Kids & Laundry – How Much is Too Much?

“Why do I have to do all these chores?”
“That’s why I had kids! So I don’t have to do all the work!”

Do you have those kinds of conversations in your house? No? Oh…me either…

There are two extremes of thought in parenting.
1. Kids should be kids and enjoy their childhood.
2. Kids should work as soon and as hard as possible.

Our family falls somewhere in between these two swings of the pendulum. Our children’s ages are 10, 9, 6, 4, and 1. Obviously, the baby isn’t doing many chores around the house (though she does surprise me all the time with what she is capable of doing), but we’re really trying hard to train them to be a helpful part of the household. With seven of us (plus a cat), we really don’t have much choice.

I’ve written about how we keep track of our kids’ chores in the past, and I really feel good about our methods right now. We’ve recently added another major chore to their lives, though: laundry.

When I posed the following question on Facebook, I got a lot of responses:

Advice I recently heard: by the age of nine, children should be responsible for doing their own laundry. Thoughts?

Comment #1 NO WAY.

Comment #2 Why not? If they comprehend the chore and can actually do it.

Comment #3 I’ve heard that by age eight they should be able to do everything you can do (i.e. scrubbing bathrooms, vacuuming, dishes, etc.). Of course they don’t magically wake up on the morning of said birthday and know how to do it all. They have to be trained. ;o) I’m a weirdo and actually enjoy sorting and keeping the laundry caught up. All I ask of the girls is to fold and put it all away. =)

Comment #4 You can ease into it. Teach ’em to sort and bring it to laundry room. Fold the easy stuff and take it back/put it away. Move on from there.

Comment #5 By the age of about 11, my two older girls were washing all of their own clothes. My two youngest have to sort theirs and bring it out to me to wash. They CAN do this, and many other chores as well.

Comment #6 My oldest 3–8, 7, and 5 can all load the machine, put the liquid in, turn it on, move it to the dryer when needed, fold/hang and put away. That doesn’t mean I make them do the whole process, but they are definitely capable especially in pieces.

Comment #7 Since I’m still responsible for buying their clothes, I want to be responsible for taking care of them. My 11 yr old wouldn’t sort correctly, would shrink things in the dryer, etc. and I can’t afford to replace her clothes, so I’ll stick to washing! Also, I don’t mean this in a jerky way, but if the kids are doing all the household chores, what is mom doing???

Commenter #6 This mom is working, cooking, cleaning, and shopping for groceries. I don’t have my younger girls wash for the same reasons, but the older two know what goes into the dryer and what temps to use. They know I won’t replace their clothes if they mess them up by being lazy. With 6 people in my house, they have to help or we all go down with the ship.

Comment #8 I feel that’s a bit young. I’m certainly not opposed to household chores, but I would rather they focus on school and other things. While I want to teach responsibility, I still want my kids to be kids.

Me: Ok, here’s my dilemma – I CANNOT keep up with laundry. There’s 7 of us, and someone is alway needing clean clothes! So this might be one area where the kids can pitch in to help.

And don’t get me wrong – they already KNOW how to do it, (even my 7yo), I just haven’t made them responsible for their own clothes…until now. lol

Comment #9 I have recently split our oldest 4 into 2 groups. They alternate helping unload dishes for a week while the other group helps put up
Laundry. Laundry and dishes are two areas that big families make a mess in quick!

Commenter #8 Do they do their own from start to finish or just a portion of it?

Commenter #9 I don’t split ours up into loads by person. Maybe that would be easier but with the amount we have it just isn’t practical. They can do it all, but the main thing I ask them to do is to help sort/put up after it is dry

Me: I haven’t before, either, but I’m considering giving each kid a day for the or laundry. Then on the other days, I can do the babies’ and ours, and towels and sheets. I may try it for a month or so and see how it works.

Commenter #6 The big girls (18 and 13) do theirs as necessary, which usually means they spend some time on the weekend. And they’ve gotten resourceful, because they’ll combine their clothes and wash together, taking turns. I usually have the little girls bring clothes or I go get them from their hampers. We’re working on their training. Greg does our clothes, which is why I keep him around. ;)

Comment #10 I think the more they can do for themselves the more they will feel an important productive part of a family. It isn’t punishment. Its reality. It won’t come as a shock to them at 13 when mom says its time to learn to do stuff and they say why? That’s your job! Happened to this momma!

Comment #11 ABSOLUTELY!! My kids begin doing portions of their own laundry in kindergarten (folding/putting away), in 1st grade they load into washer and transfer to dryer and the parents start each machine (adding onto their kindergarten laundry duties

Comment #12 I think it’s extremely important for kids to learn all of the household tasks and have a part in them. My oldest is 6 and a half. He puts all of his laundry in the washer, I do the soap and turn it on.

Comment #13 Nope… I don’t even trust my hubby to do it LOL…

Comment #14 Age is arbitrary, maturity is what you need to look at.

Comment #15 I was doing laundry and cooking family size meals starting at nine. I am glad for it. I didn’t start my boys doing laundry until 10 & 12. Some of their friends now 19 and 21 still don’t know how! Teaching self-reliance is always a good thing in my book. Of course, I also walked 5 miles uphill in the snow! LOL (Not really, but some say self-reliance is old-fashioned and out of style)

Comment #16 Have your laundry baskets labeled, colored, whites,towel,ect. & whoever does it (them or you) will have that step done.

I love all of the discussion and varying opinions. (If I hadn’t been homeschooled during high school, I’m 100% sure I would have been on the debate team. Loved arguing then, and still do!) There was a lot of insight into both perspectives in this discussion.

I’ve personally come down on the side of having my older three kids be in charge of washing their own clothes. (I’m doing towels, sheets, blankets, etc., but they are doing their actual clothing.) I’ve given them one day per week to do their own laundry, they get it all done on that day, and then I’m working on the rest of the laundry the rest of the week.

This has been a huge relief to me!  I’m much less overwhelmed, I’m proud of my kids, and we’re actually getting all of our clothes clean!  Their response has varied by kid. One is great at it, and doesn’t have to be reminded. One will do it cheerfully – but forgets if I don’t remind her. The other gripes and complains the whole time. It’s funny to see their different responses.

One thing I have noticed – my kids are really good and taking care of the stuff right on top of the pile without looking around and seeing other things that need to be done. This is training me to train them (that was confusing, but yes, you read that right) to clean up (fold up, wash up) everything that’s dirty – not just the surface level.

So, what do you think? What kind of chores are your kids responsible for?

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One Response to “Kids & Laundry – How Much is Too Much?”

  1. ForexMentor says:

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