How to Use Laundry to Teach Kids Learning Skills

  • 01 of 11

    Use Laundry Time to Teach Kids Learning Skills

    Happy baby girl holding laundry basket
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    If you're the parent or grandparent of a young child, you know that he or she can't wait to do everything you do. This is the one time you can actually get them interested in helping with laundry!

    So, why not use this opportunity to teach a few laundry skills (you can give it another go when they get a bit older) and play some learning games. Who knew that laundry offers the chance to teach kids their colors, counting, matching skills, shapes and even expand their imaginations?

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  • 02 of 11

    Teach Them About Colors

    kids colors
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    That pile of laundry—dirty or clean—is a jumble of colors just waiting to be sorted and to teach your toddler to identify colors. Begin with the basics and ask them to find something blue or red or white. Then you can ask what other things are blue: the sky, the ocean, a flower, etc.

    Or, ask your child to sort dirty laundry into piles of colored clothes and white clothes. You may need to sort a bit deeper before washing but every little bit helps.

    As you fold clean clothes, ask them to identify the color of each garment and stack all the like-colored items together.

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  • 03 of 11

    Teach Them About Shapes

    kid folding clothes
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    Start with a clean dishtowel or washcloth and ask your child to fold it. Show her how to turn a square into a smaller square, a square into a triangle or a rectangle into a square.

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  • 04 of 11

    Teach Kids Textures

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    Have your little one close her eyes, and guess the item you give her just by feeling. It’s fun, and it teaches her all about her senses and introduces her to a bunch of nifty textures. From how fuzzy it is on the inside of that sweatshirt to the smooth silkiness of one of your blouses, exploring and comparing different fabrics increases her vocabulary as you both try to describe what she feels.

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  • 05 of 11

    Teach Kids Matching Skills

    matching laundry
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    Teaching young children how to match, classify, and measure is an important part of developing early math skills. These skills help children identify and describe relationships between items and they'll need that when Algebra I comes around.

    There are dozens of memory games you can buy for your toddler. But you have a ready-made game just waiting with that pile of mismatched socks in your laundry basket.

    Ask your child to match pairs of socks. Begin with colored or patterned socks that are easily matched. As your child gets older, they will even be able to match everyone's white socks by size or style.

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  • 06 of 11

    Teach Them About Categories

    clothes categories
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    One way that kids learn about the world is by finding things that are the same and grouping them together. Why else do they have so many collections?

    A laundry basket has a mix of items that can be sorted and placed in categories—shirts, pants, socks, underwear. Once the items are sorted and categories, you can then teach them the similarities and differences within and between the matched groups.

    • Are all the shirts striped?
    • Are all of the pants the same length?
    • Are all of the towels the same color?
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  • 07 of 11

    Teach Kids Size Concepts

    laundry sizes
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    Once the laundry is sorted by categories, you can teach the concept of size and measuring skills. Every piece of laundry can be measured in many ways—width, length, thickness.

    • Which shirt is bigger or smaller?
    • Which pair of pants is longer or shorter?
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  • 08 of 11

    Teach Kids Symbols and Reading

    Putting Away Clothes
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    By placing labels on dresser drawers or baskets to show where clothes are stored, you will help your toddler begin to associate symbols, letters, and words.

    Start by drawing a simple shirt or pants or socks outline and the word on a white card. Tape that on the drawer you want your child to use. As you help them put away clothes, they will associate the shape and word with the item. Before you know it, all those lines will begin to make sense and they'll be reading!

    You can also use laundry books to enhance the experience and spend a little more time teaching them that laundry can be fun!

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  • 09 of 11

    Boost Their Imagination Skills

    Squirrel laundry
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    Can a squirrel do laundry? Does a giraffe wear socks? What would you wear to meet a princess? How does Superman wash his cape?

    Kids love to ask questions and answer them. Use the time you spend together to have great conversations. Tell laundry jokes and solve laundry riddles. You'll laugh together and boost their brains at the same time.

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  • 10 of 11

    Create Crafts

    Starch paint craft
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    Creative learning is just as important as other skills. Use laundry room products to create art supplies.

    How to Make Craft Paint

    Supplies you'll need:

    • Liquid starch
    • Acrylic craft paint
    • Dry tempera paint
    • Small jars with lids

    Commercial or homemade liquid starch can be used to make paint for kids. Actually, the starch is used to stretch a small amount of paint into enough for many, many hours of fun.

    Just mix one cup of liquid starch with 1 teaspoon liquid acrylic craft paint or a tiny sprinkle of dry tempera paint. Pour the starch and paint together in a jar with a lid. Shake well and use for brush or finger paint painting. If the solution is not thick enough for finger painting, just add a bit of dry cornstarch until it is the consistency you desire.

    The homemade starch paint can be stored for several weeks until the next painting session.

    If you are thinking, "I don't have any starch because I never iron.", just head to the kitchen and make some homemade starch.

    How to Make Colorful Play Slime

    Every kid loves slime and with this basic recipe, you can create lots of different varieties by adding glitter or different food colors.

