Fun with Laundry!

This will all come out in the wash...

by: Diane Flynn Keith
posted: March 11, 2005

One of the household chores my preschool-age sons enjoyed helping with was doing the laundry. I used it to teach them a number of readiness skills -- so I generally planned to do the laundry when we had time to take our time.

We'd walk through the house together and collect the laundry from laundry baskets and bins in the bathroom and bedrooms. We'd always find a dish towel that had escaped from the kitchen or a stray sock hiding under a sofa pillow along the way. We'd gather them up and put all of the clothes on the floor near the washing machine. Then the fun would begin...

Sort The Laundry!

Show the kids how to sort the laundry. You can practice color recognition and classifying and grouping skills by sorting the laundry in different ways each time you do it. Sort them according to color, or just light and dark batches. Sort according to the type of laundry, for example, shirts, jeans, underwear, towels, sheets, etc. Sort according to texture or fabric -- little kids can understand the difference between soft and rough -- and even the difference between types of fabrics like terrycloth, denim, and silk. Sort according to sizes of clothing -- put all of the small shirts in one pile and all of the big shirts in another.

Show them and tell them -- explain everything and use the correct vocabulary to describe what you are doing. Have patience, these skills take time to develop.

Count the Laundry!

Ask the kids to count how many pieces of laundry need to be washed. Or count the clothes in each pile after sorting. Or ask them to count how many red pieces of laundry you will wash today. How many socks? Differentiate between counting the shirts with buttons, versus counting shirts with long or short sleeves.

Talk about how similar types of clothing are alike and different. If you point out these differences it improves their observation skills.

I wanna help!  I wanna help! Should we change first?

Categorize the Laundry!

Talk about what each piece of laundry is used for -- pajamas are for sleeping, hooded sweatshirts and jackets keep us warm in cold weather, swimsuits are for swimming, overalls are for work or play, towels are for drying off, sheets and pillow cases go on the bed. You can categorize clothes based on whether they are for boys or girls, and for parents or children. Classify them by seasons - clothes for winter, spring, summer, and fall.

Detergent Box Letter Recognition

After your child helps you put clothes into the washing machine, show them the soap you will use. Ask them if they can name any alphabet letters that they see on the box. Tell them what the name on the box spells, and point out each letter to them. Ask them to find the letter "T" or "I" or "D" or "E".

Do you use environmentally friendly detergent? Tell your child about it. They may not understand everything you say, but you are introducting them to new words and concepts that expanding their knowledge.

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Measurement and Directions

Read out loud the directions on the laundry detergent package. Explain what the directions mean. Show your children how you measure the proper amount to use. Show them how to put the detergent into the machine properly.

I had a little stepping stool that my sons could step onto so that they could see inside the washing machine. They watched as I measured the detergent and put it in the machine. I closed the lid and instructed them which buttons to select for the type of laundry we were washing. We selected hot or cold water, and the length of time the clothes would take to wash. Then they got to push the start button. Fun! Your children may ask lots of questions -- answer them!

Health and Safety

Be certain to explain the dangers of detergents and laundry chemicals. Explain that they are poisonous. Show them the poison signs on the packages and explain what it means without frightening them. Tell them never to put detergents in their mouth, and never to use them without your supervision. (Then, be sure to store them in a cabinet with child-safe locks.)

Dry the Laundry!

When you are through washing the laundry, show your children how you move the laundry from the washing machine to the dryer. If you use a fabric softener in the dryer -- show it to them and explain what it does. Show your child the lint collection tray and explain that clothes have lint - little pieces of dust-like fabric that come come off in the dryer. The lint collector catches them. Explain how important it is to empty the lint tray after each drying cycle to keep the dryer working properly.

Fun with Dryer Lint!

Did you know you can recycle dryer lint? You can use it in compost bins, or roll it into a ball and bat it around a bit. Some people fashion soft creatures from it -- your imagination is the limit! You can spread some dryer lint on a backyard tree. Birds will use it for nesting material. You can even make dryer lint clay! Here's one recipe:

Dryer Lint Play Clay



Mix the lint and water together in a saucepan until the lint is saturated. Stir in the flour and flavoring until the mixture is smooth. Cook the mixture over low/medium heat stirring continuously until it form peaks and holds together. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Once cool, pour onto the newspaper and invite the kids to make some shapes - animals, letters, numbers, whatever their heart desires. Once the shapes are made, allow several days to dry and harden. Once completely dry and hard, invite your kids to paint their creation!

You'll find a no-cook recipe for lint clay, along with recipes for lint papier mache, and for making lint paper at the Planet Pals.

Have fun doing the laundry with your kids, and give your little ones a hug for me!