age two. It might not always beperfect but I’d rather have that than my children not helping now rather than later. My front loaders are on pedestals. It will be awhile before they are switching loads on their own. But they push hampers through the house. They help load the washer. The help with settings and button pushing. Some people amaze me by not expecting their children to do anything. Even my 10 year old nephew does put away his clothes. I lost it when I heard that.”but its not neat when he does it” my sister in law said “How do you expect him to learn to neatly put them away?” I asked her. Kid doesn’t even put away his underwear and socks or hang his shirts. I’m sorry, you’re not doing your kid any fabors. The biggest thing that helps my young child organize her drawers are dividers. I have shoe boxes each. Hoses, socks, undies, thermals get a box. Then divided with spring loaded dividers are pants and pajamas. Shallow drawers help not deep stacks. I hang shirts. But I’d probably roll shirts for a drawer especially for kids. And I occasionally help reset the organization. Or refold a section. There’s more than my two cents :) glad you can see the floor :)

  15. This is a wonderful idea. My children had to do laundry at a very young age. The youngest gathered, the middle sorted, the oldest folded and everyone put away. Well that is how it was supposed to work. :-)

  16. I have 6 children. I was widow for many years. I found laundry to be my biggest nemesis. I started having my kids do their own laundry on a specific day each week. It took the burden off. I love your idea about the towels. I will have to try that. I hated the smelly issue we dealt with. We also assigned two towels to each child that was a big lifesaver too. Thanks for you blog. I really enjoy reading it.

  17. This is so great. I still have all littles (kind of, 8 and under) but have just started enlisting their help with the folding and putting away. it is defiantly a sanity saver :)
    thank you so much for sharing!

  18. Yes, when my 13-year old DD turned 12, I made her responsible for doing her own laundry. I may make my 9-year old DS responsible for his own laundry this year or when he turns 10. I do the towels but there is just 4 of us. I love your idea of even getting the younger kids involved.

  19. Oh, I think I love you!! I was just putting together a chore chart and this is going to change my life! :) Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  20. I don’t remember when I became responsible for my own laundry, but I remember helping with family laundry from a very young age and taking over my own completely long long before high school anyway. In highschool one of my friends moms ‘went on strike’ she was tired of doing everything for her two high school daughters. The thing was it was her own fault… I went over to show my desperate friend how to do her own laundry, I think we were 17. I decided then and there that my mom did it right and my children (when ever they came along) would know how to take care of themselves. Right now I have 5 to wash for.I couldn’t imagine doing it all my self if the clothes were for bigger people (You can fit an awful lot of baby and toddler clothing in one oversized load).

    • Yes, there are a lot of “bigger” people in my house now. My son and husband are both over 6′. That equals a lot of loads of laundry. How nice of you to go show your friend how to do her laundry!

  21. We have found with our family of 7 that we split things by weeks. The oldest three rotate weeks of chores. 1 child one week has dished, 1 child does laundry, 1 child weed around house and flower beds plus cleans porch. This way every kids get a turn at the jobs and it works out well for us. I do still do some laundry and dishes, but that is about twice a week.

  22. We have ours set up by day of the week also, though for us the girls have Mon/Thurs, the boys have Tue/Fri, and mom is Wed/Sat. I have never thought about making towels a part of the rotation that way! What a great idea!!! Thanks :)

    • Thanks! Those get dirty every single day and have to be done or they end up gross. I figured everyone needed to know how to do them and do their share, so it works! :)

  23. This is a great idea! We have 9 family members as well (soon 10!) and what we have established is similar. We are each assigned a “room” of the house each Week to be responsible for. I have found having each child do the room for a week at a time has helped them learn the skills better and has given me a chance to really examine how they are doing at it. Then I can go back with them a few days into it and check to see how they’re keeping up (bathrooms for instance…all the details no one likes to do!) LOVE the idea of a chart…I’m going to make one for our laundry room :) Thanks for sharing your ideas and tips! Keep up the great work!

  24. I have a laundry basket (or 3) in each child’s room, and they each do their OWN laundry from age 6 and up. Whites/darks are not sorted, but I don’t care. When their basket is full, it’s time to wash, whatever day it is. They now eagerly re-wear clothing that isn’t really soiled, instead of dumping everything in the laundry all the time. Each child has a hook in their bedroom for his/her towel, and at the end of the week (by then the basket is full) they add their towel to the basket.

  25. Such great ideas! Thank you so much! I currently have my 5 kiddos bring all laundry to the laundry room and sort it in labeled baskets. I then wash laundry throughout the week in between the school day. On Saturday, we all separate, then fold and put away our own laundry. I just don’t like seeing all that laundry pile up in baskets…even if it is clean. Maybe it’s time for using one of these great suggestions on this page. Oh! One thing I won’t change though…I charge 50 cents for EVERY piece of clothing I find on my children’s floors, dirty or clean. It works great! Any money collected (which isn’t much) goes to church offering :)

  26. I love this idea! I really don’t mind doing laundry, but sometimes we get so backed up due to the clothing hiding in the children’s bedrooms. Now that we have just had twins (babies 8 & 9) I need a real system. The kids are more than willing to do the work, they just need to know what to do.

    Also, the towel issue- I hear you! This is my biggest pet peeve! How many times do I have to tell people do NOT put wet towels in with the regular wash! We go through so many towels need to be done on a daily basis. Just putting them on the floor is smart toss them in at the end of the day!

    Thanks so much!

  27. We did the individual laundry thing for a while, but I found it was a big waste of water, electricity, soap, wear on the machines, and, frankly, time.
    We do 1 load per day on schedule; whites, colors, darks/jeans, whites, colors, darks/jeans, sheets/bedding. Every Saturdays we do sheets/bedding. (I have started separating the jeans from the darks because I feel they are too rough on the t shirts, so i alternate whichever dark load is larger-sometimes this leaves me with an extra load on Saturdays)
    At the dryer, either I stand there and pull items or and people claim them until the dryer is empty…or if I don’t have time for that, the designated child for laundry for that month unloads the unfolded clothing flat on each persons bed. Everyone is responsible for hanging their own shirts and folding their own pants and undies. Laundry child matches socks (which are always the same brand/color per size) which is simple to match.
    I don’t dry my shirts, so I wash my shirts and baby clothes together in special laundry soap 1 x week.
    There are 4 baskets and the kids put their clothes there each day, no dirty clothes in their rooms.
    Towels. For Christmas, everyone got different colored towels with their names embroidered on it. Everyone has 1 towel. It’s washed either on color or dark days, so twice per week. :)

  28. Since moving to a new house recently, I started a new system that I LOVE… at the end of both hallways (opposite ends of the house), I have laundry hampers right outside the bedrooms–three in each hall, so everyone can separate their whites, lights, and darks. This way, it’s easy to see when the hamper is full and ready for a load, and each kid is expected to put their clothes in there instead of thrown on the floor after changing. Also, the kids are instructed that anything damp gets hung on the side of the basket it goes in- not thrown down in to stink up the rest. It has made keeping up with laundry so much easier!!