Updated: Jun 13
Getting your laundry done is always going to be a chore. When you are a parent, it can become even more chaotic. Bringing your kids to the laundry room means that they might get bored or just refuse to help. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you play your cards right, you can get your kids to help with laundry or just stay quiet. It’s all about getting them to feel like they are doing something major. Making laundry a rite of passage is a great way to reframe this chore into something more.
But, how do you get your kids started on the right path to homemaking? How do you get kids excited to fold and wash clothes? It’s all in the strategy. These handy tips can help.
Are your kids old enough to go?
No one likes to have to bring kids who are extremely young to a wide range of places. This is especially true if you are trying to do a chore quickly and get some peace and quiet. If you have a newborn or a toddler, you probably should try to avoid bringing them to the community laundry room.
Obviously, this is not always doable.
Life happens and there are going to be times where you are going to have to be the parent who juggles watching the baby while you wash things up. It’s not fun, but it’s part of life and most other people are going to understand it.
Before you go…
If you have kids who are very young, then you already know that certain parts of the laundry experience can be dangerous. Detergent, in particular, can be dangerous. Here’s how to make the most of bringing kids anywhere near the laundry room.
Pack your supplies well, especially detergents. This is one of the most obvious safety tips on this list, but it still is worth discussing. Kids, particularly those under the age of 7, tend to love the colorful look of pods and the smell of detergent. It’s best to store detergents, softeners, and dryer sheets in child-proof containers. Double-check to ensure that all your detergent bottles are tightly closed, too.
Grab a toy or two. Even if you try to work your hardest to make sure that you get kids engaged with doing chores, it’s best to grab a couple of toys. Bored kids are kids that can get into trouble.
Enlist the help of your kids to get hampers ready. Even young kids can help separate colors from whites. If you have a bunch of hampers, you can also ask them to help place them in the car.
Be realistic about what your child can achieve. There are some kids who are best left at home with a relative while you do your laundry. If your child is under the age of 4, then you probably should focus on finding a place to let them play while you launder.
Make it a parent-child bonding session. The idea here is that you should make it time for the two of you to talk. Try to bring this up before you get to the venue, too. This is the way things used to be during the 1800s: people bonding with one another while doing chores. Offer to bring your kids’ favorite snacks and soda. Chat with them or ask them what they want to do after.
Avoid cranky kids by bringing a small snack pack for them. Every parent knows how quickly a docile kid can turn terroristic on an empty stomach. If your child is prone to being “hangry,” bring some cut vegetables for them to eat in a small container. This way, you can prevent a tantrum.
Be honest and ask them for help. Most kids, particularly young ones, want to please their parents. At the very least, they want to learn adult skills and be treated like an adult. Now would be a good time to explain to them that these skills will help them later on.
Choosing the right laundry room for kids…
Laundry rooms are not always child-friendly, and if your child is under the age of 10, you might end up with problems as a result. A child-friendly area will not have detergents out in the open, nor will it have lots of corners where kids can get into.
A good rule of thumb is to look for a clean room with modern equipment that doesn’t have many nooks and crannies where kids can stick their fingers. If the area has a separate waiting lounge for people waiting for clothes to dry, all the better.
Though rare, there are some places that have a “no children” policy. Others may also legally require you to be present if children under the age of 13 are coming. If you live in an area prone to these rules, call ahead to find out if there are any rules you should be aware of.
Pro Tip - A good rule of thumb is to choose well-managed laundry rooms or community washrooms that have cameras installed. Cameras are there to protect both you and the management company.
When you’re trying to do laundry with young children…
Congrats! You managed to get your kids to come with you and get them into the laundry room. Now it’s time for the heavy lifting. You can use these tips to make the trip go easier, bond with kids, and more.
Gamify laundry. You can turn chores into games pretty easily. For example, you can play “Spot the Stain” and have kids help you find stains that need a bleach pen. Or, you can do folding races once the laundry is done. If you have kids who are learning their colors, use clothing to make a game out of practicing naming colors.
