Laundry is a universal, never-ending task, which makes it a great opportunity for your child to help. You can teach laundry skills in a variety of ways, from pouring soap and opening/closing the washer and dryer doors, to sorting, carrying, and putting clothes away. Children as young as two and a half can even start doing some folding.
How to Include Your Child When Doing the Laundry
Opening/Closing, Pouring, and Pushing Buttons
Young children love to open and close machine doors, put clothes in the washer or pull them out of the dryer, help you pour the soap (hand over hand), and twist knobs and push buttons on the machine.
Sometime between 19 and 24 months, many children begin to match items of the same type. Matching starts with sorting into basic categories like towels, pants, and shirts. Sometime around two, they may also start distinguishing attributes like color, size, and shape.
The different colors, patterns and sizes of socks make them perfect for matching practice. Choose contrasting socks and lay them out in front of your child—maybe two large ones and two small ones, ideally of different colors—and say, “can you find the socks that go together?”
Sorting Clothing by Owner
Ask your child to try to sort a small pile of laundry by its wearer: “Can you find your shirts? Can you find Daddy’s pants?” Children as young as 18 months old start to tune into what belongs to whom.
Children as young as about two and a half are ready to start folding. Specially marked cloths help toddlers learn to fold in Montessori classrooms. Small children love folding, so if you want to try this Montessori activity at home, here’s how:
- Start by demonstrating how you fold a cloth napkin or small hand towel in half with a single fold, and see if your toddler can mimic you. If you want to make your own folding cloths, mark a few handkerchiefs, washcloths, or dish towels with a permanent pen vertically, both vertically and horizontally, and diagonally.
- Show your child how to fold along each line, doing one type of fold at a time. After demonstrating, show how this makes the laundry tidy and easy to put away.
- Give them to your child to try. Eventually, have them try with linens without lines.
- Next, introduce clothes that require two folds. If you want to create your own folding cloths you can take a permanent marker to some handkerchiefs and put dotted lines like this. Folding cloths help lay a foundation for geometry and symmetry concepts.
Putting (some of) Their Clothes Away
Show your child where folded shirts, socks, and underwear go so they can start to help put them away. A Montessori-at-home tip: have socks, pajamas, tee-shirts and pants in low drawers, cubbies, or baskets on the floor of the closet so your child can reach them.
Building Helpful and Healthy Habits
Your child can put their dirty clothes in their laundry basket at the end of the day as part of their nighttime routine.
“Help” at this age may not always feel particularly helpful, but tapping into your child’s innate desire to participate—and teaching them valuable skills along the way—builds their confidence and creates a sense of belonging.