written by: Andrea Coventry
• edited by: Jacqueline Chinappi
• updated: 2/14/2012
The young child who learns how to do laundry is learning more than just how to clean clothes. She is also learning some important reading, math, and writing skills.
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Benefits of Laundry on Language Skills
Clothing needs to be sorted prior to laundry being started. Towels and bedding should be separated from clothing. Delicates should be separated from more sturdy fabrics. Clothing needs to be sorted between whites, lights, and darks. Children can practice sensory discrimination by sorting the different materials, focusing on their textures. Visual discrimination is refined by sorting by color. It is also a great time to practice color names.
Categorization further occurs as the child is putting away laundry. Clothes must be sorted by their owner. Different types of clothes belong in different drawers. Some need to be hung. Categorization and sorting are essential parts of the reading process.
Encourage reading skills by looking up clothing words in a picture dictionary. Make cards with pictures of laundry items, for the child to match to the real items. Make sequencing cards of pictures of the laundry process for the child to put in order, then "read" while performing the tasks. Have him make his own sequencing pictures.
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Benefits of Laundry on Math Skills
Doing laundry has benefits on math skills. Some machines can only handle a certain number of pairs of jeans or towels. The child can practice counting the number of jeans or towels being put into the washing machine.
Measurement of laundry detergent helps the child practice measuring skills. If the detergent calls for 4 oz. of liquid, the child can practice pouring into a measuring cup. Perhaps it requires 1/2 cup of dry detergent. The child can practice measuring a half cup by using different sizes of measuring cups, such as 1/4 and 1/8. This also can lay a foundation for later fractions practice.
Machines that have digital timers help children start to gain a sense of time. Talk about how the cycle will take 47 minutes. Have the child check the timer throughout the cycle. Older children familiar with telling time can try to figure out what time the cycle will be finished. They can also try to estimate how many other activities can be accomplished in the same amount of time. It provides time management and scheduling practice.
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Benefits of Laundry on Writing Skills
Laundry can indirectly prepare the child's hand for writing. When handwashing a delicate item, the water has to be squeezed out, which exercises the finger and hand muscles. Hanging wet clothes on a line with a clothespin makes the child use the same muscles used when holding a pencil for writing. Those "little fingers" are also used when folding and rolling clothes to be put away.
Writing practice can come by trying to write out the types of clothing being washed. Use inventive spelling or copy the words from a picture dictionary. She can copy words from the laundry detergent bottles. She can also try to write out a list or a plan for how to do the laundry, as an instruction booklet for someone else to follow.