Young children are always eager to help their parents, especially in the laundry area. Beyond being a great time for one-on-one bonding with your young child, doing laundry can teach your child many practical skills.
Your child can go from room to room, collecting all of the dirty laundry. Or, make all family members responsible for bringing dirty laundry to the laundry area. Clothes should be divided by whites, light colors, dark colors, towels, and bedding. Your child can practice sorting skills by being in charge of sorting all of the colors. Then he can be in charge of putting each load into the laundry.
When the load is dried, your child can also be in charge of sorting out shirts, pants, socks, pajamas, and underwear for folding. Clothes will also have to be sorted by whom they belong to, so that they can be properly delivered or picked up. For the child’s own clothes, he will need to sort them into proper drawers in his dresser.
To properly clean clothing, an appropriate amount of detergent and fabric softener must be added to the load. Your child can practice measuring the detergent and softener to add to the proper dispenser. For a powdered detergent, the child can simply dip the proper measuring cup into the box, then level it before adding it. For a liquid detergent, the child would have to pour into a measuring cup. As detergent bottles tend to be quite heavy and bulky, put some detergent into a smaller pitcher for pouring with less spills. To alleviate concerns of touching any chemicals, the child can put on a small pair of rubber or latex gloves. Or, use a natural brand, such as Ecos, which also contains a natural soy-based softener.
Folding clothing and towels help the child exercise her finger muscles, which in turn prepares her hand for writing. Even more fine motor skills are developed as the child rolls pairs of socks. She can also use the three fingers required for a proper pencil grip to pinch the clothespins that hold clothes on the clothesline.
Some children who are particularly active or have sensory-seeking behaviors require some kind of “heavy work” to help them calm their bodies to be able to focus better elsewhere. The child can be in charge of carrying a laundry basket from room to room. (Always have an adult carry the basket up and down the steps!) He can unload the heavy, wet clothing from the washer, (especially if it is a front-loader), and put it into the dryer. He can carry the stacks of clothing to each appropriate bedroom. He can even carry the bottles of laundry detergent and fabric softener from one side of the room to another.
Heavy work also comes in the form of scrubbing. To get out stubborn stains, make a paste of baking soda and white vinegar and scrub the stain with a toothbrush. Get a child-sized washing board and have the child practice scrubbing on it.
Have your child help you in as many ways as you feel comfortable, and in as many ways as she can handle at once. Start with one skill then gradually add more and more. You will find the one-on-one time a great bonding experience. At the same time, you will be arming her with skills for life.