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How to Separate Laundry for kids!

There is a major math skill that shows up when teaching kids how to separate laundry...SORTING!

Sorting helps our little ones discern differences and similarities, learn how to create categories, and begin to problem solve. Imagine how helpful sorting is in your everyday life.

You sort silverware, clothing, and toys all to create organized systems in your home. At the grocery store, items are sorted by categories for ease and efficiency of shopping. Recess at schools is most often sorted by grade level to keep kids of the same age together.

Sorting happens all the time, and kids need to know how to sort in more than one way in order to make sense of new information as they process the world around them. So let's teach these kiddos how to separate laundry before and after, and lighten your load while keeping them learning!

how to separate laundry for kids

Ways to separate laundry for kids:

There are so many ways to separate laundry but for kids these are the main ones you'll want to focus on.

Before washing categories:

  • colors, lights vs dark
  • delicates
  • use of item - like sheets vs towels vs clothes

After washing categories:

  • size
  • what type of clothes they are (shorts vs pants)
  • who they belong to!

What does "how to separate laundry" have to do with math anyway?

how to separate laundry

In kindergarten kids need to..."Classify objects into given categories; count the numbers of objects in each category and sort the categories by count." -Kindergarten Common Core Standards

This activity encourages your child to sort the same objects in more than one way. Also there are opportunities for you to ask your CHILD how they think they should sort and separate the laundry, both before and after washing.

Being able to sort the same group of objects in more than one way shows diversity in thinking. It also engages us to problem solve: What is the best way to sort? There may be more than one answer.

For example, it might be better for the clothes to be sorted before washing by color in order for color not to leak from brights to whites. But since I don't have enough whites on my own, I may have to combine all the sizes to run a load of whites. This will make it harder to sort the laundry afterwards by person!

Go the step further and asking your child to describe HOW they want to sort gives us insight into how our child views the world: Is the size of something a bigger factor than its function? Is it more helpful to do lights together instead of whites? How come? These are critical thinking skills!

Here is what happened when I had my oldest help me separate the washed laundry...

I had a giant pile of clean laundry I ignored for about 3 days. I asked Big Sis how we should sort it. She decided by color, so we did that and problem solved as things had more than one color or pattern. But color wasn’t a practical way to sort laundry.

I asked her how we could sort the laundry to make it easier to put away. She said “by house room.” She then made a kitchen pile, a baby pile, mommy and daddy pile and her own. Of course then her sister came and ruined it but that’s life!

Rules to teach kids when learning how to separate laundry:

Pre-washing rules:

  1. Colors: the number 1 factor for sorting laundry pre-washing. Teach kids that when washing clothes are often sorted into whites, lights, and other colors. Brights never go with whites! There is always a "red sock story" that you can tell them about the red sock that made the whole load of white laundry pink!
  2. Category of item: sheets, towels, and clothes should all be washed separately. I don't know about you but my sheets will swallow up lots of small clothing items if I don't separate them, plus they need a hotter cycle.
  3. Super dirty vs worn once: We know what having kids is like! You may want to separate the ultra-messy paint covered shirt and those muddy cargo pants from the items that have only been worn once with no major incidents. Those super dirty/soiled clothes may need stain treatments or a harsher cycle. I love me some Oxiclean!
  4. Delicate vs sturdy: these terms are great vocabulary words for little ones to learn, and what kid doesn't want an excuse to talk about underwear? Delicates should be washed on their own and definitely not with thicker fabrics like denim!

Post-washing categories:

This is more up to you! Make these rules as a family, and try out different ways to sort. Here are some of the ways to separate we came up with for our clean laundry.

  1. Type of clothes- shirts go in one pile, underwear another, bottoms in another. Oh and don't forget the PJs!
  2. Who the clothes belong to- Each child has their own dresser in our house, so it makes sense for us to separate by Big Sis and Lil Sis.
  3. Size - very similar to the above, but this version will not only help kids learn how to determine if clothes belong to them (especially if you're like us and have lots of matching outfits) but also will help them identify numbers!

Done with laundry and looking for more sorting?

Now that your kids have learn how to separate laundry, they can apply their sorting knowledge to shapes with these 5 shape sorting activities!

Want to teach kids to do their own laundry? Stuffed Suitcase has a guide for what age they should learn what!

June 17, 2021
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