The One Simple Tool That Helps My 3-Year-Old Put Away Her Own Laundry

published May 2, 2022
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Credit: Stephanie Ganz

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Ever since she’s been able to pull on a skirt, my youngest daughter, Hazel, has been very excited by the idea of dressing herself. This wasn’t my experience with my older daughter, Lily, who was uninterested in clothes and reluctant to dress herself. Hazel, however, wanted several wardrobe changes each day, reflecting her mood, adapting to the weather, or reacting to the fact that she had just gotten spaghetti all over herself. 

All these costume changes ended up generating a lot of laundry, which I saw as an opportunity to get Hazel to take some responsibility for her clothes. But, like most of the world, closets are typically designed with grown-ups in mind, with one bar at the top, around 5 feet or so off the ground. That’s a few feet too high for toddlers, so how can they be taught and expected to hang up their own clothes? 

Credit: Stephanie Ganz

Enter the closet extender, otherwise known as a double hang adjustable closet rod. This simple, under-$20 tool opened up the closet to Hazel in a wonderful way. It brought all her clothes down to her level. She can now display and easily choose her dresses (her go-to garment), but more to the point, she can put them away all by herself!

We also stocked up on kids’ clothes hangers, and I showed her how to properly hang up items like dresses, sweaters, and overalls, while everything else gets folded and stored in her chest of drawers. We use the higher bar for special items, like her ballet leotard and tutu, a pineapple costume meant for an 18-month-old that somehow still fits, and a fancy dress for weddings.

Credit: Stephanie Ganz

Learning to put away her own laundry takes practice, and fortunately, we have opportunities to practice pretty much every day. The process now looks like this: Hazel puts her dirty clothes in a hamper. I wash and dry them (we’re working on these skills next) and place them in a neat pile (unfolded but spread out so they don’t wrinkle) in her room. It’s her responsibility to put everything where it belongs, and for the most part, she does a great job. Sometimes, I find a pair of leggings bunched up in a ball or a strappy dress barely hanging on the hanger, but when that happens, we just try again. The most important thing is that she knows she’s capable of doing the work and doing it well, and that gives her a sense of pride almost as satisfying as selecting the perfect outfit.