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4 min read

Why would we teach toddlers how to help with laundry?

Why would they want to?

Helping with laundry is a fantastic practical life skill that you can introduce as young as 18 months.

Inviting young children to help with task helps them to develop a sense of responsibility towards caring for themselves and the household.

They can contribute to their home, just like they see their parents doing every day.  

This may not seem like a big deal to adults who (likely) despise doing laundry... but young children tend to really enjoy these types of tasks.  

"All the activities connected with looking after yourself and your surroundings, such as getting dressed, preparing food, laying the table, wiping the floor, clearing dishes, doing the dusting, etc… are precisely the tasks that adults like least. But between the ages of one and four years, children love these jobs and are delighted to be called on to participate in them." - Dr. Montanaro, AMI Trainer and author.

A note on safety: Please maintain constant supervision in the laundry room, until your child is much older. Due to a young child’s natural curiosity (and inability to assess dangerous situations) they don’t know that climbing into a washing machine or tasting laundry detergent could be dangerous.

18 Months - 2 Years Old (or when your child starts to show an interest)

Here's what children around 18-24 months are capable of, if they're showing an interest. As always, follow the child:

  • Putting Dirty Clothes in Laundry Basket: Have a small basket in the child’s bedroom (or wherever they gets undressed) for dirty clothes. 

    Young children are in a sensitive period for order so showing them "this is where dirty clothes go" appeals to their natural instinct to create order where they can.  
  • Sorting Clothes: Encourage your child to help sort clothes by colour or type (e.g., socks, shirts).
  • Passing Clothes: Have your child pass you clothes to put into the washing machine or dryer. This involves them in the process and gives them a sense of contribution.

  • Matching Socks: Once clothes are dry, they can help match pairs of socks. This is a simple task that improves their observation skills. You can have them lay out the matching pairs on the table for you to fold.

2.5 - 5 Years Old

Here's what children two to five years old are capable of, if they're showing an interest. As always, follow the child:
  • Loading and Unloading: With supervision, children can help load the washing machine and transfer clothes to the dryer.

  • Folding Simple Items: Teach them to fold simple items like small towels or washcloths.

    Folding Cloths are used in Montessori Casa classrooms to teach children how to fold in different ways.  
  • Putting Away Clothes: They can start putting away their own clothes in designated drawers or baskets. 

6 Years Old+

Here's what children six and older are capable of, if they're showing an interest. As always, follow the child:
  • Operating Machines: Teach them the basics of operating the washing machine and dryer with guidance, such as turning it on and selecting settings.*

    *A note on safety: It is not advised for children to add detergent to washing machines, especially if using laundry pods. Laundry detergent, if ingested, can pose serious health problems. If you decide to teach a child this step, maintain constant supervision.  
  • Laundry Days: Some Montessori families create weekly routines around laundry, i.e. have a specific laundry day where the child (or each child) does their laundry. 

    The child does their own laundry and is responsible for every step, i.e. sorting clothes, loading machines, starting machines, folding clothes and putting them away.

    Depending on the age, your child may still need assistance but if they've had opportunities for independence starting at a young age they may be interested in this kind of responsibility.

    When your child is closer to 6 year old (or just starting out), it's more appropriate for families to do laundry together. You can invite your child to do as many of the steps independently as they want without expecting them to do any.  

SO Many Learning Opportunities...

There are so many opportunities for learning when doing laundry, on top of learning the practical skill:

  • Play a game where you toss the clothes into the washing machine or dryer
  • Play "I spy" colours as you’re loading the clothes into the washer, putting clothes into the washer based on colour
  • Count the clean socks before you fold them
  • Sort clean clothes into piles based on who the clothes belong to

Offering Praise

In the Montessori classroom, teachers do offer praise when children help with various practical life activities - snack preparation, cleaning up after a meal, watering the plants, etc.

They thank them for their help and let them know how their help benefitted the classroom, i.e. "Thank you so much for wiping the table. Now we all have a clean area to work!"

And while Montessori teachers do offer praise, they do not offer rewards for these activities.

This is because the goal is for children to develop the intrinsic motivation to care for themselves, their environment, and those around them.

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