Kids with ADHD Take Control of their Laundry

4 min read

Household chores are not at the top of any kid’s list of favorite things. But why is being organized at home so hard for kids with ADHD? Managing the laundry process can seem overwhelming and the kids don’t know where to begin. Let me share my tried and true laundry tips for ADHD kids.

Why is my kid’s laundry always on the floor?

Lots of kids have messy rooms. My kids insist that having EVERYTHING on the floor is how they can find stuff later. But if all of the dirty clothes and clean clothes can get mixed up together on the floor. Then what happens is either your kid wears something dirty or you end up washing EVERYTHING just to make sure it’s all clean again.

We need to transform this dynamic from one of chaos to empowerment. Empower the kids to take control of their clothes and laundry. Their ADHD brain is capable. We just need to build a routine that they can remember and repeat.

Give the goal, provide supports, and let kids choose how to use your ideas

I like to break this down into three steps.

  1. Give the goal:  tell the kid they are in charge of organizing their dirty clothes, washing the dirty clothes, and bringing clean clothes back to their room.
  2. Provide supports:  offer a few suggestions about how they carry their laundry (basket or bag) and help them create a map (more on that later)
  3. Kids create the plan:  ask the kid to tell you their plan – or write or draw it – whichever method they prefer

By allowing kids to choose the tools and methods you can giving them a perceived sense of control. You are setting the expectations that the laundry will get done by the kid. How exactly their ADHD brain wants to manage the laundry process is up to them.

Kid-friendly laundry basket options

Not all laundry baskets are created equal. And most are created for grown-ups who are tall enough to see over the edges of the basket as they walk up and down steps. To me a laundry basket has always felt a bit awkward. So imagine how a kid must feel to carry the same rectangular plastic laundry basket.

A few kid-friendly laundry basket options can be found at a variety of stores. I have found laundry baskets that are square, not rectangular, and smaller in size. This square laundry basket can be easier for kids to carry especially if they are navigating steps.

Square Laundry Basket from Target

Square Laundry Basket from Wal-Mart

Another laundry basket option I like is the pop-up mesh hamper. The hamper has sewn-in handles so it can be carried by one or two hands, whatever feels most comfortable. The mesh hamper can serve as dirty laundry storage in the bedroom and then be carried to the washing machine. I will note that it your child ever drags the hamper on the ground that the metal edges of the frame can fray the fabric at the bottom and expose the metal. You could cover the metal with some tape or throw away the hamper and buy a new one.

Mesh Laundry Hamper from Amazon

Kids with ADHD Map Out how to take laundry to the washing machine

Once you have laundry collection taken care of you need to talk with your kid about HOW they will determine the route to the washing machine. Having the kid plan and envision the actual process of taking their dirty laundry to the washing machine will give their brain a chance to start building the idea of that routine.

I have created a Free Printable called My Laundry Plan to help you with this task!

The laundry plan should be created by your kid with your supervision. The plan consists of three steps.

  1. Where will you keep the dirty laundry basket or hamper in your room?
  2. How will you take your dirty laundry to the washing machine?
  3. How will you return the clean laundry to your room?

My Laundry Plan encourages the kid to draw their room in Step 1. They can draw a place for the dirty laundry basket or hamper.

In Step 2 the kid also draws the route they will take from Start (bedroom) to Finish (washing machine). This route can look different for each person since you might live in a house or an apartment. Your house might have a washing machine and dryer in the basement. Your apartment building might have a laundry room. Or you may take a car or a bus to go to a laundromat. Drawing the process will help the kid see it become real.

In Step 3 the kid is asked to draw the opposite route:  Start at the Washer/Dryer and Finish in their bedroom with clean laundry.

We won’t tackle the art of folding, hanging, and putting away the clean laundry in this article!

Explaining detergent and which buttons the kids need to push on the washer and the dryer

We have talked about how to START and FINISH the process of doing laundry for kids with ADHD but what about that middle part:  actually washing and drying the clothes?

In my house I found two things made a big difference in making laundry less mysterious and more manageable for my kids.

  1. Detergent pods
  2. A checklist explaining which buttons to push

Detergent pods are easy to grab and throw into the washing machine. You having nothing to measure, only count. One pod.

You can also write a very simple checklist of the buttons the kids need to push (or knobs they need to turn on) to operate the washing machine and the dryer. 

An example looks something like this:

  • Washing machine
  • One detergent pod
  • Power button
  • Cotton/Normal Setting
  • Start Button
  • Dryer
  • One dryer sheet
  • Power buttom
  • Perm Press Setting
  • Start Button

Every washing machine and dryer has many settings, labels, buttons, and knobs. This can be overwhelming for the kid’s ADHD brain to read and understand. Make them a short list of steps, show the kid which parts of the machine have the buttons and knobs on your list, and let them practice while you observe.

Final laundry routine for ADHD Kids – practice and repeat

Now that we have covered all the steps to give ADHD kids a laundry routine they are ready to practice! And practice some more. Let them repeat the process on their own but stay nearby if they decide to ask you questions. Practice and repetition of the laundry process that they created will help create memories of this routine. The routine will become easier over time. And if at any point the kid is struggling and one of you wants to edit the routine just follow the My Laundry Plan steps from the beginning and create a new plan!

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