One of the best ways to promote literacy skills in young kids, even before they can talk, is to narrate what you do as you go about your ordinary everyday activities. Whether you wash clothes at home or at the laundromat, the work you do at the washing machine lends itself nicely to many opportunities to introduce novel vocabulary and reinforce important concepts that lead to strong reading skills in older children. Here are some suggestions for ways to focus on early literacy when doing the laundry.
- Read washing instructions on clothing tags. By reading aloud the instructions for washing given articles of clothing, you show your kids that print has significance to even the simplest jobs. Show your kids the connection between what is recommended on the label and how you actually sort, wash, and dry your clothes.
- Teach vocabulary for different wash and rinse cycles. Wash and rinse cycles usually have both speeds and sizes. What better way to make these concepts more concrete for your kids than to show the differences between a small and extra large load, or to take note of how much more slowly the agitator moves in the gentle versus regular cycles.
- Identify detergents by their labels. Even before they know their letter names and sounds, kids can begin to associate particular symbols with their meanings. Save old detergent bottles and cut off the labels from fabric softener boxes and allow your child to play with them. Soon, the images on the packages will become so familiar, your child will be able to hand you the item you need on request.
- Sort clothing into given categories. Young kids love to play in baskets of clothing. Make this fascination work to your advantage by showing your child how to separate out different types of clothing - socks, underwear, pants, etc. For an added challenge for slightly older kids, have them sort the clothing by color before you wash, or sort clean clothing according to the family member who owns it.
Bonus idea! Hesitant to let your kids near the actual washing machine? With a printer, paper, and a few baskets, you can make a simple Silly Sentence Sort set that allows kids to have fun with words and laundry without messing up your housework.