Consider getting a more kid-safe detergent if you have young kids. Accidents can happen and it only takes a split second of not watching for tragedy to occur. The best thing to do is to try to prevent it. If you use pod detergents, buy a brand that has a bitter outer coating on them. This prevents kids from biting them and swallowing potentially lethal poison.
Keep an eye on very young kids. There’s no way around it. Kids love to get into things they shouldn’t. If you want to make sure that you keep kids safe, don’t let them wander off. Laundromats have tons of strange corners and counters where things that can turn dangerous for youngsters.
If you can, designate a play area for younger children. Bringing a favorite toy or a coloring book is a smart move here. Heck, even keeping your phone charger nearby can make things a lot easier than you’d expect them to be.
Give them tools to make laundry easier and more fun. One of the best ways to get kids interested in doing laundry is to get them a folding device and show them how to do it. You end up with a pile of folded shirts, they get proud over the job they’ve done, and everyone wins.
Consider doing “babysitting pooling” with kids if necessary. Most parents know the hassle of having a bunch of young kids come with them to the laundry room. It’s not always easy, especially when they are in a loud phase. If you can, consider having your local mom group child sit for you and return the favor when they need to wash their clothes.
If your child is old enough, let them tell attendants what needs to be done. Do you have some goods that are “Dry Clean Only?” If your garments involve special instructions that need to be given to a professional, let your kids do the talking. It’s a good way to get them feeling proud.
Loop the boys in, too! A lot of parents assume that only girls need to learn how to do laundry. This isn’t true, even if you are in a conservative family. There may be a time when there’s no one else around to do a batch of laundry. It’s important to explain to them that chores aren’t just for girls—they have to pull their weight if they are going to be functional adults.
Allow them to pour the detergent as long as you supervise them. This is a good way to make them feel super adult and also get them excited about laundry.
Praise kids and thank them for a job well done. Kids thrive on positive reinforcement and encouragement. When they help you do a good job with clothing, you should make a point of thanking them. It helps emphasize the importance of doing chores and being a good team player.
Working with preteens and older teens who may not want to do laundry…
If your child is in junior high or high school, then you have a lot more freedom. You don’t have to worry about them swallowing detergents or putting stuff in their mouth that they shouldn’t. They’re old enough to know better.
Take this time to talk to them about what’s going on in their life. We rarely ever get a moment to actually sit down and talk to people the way we used to. If you talk to them and actually let them vent, you don’t just do laundry. You grow closer as a family and might get a vital scoop on what’s going on in your kid’s life.
Don’t hesitate to tell them to use this time for homework. It’ll help free up time for stuff they actually like, such as playing video games or hanging out with friends after school. Besides, waiting around in the laundromat can be boring for them otherwise.
Enlist preteens to watch over younger siblings. This can help you get your laundry done if you have a toddler or baby. While it may not be the most fun thing for them to do, siblings are usually understanding about having to watch a baby while you work. It’s not always easy to clean clothes when a toddler’s mid-tantrum!
Another option would be to have a “conveyor belt” style so that each kid has a specific job with each garment (sort, spot treat, drop in the wash). Work will get done extra fast that way and it’ll help your kids learn team-building skills.
If your teens did a prank that caused a major spill on their clothes, tell them to clean it up themselves. Teens often find ways to mess up clothing in the strangest ways. Teach them personal accountability by asking them to remove stains they cause.
Even if they are older, emphasize that laundry is a team effort. Most kids are fairly kind and want to help out parents. You might have to bribe them a bit at times, but kids generally will listen to parents as long as they’re in a decent mood.
Offer tips and tricks for laundry care. Your kids are going to go off to college soon, or at the very least, live on their own. You might as well take this time to teach them how to get specific stains out of their clothing.
If you need to have errands done during this time, ask a teen to act as a gopher. A teen with a driver’s license can be great for dropping off mail, getting younger siblings to soccer practice, or just running out to get a slice of pizza.
Older teens should be encouraged to go to their laundry themselves. As a parent, there is going to be a point where you need to let them act as a full adult. Don’t worry, your kids are old enough to handle this!
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