    Supplies you'll need:

    • Washable white school glue
    • Liquid Starch
    • Water
    • Measuring cup
    • Two mixing bowls
    • Liquid food coloring (optional)

    To begin, measure 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of white glue into a mixing bowl. With a large spoon, stir for several minutes to mix well. If you desire colored slime, add a few drops of food coloring.

    Into the second mixing bowl, pour 1/2 cup of liquid starch. Slowly add the water/glue mixture into the starch stirring constantly. Be sure to scrape the glue bowl to get out every bit! After a few minutes, the mixture will stiffen and you will need to use your hands to knead the slime together.

    Transfer the mixture to a clean, dry container. It will be flexible and last about ten days.

    How to Make Silly Putty

    Silly Putty is just a more dense form of play slime.

    Supplies you'll need:

    • Washable white school glue
    • Liquid starch
    • Mixing bowl
    • Liquid food coloring (optional)

    In a mixing bowl, measure 1/2 cup white glue and 1/4 cup liquid starch and add a drop or two of food coloring, if desired. Use your hands to mix the ingredients. The mixture will be very sticky and loose but keep working and it will begin to harden and form a putty.

    Place putting in a sealed container and it will remain flexible and fun to play with for about one month.

    How to Create Papier Mache Crafts

    Liquid homemade or commercial laundry starch can be used to make a paste to use with papier-mache crafts. Just mix 1/2 cup plain flour with 1 cup of liquid starch. Whisk together until smooth. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator.

    Use with paper strips or shapes to create papier-mache crafts like these:

    Stained Glass Suncatchers

    Supplies you need:

    • Tissue paper in various colors, cut or torn into various shapes like squares, circles, triangles or flowers
    • Wax paper
    • Liquid starch
    • Foam paintbrush

    Cut a piece of wax paper into the size or shape you desire for your suncatcher. The easiest way to work is to tape the piece of wax paper to a work table to keep it smooth and in place. Pour a bit of liquid starch into a small bowl. Using the foam paint brushes, brush some liquid starch onto the wax paper. Add the tissue paper shapes and paint more starch on top.

    Allow the suncatcher to dry completely while still taped to the work surface. When dry, remove and punch a small hole for hanging or simply tape to a window.

    Holiday Tree Ornament

    Supplies you need:

    • Tissue paper in various colors, cut or town into small shapes like squares, circles or triangles
    • Round or flat disc clear plastic ornament
    • Liquid starch
    • Foam paintbrush

    To create a beautiful holiday ornament, simply use the foam paintbrush to coat the plastic ornament with some liquid starch. Work in small sections and apply the tissue paper onto the surface of the ornament. When the entire ornament is covered with tissue paper, give the surface a coat of liquid starch. Hang the ornament from a dowel or tree branch to dry completely.

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  • 11 of 11

    More Craft Ideas From the Laundry Room

    soap balls
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    Holiday Bells

    Take a look at your detergent bottle lids and imagine a bell. If the lids are not a color you like, spray paint the lids any color you want and give them time to dry completely. An adult should punch a single small hole in the top of each one.

    Using yarn or a shimmer thread attach a jingle bell at the desired length, pull the string through the hole in the top of the cap and knot it so it won't slip through the hole. The outside of the bells can be decorated with stickers or glitter or foam cut-outs. You can also add a bow to the top. Then, just add an ornament hook through the knot to hang on the tree. Or, you can make a group of the bells to decorate a doorknob or wreath.

    This is just one of the many ways you can upcycle your laundry bottles.

    Decorative Snow

    If you live in a warm climate with no snow, you can make your own for decoration. Just pour 2 cups of Ivory Snow soap flakes or Zote soap flakes in a large bowl and add 1/2 cup water. Using an electric mixer, whip until soft peaks form.

    The snow can be used to decorate windows, gingerbread houses, branches, and ornaments. Dampen your hands first before decorating to keep the suds from sticking. The snow will dry in just a few hours and last for weeks indoors. To remove the soap, just add water and clean away!

    Note: Detergent snow is not edible!

    Scented Soap Balls

    These are great gifts that the kids can make for teachers and friends. Just combine 2 cups of Ivory Snow soap flakes or Zote soap flakes and 1/4 cup water plus 1 tablespoon of food extract or essential oils and a couple of drops of food coloring. The food extract can be lemon, vanilla, peppermint or any flavor in your kitchen and the essential oil can be your favorite scent.

    Mix all of the ingredients together and form into small balls. You can use a mold from the craft store or form the balls freehand. You should be able to make 8 or 10 soaps. If the consistency is too soupy, add a bit more Ivory Snow soap flakes until it binds together. Allow the soaps to dry overnight before packaging for gifts.

    Soap Sculpting Clay

    Once again we are combining Ivory Snow soap flakes, Zote soap flakes or any brand of soap flakes and water. Use 3/4 cup Ivory Snow and 1 tablespoon water. Mix well until it has a clay-like consistency. It can be molded into a variety of shapes—snowmen, animals, jewelry. Allow to dry overnight. As the pieces dry, they will turn from the grayish color to a pure white.

    If you leave them uncolored or add food coloring, the sculptures can be used in the bath as a bar of soap would be used.

    The sculptures can also be decorated the next day with markers or acrylic paints.