Cultivating Learning in Everyday Activities: Laundry & Other Rooms

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My mission…to cultivate a learning environment in our home. My goal…to purposefully incorporate educational concepts in our various household tasks with my little ones. Thus we continue sharing learning ideas that can be purposefully practiced while completing various household activities. Don’t miss out on sharing ideas for learning in the kitchen.

In the Laundry Room

1. Sorting laundry – teach sorting laundry by colors and then by textures, enabling a child to strengthen color identification, matching, and strengthening the sensory skills. Follow this by teaching the basics of washing laundry specifying the different temperatures needed to wash various articles of clothing, towels, etc. Clothing can be sorted by type of clothing as well (socks, underwear, shirts, pants, etc).

2. Organize clothing by owner - teaches recognition of possession by sorting the clothes by owner before folding. Karis and I discuss who each item belongs to as we sort our laundry into the piles of clothing for each person before carrying them carefully to the dressers.

3. Store a child’s clothes within their reach – from a young age, a child can learn to sort and put away their clothing as well as getting themselves dressed. Label the drawers with pictures of the different kinds of clothes kept in them, with the word was well.

4. Count the clothes - an older child could try to guess the number of items in each pile and then count them to see whether she/he was correct.

5. Matching socks – We like to set aside the socks till we have folded all the rest of the clothes and then make a game out of finding the match.

In the Bedroom

1. Make the bed – Before Karis turned three years old, we aimed to teach her organization and cleanliness by having her learn to make her own bed when she wakes up. We make a game out of it and shake the corners out together before laying the blanket out smooth on the bed.

2. Organize possessions at his/her level - We also organize all her toys at her level in a 9 cube shelving unit and rain gutter bookshelves so she can accessibly put each item away before getting out another. She still needs a gentle reminder, but I have been pleasantly surprised at how fully capable she is to accomplish these little chores.

In the Hallway

Place a hook at the kids level so she/he can hang up their own jacket after an outing. Designate a special place for his/her shoes as well. This makes the task of preparing to depart or return home much simpler, especially if you have other little ones in tow.

In the Living Room

1. Clean together – It is easy to include your children in various housecleaning tasks by providing them with their own dusting or wash cloth and some safe cleaning spray, if desired. They can learn to carefully lift up various options to dust underneath them while learning the feel of different textures – china, glass, wood, and so on. Discuss whether they are warm or cold, where they came from, how they are made, etc.

2. Answer the phone - A young child can learn to answer the phone. I believe my mom taught us this skill as early as 6 years old. We had a special phrase to say, “Hello, you’ve reached the ____(last name). This is ____(child’s name). How can I help you?” It was written next to the phone so we could remember. Now in a day of cellphones, this will not be so easy, but I want to give them the opportunity of learning basic social skills, improving communicating skills in this way from an early age.

Kat adds some additional ideas:

As we do our work, we like to talk to each other. Then when a new word comes up that they don’t know, I explain it’s meaning. Sometimes I will sound out words phonetically here and there, to get them used to the idea of how words are made up of different sounds. Teach them how words are made up of root words, etc. For example, if talking about an octopus, you can bring up that octo means eight, and an octagon is a shape with eight sides. The kids think that’s interesting info!

I try to answer their questions as we’re working together. My husband is better at this than me, I think I get tired of the incessant toddler questions! He will give answers, often that are somewhat beyond their understanding. But each time they understand a little bit more, and also it teaches them that Mom and Dad are eager to “learn” things together with them.

Including your children in your various household tasks may require more time and effort on your part to teach and instruct them, and there very well may be a bigger mess afterward…but what is more important? Investing in your relationship and teaching valuable skills in the process or sending them away and getting the job done quicker while losing out on this important opportunity?

Make these learning activities enjoyable for all by making little songs out of these tasks. For example, we came up with this little rhyme for folding laundry together:”Now we’re going to fold the clothes, fold the clothes, fold the clothes, now we’re going to fold the clothes, so early in the morning” (sung to Row, Row, Row Your Boat), with variations such as “match the socks”, etc. It definitely makes the task more fun when you can sing while you work – and the child will learn to love music and work at the same time!

Stay tuned for our final post with ideas for the great outdoors!

I wish to take a moment and thank Kat, Michele, Autumn and Amy for contributing ideas for this post! Thank you!

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of three, homemaker, and writer. She is the editor of Passionate Homemaking since its beginning five years ago. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

14 Responses to Cultivating Learning in Everyday Activities: Laundry & Other Rooms

  1. Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama May 12, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    I LOVE to let my kids help. Although my youngest is still a bit too young (10 months). But my 2-year-old runs into the room saying “I help! I help!” every time I’m doing anything. I try to always find a job for her, or, if I can’t (like, she can’t help me get food out of the oven), I will promise to get her a job soon. It does take longer but it’s fun and just…I don’t know…I enjoy it! If I tell my daughter, “Go get a shirt and pants,” she can go in her room and pick out her own clothes. She knows where they all are and often does a decent job of matching (not that I care if they don’t match, that’s not really important). She can put the silverware and some of the dishes away properly, too. She’s learned to sort and match and know her colors this way (i.e. “Go get me a red lid”), and has surprised me before. Sometimes she sees me putting food away, and runs to get the proper lid for the container before I even ask! I really just love when kids help (most of the time :) ).

  2. Linda T. May 12, 2010 at 3:44 am #

    Just wanted to say that I love your blog! I used to visit it regularly and then our old computer died and I lost all my bookmarks. The website looks beautiful and the contents are great! Keep up the good work. Thank you for inspiring me in homemaking. Although I am an older mom (55) with three children at home (15, 14 and 11), I can still learn lots from the younger moms like you!

  3. Pat in TX May 12, 2010 at 1:32 am #

    Gabrielle, I always take all of my children to the grocery store with me. These days there are only eight of them at home with me in the daytime, but once upon a time there were twelve. I can remember having two carts, and one of the older ones pushing the youngest in a stroller (once I no longer had the baby in a backpack due to their size or another pregnancy.) It IS a great learning experience. First of all, it teaches Mom patience. Second, it was a good opportunity for them to practice good behavior; once a child was no longer riding in the cart, they walked beside the cart keeping one hand on it at all times; asking for items or treats was a definite no-no and never rewarded. Third, I made them a part of the process from preparing the list to finding the items at the store to putting them away properly at home. I have never done well with a preplanned menu, based on the way I felt when I was pregnant all of the time, so I always used a pantry system whereby I kept the ingredients I liked to use stocked in certain quantities so that I could decide what to fix on any given day and I already had everything on hand (or if I didn’t, I fixed something else:-) We also practiced estimating, because I always carried my grocery budget in cash and I needed to be able to get out of the store in the end! They did not, however, learn couponing because I find very very few coupons for the types of healthy items we try to eat and use.

    I too have noticed most moms not willing to take the children to the store with them, but with proper training, the whole process is a joy. (My neighbor frequently asks me to take care of her only child, a 10 year old, while she goes to the store.) And I personally was never willing to give up so much time with my husband by expecting him to stay home with the kids but preferred to take care of *my jobs* while he was at his job!

    • Gabrielle May 12, 2010 at 8:34 am #

      Pat, that’s great. I love that you take your kids with you, and I’ll definitely try it myself. I’m one of seven children, and my mother did the exact same thing as you. She didn’t have an option though, because of my dad’s job and hours. I think we learned a lot by shopping with mom. She had so much more patience than me, but shopping with kids will be a great chance for God to grow me in that area!

    • Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama May 12, 2010 at 5:00 pm #

      Pat,

      I love that you said all of that. I only have 2 kids right now, but am planning a big family. I actually enjoy grocery shopping and I always take my kids too. My 2-year-old has already (mostly) learned to stay next to the cart and hold on. She helps me select items and usually gets to pick out a snack (when I tell her it’s time!). We make a big day of it, every 2 weeks, and it’s so fun. Sometimes our friends come with us too. DD absolutely LOVES to help. She points at items she knows we always buy and says “I help, I help!” She likes to put tomatoes in bags, select the apples, etc. It really is so fun!

