Believe it or not, ironing with kids around can be productive and even entertaining if you color it up just right. Additionally, it teaches a useful life skill and allows kids to enjoy the responsibility of using a real ‘grown up' tool. Young children love to help and contribute… and we spot a “win-win” situation brewing in this scenario. Not only is your to-do list getting shorter, but your child is supervised, engaged… and helping out with the chores.
From the age of 8 to 9, the average child is ready to help with the actual ironing, folding, and packing away. If they can safely make a cup of tea or run their own bath water, they could be ready to handle straightforward tasks with the steam iron.
But, what about ironing tasks for younger kids and toddlers? Depending on your child’s age, you may prefer to keep them clear of a scolding hot steam iron, but this doesn’t mean you need to avoid ironing completely. With some ironing safety tips in place as well as a little guidance and age appropriate delegation, the experience can be safe, fun and genuinely helpful. This post contains links to related products; Bounceback Parenting may be compensated if you purchase through these links.
1. Sorting the Ironing
Soft, stretchy and stiff fabrics are easy and fun for even young children to identify and separate. With some initial help, they can sort different fabrics into piles. For smaller children, this also happens to be a great sensory play activity.
Delicate fabrics should ideally be ironed first because as the iron heats up, you risk scorching or burning more sensitive materials. Older children can also be taught to read the clothing labels and identify the heat setting needed to iron different garments.
2. Folding & Hanging
If you feel your child is not yet ready to take up the actual ironing, they can become handy little helpers by passing items that need ironing, and packing away finished garments.
Young children may not be able to reach the hanging rail, but they can make a game of packing and stacking small piles on an easy to reach surface. And if the Mari Kondo bug has bitten you, get the kids to color code while they’re at it.
3. Spraying Clothes with a Mist Bottle
Slightly damp clothing is much easier to iron. Arm your child with a spray mist bottle and get them to moisten items before you start ironing.
This may be a tad risky as it could become more fun than function, but if you have the time and patience; it will be worth the giggles. Kids will get a kick from wetting the surface and you’ll enjoy the benefit of shortening your ironing time.
If their little hands get tired, you can pick up a continuous water mister online to make the task easier.
4. Creative Play
Monkey see, monkey do. Kids learn from being clever little copycats, and there are few things cuter than the miniature version of yourself playing “grown-up”.
There are several toy ironing stations available online. The miniature ironing setups will not only melt your heart, but they can actually help improve coordination in children aged 3-5 who are still developing their fine-motor skills.
Next time you’re addressing your family's ironing needs, your child can happily be entertained… while learning at the same time. They may not contribute to the actual ironing, but at least your job will be a little easier if they’re occupied.
5. Ironing the Easy Bits
With some supervision and training, children age 8 and older can be taught to safely handle a steam iron. It’s best to start them off with the easy pieces that don’t require too much shifting on the ironing board. This reduces the risk of them accidentally touching the soleplate and getting burned. A wide, stable and height adjustable ironing board will make the task easier and safer.
Pillow cases, dish cloths and even towels are a great place to start. Teach them how to first lay the item flat, then smoothing it out with their hands, and how to safely run the iron over the surface at the correct temperature setting.
Most importantly, teach them where and how to rest the iron between ironing to avoid accidental scorches… and remind them to switch the iron off when they’re done. As a backup, the majority of modern irons available today have an auto shut-off feature which powers down the iron after a period of inactivity.
6. Iron on Transfers
The steam iron does not need to be limited to the laundry, it’s also a fun tool in the crafts arena. Iron on transfers, family name banners, and melting crayons with wax paper are creative options that open up to older children when they know how to safely manage a hot iron.
7. Laundry Basket Games
If you’re desperate to get the ironing done with an uncooperative moppet, then the laundry basket may just serve as the perfect playpen, boat, cave… or whatever they want it to be. It’s preferable if your little one is clean, but simply, let the un-ironed laundry become their playground. If nothing else, it will be a great photo opportunity.
In our book, if children are entertained, allowing you the time to do the ironing at all, that’s helpful enough. Don’t feel despondent if you can’t get your child to cooperate with an actual ironing related task. Some days, it’s okay to just let the ironing wait..
Ironing is a begrudged chore because it takes long and it’s generally put-off to the last minute. It’s even more frustrating if you only get to tackle it at the end of the day when the kids are in bed… and you could be taking a well deserved time-out.
If you have roped your kids into the fun, keep a watchful eye. Most ironing related injuries in children are caused by grabbing the hot soleplate and pulling the ironing cord, causing the iron to topple. As long as the appliance is supervised or out of reach, it won’t cause any harm.
Integrating the ironing into your family’s routine will help it get done faster. Even if your toddler isn’t actually helping to reduce your ironing time, but instead is engaged with an aligning activity, your multi-tasking genius will eventually earn you some free time.
More ways kids can learn about contributing around the home: