Monday, May 3, 2010

Laundry Day with Young Children and Preschoolers

Pink helping mommy hang her skirt on the line.  

Doing laundry is actually one of my favorite chores.  I love to pull hot clean clothes from the dryer or to bring the clothes in off the laundry line on a hot summer day.  Folding clothes is very relaxing to me as well.

I have tried over the years different tactics with our laundry.  In the past several years I finally settled on doing it all in one day though.  That is much better for me than trying to remember that there are a couple of loads each day that need to be folded.

How We Accomplish Laundry for (almost 9) People

My system is very simple.  Everyone has a job to do and we work as a team.  They understand that there is no free time in their late afternoon until all laundry is finished.  Monday is the official laundry day so they also wake up understanding this will be the busiest day of the week (outside shopping day.)

Here is who laundry works:

1)  We sort all laundry (except PJs and stay clothing) the Sunday night before.

2)  One person (my oldest) is assigned the job of gathering all PJs and stray clothing on Monday morning.

3)  We always start laundry by 8am on Monday.

4)  It takes us 5-7 minutes to make a load switch.
a)  Always start whites first.
b)  Jeans/denim are next.  When this load is finished, it gets hung outside to dry.  
c)  Lights, reds, and darks are washed in that order after the denim.  Once the denim is finished we start the lights.  When they are finished in the washer, the whites are usually dry and this we can start the next load to wash and dry immediately.  
d)  When the clothes come out of the dryer, they are piled on the couch and love seat awaiting Laundry game later in the afternoon.  
Today we finished out laundry washing by 2:30pm.  That is a record for us.  We were well pleased.

Laundry Game

Now I borrowed laundry game from a friend with eight children and modified it to fit our family.  As I mentioned above, all the laundry is piled on the couch and love seat.  We move the coffee table and line the baskets up in the middle of the room.  I should quickly mention that every person in our family gets a laundry basket.  We put colored stickers on each basket to identify who the basket belongs to.  Mom and dad has separate baskets as well.   We turn on some fun music and start sorting into the appropriate baskets.  The socks are placed in a corner of the couch for my 11 yod to fold.  Once it's all divided we take a short break and have a snack.  Then it on to folding.  Everyone folds their own laundry plus their charge (the little that they are responsible to help mom and dad with certain tasks).  Boys hang all shirts and fold pants.  The gils han all their dresses and fold everything else.  I have written a bit about our family closet and drawer organization here.

How To Train Children to Run A Washer

 trained my two oldest children (9 and almost 11 yod) to run the washer and dryer when they were about 5 yod and reading fairly well.  I am just now starting with my 7 yod simply because I had become too dependent on JB and BroncoFan to do it for me.  They need to move on so it's time to pull Schmoo and eventually Pe-Pooh into the mix.  

Today I came up with an idea that took me a total of 30 minutes to put together.  By the end of the day, she was starting all the loads by herself.

This is my washer.  (I apologize for the glare.  I had trouble capturing the extent of the system without the flash.  But I think can get a good idea.)  The sheet on the washer lid is simply printed instructions inside a slip cover and attached the to the top of the door.  I have listed six steps for starting a load of laundry.  I also took those steps and labeled the control panel with numbers for each step.  We start with the size of the laundry, move to the temperature, then the type of material (almost always cotton).  Finally, they move to starting the water at the right time, adding a scoop of Charlie's Soap, and then putting all the clothes in the washer basin.  I included pictures where it was necessary.

This is a closer look at the control panel.  You will notice the numbers and picture on the bottom.  You will also probably notice the stickers.  There are corresponding stickers on the step by step sheet.  I included pictures, as well, and what is to be washed at what temperature in step number two.  Yellow is hot. Pink and light blue are for lights.  Blue, red, and green are for darks and denim.  Schmoo has enough reading skill to be able to read the temperature.  It's just easier to have the stickers so she can truly become independent and not always need to ask me what temperature to use.  

This is the rest of the panel.  The #3 is for fabric and it usually stays on "cotton."  There is another colored sticker on #4 simply so she will know to start the load on the shorter cycle versus the longer cycle.  Numbers 5 and 6 are simply put on there as a visual reminder of what is next.

She caught on to this very quickly today so I don't expect to be needed in the next few weeks to do this anymore.  And as I mentioned before, it took me about 30 minutes to pull all this together.

Including Your Preschoolers

I believe it very important to begin teaching preschoolers how to work at an early age.  We have a few chores that we start with and laundry takes up a majority of that.  On laundry day, they don't do as much until they get to about 4 yod.

We usually start with folding wash clothes and cloth diapers.  These are very easy for little hands to fold in half once and stack together.  We use alot of cloth in our home so they get lots of practice.  I try my best to fold the towels, cleaning clothes, cloth napkins, and cloth diapers so that I can instruct them in how to do this and encourage them along.  I have found one of the best motivators for small children are jelly beans.  I get my jelly beans at Whole Foods so the sugar is a better type of sugar used.  They get a jelly bean for doing the job All the way, Right away, and with a happy heart (the "how" of obedience on our house).   They love helping and being part of the family in this way.

Sometimes it can be hard for mommies of very young ones to let go of the perfect and allow them to help.  But it really is very important for their development as well as security in the home to be included.  I think it's made a world of difference in how my children help around the house.

More than just helping with these areas, I try to include them in as many places as possible.  And I'll close with this today.  I didn't get too many pictures of them helping me hang out the jeans on the clothes line today, but my 7 yod thought it was really cute that her 18 month old sister was helping.  She snapped this picture (as well as the one at the top).


  1. Pink is adorable helping you (and learning how to) hang her skirts! Simply adorable!

  2. Great ideas. Love the picture of your little one hanging things on the line!

  3. I LOOOOOOOOVE this! GREAT post! I do all our laundry in one day too! I posted my cleaning schedule on Raising Homemakers here:

    And the first thing that ladies questioned was how I do laundry all in one day. I told them maybe it's because I have a small family of 4 that made it possible - so I was surprised to find you can do it all in one day for a family of 9 too! Awesome! You go girl!

    Great post!