Use Laundry to Help Build Language Skills

A couple of years back an SLP friend of mine challenged me to come up with as many ways as I could to use laundry to help build language skills.  I came up with ten (well actually thirteen) and I thought I would share them with you.  It is important for children to be involved in chores around the house. Chores helps with teaching the children functional skills.  They helps with independence, and it can help build language skills. Of course, they need to be appropriate for the child’s development. I would not want a two year old walking around with ceramic dishes!
Use Laundry to Help Build Language and a picture of a laundry basket piled high with dirty clothes

1. Sort by colour

Have your child sort the laundry into different colours.  Here is a great opportunity to talk about light versus dark colours.  Alternately, you could sort the laundry into piles then ask your child why they were sorted that way (e.g. they are all blue, dark, etc…)

2. Talk about “clean” and “dirty”

Talk and show how the clothes are dirty before they go in the washing machine and how they are clean after.  Take pictures of clothes that are obviously dirty then look at them when they are clean.

3. Talk about “wet” and “dry”

Have your child transfer clothes from the washer to the dryer.  Talk about how they are wet. When they take them out of the dryer talk about how they are dry. It is important for children to experience what what we are trying to teach them (keeping in mind their health and safety).

4. Talk about & sort by “same” and “different”

Have your child pair up socks. Accidentally mismatch socks and talk about how they don’t go together because they are different. Have them identify if socks in a pair are same or different.

5. Talk about & sort by “big” and “little”

Talk about big and little or have your child identify clothes that are big and little as you are sorting them. Another way is sort clothes into big and little piles.

6. Use possessive nouns

 When folding and/or hanging up laundry have your child identify who the clothes belong to (e.g. Daddy’s shirt, my pants, Mommy’s socks).  

7. Use words such as “not” and “doesn’t”

 Pretend to sort the laundry wrong way and then talk about it.  “Oh! That doesn’t go with  the blue pile!” or “Oops!  That’s not your shirt, that’s mine.”  It is important for children to see that everybody makes mistakes and that you can fix a mistake and try again.  Oh and what child doesn’t like to correct their parent’s “mistakes!”

 8. Play “I spy”

Describe a design on a piece of clothing and have your child try to find it (e.g. I’m looking for a pair of pants.  They are small and green).  Another good challenge would be for your child to describe a piece of clothing and you try and find it.

 9. Top/middle/bottom

When all the laundry has been cleaned and folded, talk about where the clothing goes in the closet or dresser or have your child tell you where they go.  E.g. “The shirts go in the middle drawer.  The underwear goes in the top drawer.”

 10. Following directions

Make a game out of putting laundry away.  Make up funny directions such as “take 5 pairs of socks and hop to your room and put them away.”
As I said I had come up with thirteen ways build language skills while doing the laundry, here are a few more:

 11. Sequencing

Talk about the steps of doing laundry and have your child do laundry with you a few times.  Then mix up the sequence and see if your child recognizes that you did it out of sequence. Talk about or have your child talk about why it was out of sequence and what step should happen next. Take pictures of your child doing the laundry and post them so that they could be more independent when doing it or make them into a small photo book.

 12. Expanding sentences:

Encourage your child to add one more word to the length of their sentences.  For example, if your child typically says one-word sentences (e.g. “socks”) then have them first imitate then make two-word sentences (e.g. “blue socks”). Using describing words is a good way to expand sentences. Verbs (action words) such as “sort” and “wash” are also important ways to expand sentences.

 13. Use a variety of verbs:

One thing I notice is that children with language delays tend to have a very weak knowledge and use of verbs.  Using different verbs such a “pour,” “open,” and “press” make it easier for a child to expand the length of their sentences.
Well that’s it! Laundry is a great opportunity to help develop your child’s language. If you would like a handout of this post go here. If you would like to learn about how to use grocery shopping as a tool to build language, check this other blog post out or to find out why chores are important, go here. Let me know if you have even more ideas and leave them down below in the comments sections.
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