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How to Teach Your Pre-Teen to Do their own Laundry

I have control issues. There are certain things I want done a certain way, and laundry is one of those things. I am particular about how my family looks, and properly cleaned and pressed clothes are one way I control the presentation of my family. More importantly, I am particularly concerned about the appearance of my clothes. But given that my son is almost 13 and I’ve been talking to other parents, I think it’s time that I get him to take a more active role in all the things that go into everyday life – like the appearance of his clothes (I’d never trust him to take care of my clothes).

So far, all I’ve required of him is to bring his dirty clothes to the laundry room (which sometimes happens) and to put his clean clothes away (which are haphazardly shoved into the wrong drawers). But what happens when he goes off to college? Will he be one of those kids that comes home every couple weeks with a car full of dirty clothes? Will he be the kid that just sniffs his jeans to see if he can get one more wearing out of them?

After reading a number of articles, it seems we are already behind the eight ball. The truth is that I already knew that; our office accountant told me I should have started this years ago. 

Teaching a pre-teen to do laundry:

  1. Get the clothes to the laundry room. It’s a tall order, but it looks like there are two approaches here. First, put a laundry basket in your child’s bathroom or bedroom, then set a designated day for them to bring it down and do laundry. There are downsides to this approach, like wet towels and sweaty clothes laying in their room plus spills and stains remaining on good clothes and school uniforms for several days. Second, have them bring dirty clothing to the laundry room immediately, treat stains, sort into the appropriate bins, and assist with the washing on designated days.
  2. Show your child where to find care labels on garments and how to decipher them.
  3. Teach them how to properly sort dirty clothes – by color, fabric, and weight. And sometimes by how dirty they are – it’s important not to wash exceptionally dirty items with regular laundry.
  4. Show them how to both operate equipment and add the appropriate amount of laundry detergent.
  5. Impress upon them how important it is to fold and hang up (properly) clothes as soon as dryer is finished and teach them how to do those two things.
  6. Have them put all their clean clothes away immediately instead of letting pile up in laundry room.
  7. How to address wrinkles? If they fold as soon as the dryer is finished, this will reduce the amount of ironing that needs to be done. In our household, I will continue to handle ironing school uniforms and nice clothes. Teaching steps 1 – 6 are going to be hard enough.

I am sure I’ve done Gray a disservice by not teaching him this chore sooner, but given that there is only three of us, I am a control freak, and his dad hasn’t done laundry in 20 years, it just seemed easier to combine all our clothes, and let me handle it.

Initially laundry will take more time and will likely be even more cumbersome but think about the reward in the end. You’ll have trained your child to be more independent and helpful around the house. Invest the time and someday you’ll be able to holler, “Hey, will you start a load of towels for me?” Won’t that be a blessing.

laundry room
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