The Montessori Practical Life curriculum is full of activities that prepare the child to independently do laundry. These are easily implemented in both the home and at school.
Activities for Folding and Rolling
A fundamental part of the ground rules in the Montessori classroom is rolling up a work rug. Children use their "little fingers" to tightly roll up a rug when they are finished. Rolling practice can continue with a basket of socks or by rolling napkins and putting them into a napkin ring.
Aprons and towels are used regularly in the Montessori classroom. Children are expected to fold them after using them. This is practice for folding clothing.
Practical Life Pouring Exercises
One of the first activities presented in the Montessori Practical Life curriculum is pouring. Children start with pouring dry media, such as beans and beads, then move on to pouring liquids. Containers are the right size to fit into the child's hand, to ensure success. Initial containers also have handles for better control. Eventually the child tries to use larger, more realistic pouring vessels.
When doing laundry, children have to pour either dry powder or liquid detergent into a cup, then pour it into the washing machine.
Life Activities for the Pincer Grasp
Children begin to exercise their finger muscles for the pincer grasp with initial hand transfer activities in the Montessori Practical Life area. Using just their fingers, they move items from one bowl to another. Objects begin large, such as manicotti shells or large pom poms. Gradually, the items get smaller, and placement of objects becomes more precise, until the child is putting straight pins into a strainer.
Add tools to the transfer process for even more finger exercises. The child can use tongs, and eventually tweezers, to transfer those items in the hand transfer activities.
The stronger the finger muscles become, the easier it will be for the child to use clothespins. Practice using clothespins by putting clothespins along the edge of a basket or a bowl. Eventually the child can move on to putting actual clothes onto a clothesline. Start with something small like socks, then move on to larger items.
Life Activities for Squeezing
Squeezing out water begins with simple squeezing a sponge in a single bowl of water. Eventually the child begins to transfer water from one bowl to another, using a sponge. Larger sponges and bowls eventually become smaller for more precision. Extra practice comes when the child is using a sponge to clean tables and chairs in the classroom.
The ability to squeeze out a sponge, without making a mess, leads to being able to wring out a towel or piece of clothing when hand washing laundry.
Life Activities for Washing Clothes
Traditional Montessori Practical Life has children hand wash classroom laundry, such as hand towels. To do this, pour water into a sink, large bin or bucket. Either add gentle laundry soap to the water, or rub a bar of mild soap (such as Ivory soap) on the wet item. Scrub the towel along a washboard for a couple of minutes, until it is clean. Rinse it in cold, clean water and wring out the water. Hang it on the drying rack.
The next day, when it is dry, the towel needs to be folded and put away. Some classrooms have the child iron the towel, using a real iron (and adult supervision) prior to putting it away.
Some facilities are equipped with an actual washing machine and dryer for classroom laundry. Teachers can have children assist by collecting dirty laundry and putting it into the machine. They can then help measure the detergent and/or fabric softener. Teachers can also teach them how to turn the knobs and push the necessary buttons.
When the cycle is finished, a child can load the wet laundry into the dryer and start it. Dry clothes can then be folded and put away.