Lightening My Load: How Teaching Kids How to do Laundry Changed My World

Learning basic life skills now will set your kids up for success when they leave home

As my kids get older, I seize every opportunity to teach them new skills. My kids are seven and 10 years-old, so they are more than capable of taking on new responsibilities. They know how to load the dishwasher, care for the dog and help with housecleaning, so what's the next frontier?


Let's face it: Moms already have too many jobs, so Chief Laundry Officer is one that I'd be happy to give up. While hubby does his best to help (the dog even keeps him company), the majority of it falls to me. But that is going to change!

I’ve come up with a solid game plan for how to transition some of the duties to my kids. Here are my tips for laundry success:

Tip 1: Avoid separation anxiety

Nobody wants to end up with pink whites, so help avoid catastrophe by teaching kids how to separate laundry properly. You may think this is easy - probably because you do it all the time - but even my husband occasionally messes this up. We bought laundry sorters like these to keep everything organized; they are a huge help. In our house, we separate whites, lights, darks, sheets/towels and - if there’s enough for a full load - sometimes even pinks/reds.

Helpful hint: I still often check to ensure the sorting is correct, because accidents are bound to happen.

Tip 2: Don’t skip the basics

While turning the washing machine on and off might seem basic, it’s not to a kid. Be sure to show them all of the functions of the machine – what each button does – so they feel confident using it. When you supervise them the first few times they do laundry, you’ll get a sense of their readiness (or not!) to operate the machines on their own. It may take a bit of time to get used to it.

Helpful hint: if there are functions you don’t want them to use, tell them so; it’s better than having a curious tween do something he shouldn’t!

Tip 3: Give ‘em a cheat sheet

My husband is super organized, and it was his idea to print a copy of the program guide for our washing machine. (Genius, right? Props to you, honey!) It outlines which wash setting is appropriate for each type of load and when to use it. If there are cycles you don’t want your kids to experiment with, be sure to let them know and note it on the guide.

Helpful hint: since this resides in the laundry room, consider laminating it.

Tip 4: The devil is in the details

Nobody wants yoga pants that look like they’ve been dragged across a cheese grater! Teach kids to check that all zippers are done up and Velcro is secured together before running the machine, so that you don’t end up with runs or pilled fabric.

Helpful hint: train family members to do up zippers, etc before throwing their clothes in the hamper, which makes for a much smoother laundry sorting/loading process later on.

Tip 5: Get the right tools for the job

The whole point of doing laundry is to get items clean, so give your kids the proper tools to do the job well. These days, many washing machines are high efficiency (HE) and require a specific amount of soap. Measuring it out can be tricky and there’s a lot of room for error, so make it as goof-proof as possible. Using pre-measured detergent, like Arm & Hammer Power Paks, is an easy way to avoid spills and messes. They go directly in the machine and are a no-brainer for all temperatures and cycles.

Helpful hint: for whitening and brightening in one step, try the NEW Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean 3-in-1 Power Paks (available at Loblaws). You’ll save time and money because they’re only $0.19 per load, versus their $0.35 competitors. Even with the almost 50% lower per-load price point, this detergent is a winner because it really WORKS!  

You already know this, but I need to say it anyway: Detergent and other cleaning agents should never be handled by - or stored within reach of - young children, so ensure your older child knows how to use them safely. Training is key.

As with learning any new skill, training takes time and you need to be prepared for lots of questions. 

But, once they’ve mastered doing laundry, who knows what will come next? If I could pick one thing, it would involve a toilet brush…

Lisa has been writing Fab Frugal Mama for the past six years. She started the blog while under the influence (delirious from sleepless nights with baby #2), yet continued writing it even after her sleep schedule returned to normal.

Now her sleepless nights aren't (usually) kid-related, they're business-related. She started her own Marketing and Social Media Consulting business in 2011, which keeps her very busy. But it's ok... chocolate keeps her going.