  4. Kristen May 11, 2010 at 5:49 pm #

    Maya (18 months) likes to help bring in the groceries. First she helps get them from the car to the house. Then, she helps move them to the kitchen, unload bags and she helps put everything away. My fridge and cabinets aren’t as neat as I would like, but she loves helping and she’s learning where groceries go!

  5. Gabrielle May 11, 2010 at 7:26 am #

    What a wonderful series of posts! I agree completely!

    I’m curious. I’ve noticed a lot of moms where I live prefer to go grocery shopping without their children in tow, for obvious reasons. Do any of you make it a point to take all of your children with you? I think it’s a great learning experience for them, but it’s easy for me to say that when I’ve only got one child!

  6. Natalie May 11, 2010 at 6:26 am #

    My two year old “washes” dishes with me every morning. He has also started putting things in the dryer as I unload the washer, getting specific items out of the fridge for me while I’m cooking, and throwing things away when I ask him to. Yes, it takes longer, yes, sometimes the clean clothes end up on the floor before they make it to the dryer, and yes, we’ve broken a lot of glasses while washing dishes… but he is learning, he is trying to help, and we are enjoying working together!

  7. Shannon Hazleton May 11, 2010 at 6:25 am #

    Lindsey, I’m enjoying your posts on this. I’m learning to let my girls (almost 3 and 4) help me with chores around the house.

    Hey, unrelated question… what color green is that in your kitchen? ;)

  8. Jenny May 11, 2010 at 4:16 am #

    ahhh! i’m nervous! i’m nervous about letting go of my control over a nice & neat home! help!

    • Emily May 11, 2010 at 7:03 am #

      Jenny, I completely understand where you’re coming from – I really cherish my nice neat home, too! But I have to say that Lindsay is totally on the right track here. I’ve been doing things like this with my kids since the first one was about 2 years old (he’s five now) and the payoff is AMAZING. For one thing, it eventually gets EASIER to keep a clean house. I can send my five year old to a room and ask him to clean up all the toys, and ten minutes later it is clean! My three year old can do the same thing with me there to help him and direct him to notice things he’s missed. They learn SO much through this process, and even though it can be hard at first the results are entirely worth it. I’d really encourage you to give it a try! Don’t do everything at once, but pick one or two areas to start in and see what happens. Do remember, however, that this is a long term investment, and it will take some time to see obvious results. Good luck!

      • Jenny May 11, 2010 at 10:21 am #

        okay, we ‘unloaded’ the dishwasher this morning. once she realized she’s really really helping me, she enjoyed it. i think her part of the process actually took maybe ten minutes. i let her know laundry is next. : ) it was *interesting* with the 19 month old sort of undoing everything my 3yrold did, but maybe that’s a great way to introduce mentoring there. hm. i’m excited!

      • Tiffany May 12, 2010 at 7:24 pm #

        I so agree with you Emily! I love thinking about what I’m doing now will only make it so much easier in the future. I have 2 year old boy twins and sometimes we make cleaning up our toys “fun” by doing it “fast” or “slow”. Of course I’m picking up a lot of the toys, but I want them to be part of the process.

        Jenny you can still have your neat home, it just may take a little bit longer with your little ones helping.

        The boys’ favorites are cleaning their own table with their squirt bottle of water and their rag or sponge. They also really like doing switching the laundry over b/c then they get a ride in the laundry basket down the hallway into the family room.

  9. Sarah M May 11, 2010 at 3:49 am #

    These are such great posts! I am a big believer in this, too, and was first spurred on to this way of thinking when my oldest was about 15 months old, after reading up about the Montessori Method.
    Now my youngest, (who is almost 15 months old) has been helping around with chores that are age appropriate for a few months. They understand SO much!
    My rule is once they can walk, they can help!! :)
    Sarah M