My son was an early walker. That coupled with his curious nature, means he likes to follow me everywhere, including the laundry room. To him, there is so much fun stuff in there. So many buttons to push on the washer and dryer. He’s at that age where he loves to play with all the brooms, mops, buckets and other things one would find in a laundry room.
It would be easy to shoo him away and get things done quickly, but I don’t want to squelch his inquisitive nature; his love of learning as he explores the world around him. He feels a great sense of pride in helping me with the housework. At this age, he is not required to do any sort of chores, but allowing him to assist me builds his self-confidence by making his own contribution to the family.
I am hoping the early training will pay off in later years! It is my aim that he is doing all of his own laundry well before he graduates high school. Below are my tips on how to include a toddler in doing the laundry. I hope it gives you some inspiration!
Make Sure the Laundry Room is Safe and Child-Friendly. You might think that this would go without saying, but give it careful consideration. Take a look at the your laundry room from your child’s viewpoint and adjust the room accordingly. Are all the cleaning agents and supplies stored properly and out of reach including the laundry detergent or packs if you use those? Is everything properly labeled? Do you have the poison control number readily available in case the worst happens? Are your washer and dryer in good repair and all doors close and lock properly? Do you have a child-lock on the laundry room door?
Make it a Habit. Maybe you already have a plan for the never-ending cycle of laundry. Maybe you don’t. Or maybe you are somewhere in-between. The secret is to make it habit. In The Gift of Failure, author Jessica Lahey discusses in detail the three important elements of a habit: cue, routine, and reward. For example, on the day of the week that I have planned to wash my son’s bedding, the cue is when breakfast is finished. At that time the habit begins. We go to his room and remove his bedding including is lovey and favorite blanket. Once we arrive at the laundry room, I carefully set him on top of the dryer so he can help put his items inside the washer. I add the laundry detergent and softener and he helps me push the lid closed. Then I help him select the appropriate wash cycle. He loves to see the buttons light up and hear the sounds they make. Then, he smiles ever so widely as he watches his bedding and lovely going around in the washing machine. The reward in this case, is in and of itself. At this age, just the satisfaction of a job well done, that he contributed to the task at hand, is cause for celebration. We clap together and I praise him for being such a good helper.
Have fun sorting and matching! This is a great learning opportunity for young children. Even if your child is very young, don’t underestimate their ability to pick up on sorting by color or matching socks. Even if they aren’t physically doing the tasks yet, the developing mind is catching on to more that you might realize. So, include them and have fun with it!
Talk! Explain everything as you go to build vocabulary. Use lots of descriptive words. Do this in detail even if your child is not yet verbal. The neural pathways are forming and even though it may seem silly, it’s actually a very smart thing to do.
Have Patience. This is probably the most important, in everything you do. Are there times when we transfer clothes from the washer to the dryer one at a time? Definitely. But instead of wishing the moment would go faster, I choose to enjoy the look on my son’s face as he helps me with the laundry. He is so focused, so precise. And he is also so proud of himself when he finishes and pushes the door shut. I’m playing the long-game and it’s worth it.
What other tips would you add? Share them with me!