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Kids Can Operate the Washing Machine Too

Kids Can Operate the Washing Machine Too

Here’s a little secret your kids would rather you didn’t know: the buttons on the washing machine are just as intuitive as the ones on their favorite gadgets.

If this sparks an idea, it’s definitely time to enlist your kids in helping out around the house.

To all the tired and overwhelmed parents, let’s make this summer a turning point and steer our children away from the stereotype of the 30-year-old still living at home.

If kids can master a hockey stick or a tennis racket, they can certainly manage a mop or a vacuum cleaner. And if your child often guides you through changing your phone settings, they can surely assist younger siblings with homework, organize closets, or set up the new printer.

Introducing kids to household chores is a manageable task for any parent this summer. 

Of course, we’re not suggesting your kids spend their summer digging trenches. But it’s crucial they learn that everyone needs to contribute for a family to thrive. Plus, they’ll gain practical skills and habits they’ll use in their own homes one day.

You might be thinking: It’s easier if I just do the work myself.

We’ve all been there. The good news is, once you train your children in age-appropriate chores, trust them to do the job, and tune out their complaints, nothing will hold you—or them—back.

Follow this four-step process (with lots of patience), and by mid-summer, your kids will be making meaningful contributions around the house:

Step 1: Track Responsibilities

Beyond age, your child’s tech habits and other activities can indicate their readiness for certain responsibilities. If your fourth grader can build entire worlds on Minecraft, they can also learn to make their own healthy lunch. Kids who frequently play games on the family iPad can handle the dishwasher and washing machine, while teens who effortlessly create playlists can manage the family’s online grocery list.

The key is to match each child with the right age-appropriate tasks. This prevents frustration from tasks that are too challenging or from expecting too little. As they grow, continue to track their progress and add new responsibilities accordingly.

Step 2: Provide Training

Once you’ve identified suitable tasks, it’s time for training. Conduct this one-on-one without siblings around to distract. Break the task into smaller steps and keep expectations clear and reasonable.

For example, if your child can clear and wipe down a table at camp, have them do the same at home with the expectation of an empty, crumb-free table. You might also add the task of sweeping the floor around the table. Help them practice and answer their questions. When they have mastered the new skills and understand the expectations, move on to the next step.

Step 3: Build Trust

This step can be challenging for parents who prefer tasks done a specific way. Once you’ve trained your kids on tasks they can handle, trust that they will do them well. Resist the urge to redo their work, as it can be discouraging and undermine their confidence, making them less enthusiastic about helping in the future.

Trusting your child to complete a task to the best of their ability builds their confidence. Accept that their methods or job performance might differ from yours. If tasks aren’t done properly, more training might be needed.

Step 4: Assign Tasks with a When-Then Approach

To ensure your children actually complete their tasks, use the When-Then approach:

  • “When the garage is organized and swept, then we can leave for baseball practice.”
  • “When you’ve matched the socks, then we’ll have a snack.”

Set a time limit if needed, and ensure the “then” is a regular event (like going to practice or having a snack), not an extra reward. Stick to it — you know they’re capable.

Expect some whining initially, but it’s best to ignore it and walk away to avoid a power struggle. Once kids get used to the idea that work needs to be done before certain privileges, the whining will subside. As they gain confidence and skills, the tasks will become quicker and easier.