Maybe Mary Poppins was onto something…”In every job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and *snap!* the job’s a game!”

Chores don’t have to be brainless drudgery, and they’re definitely NOT brainless activities. In fact, many chores such as caring for clothing can become practical exercises for developing analytical skills.

Here are some ideas that you might consider employing around your house.


Sorting Laundry

Even very young children can be taught to sort their clothes according to color–whites and light clothes in one bin, colored clothing in another, jeans here, towels there. When it’s appropriate, you can begin to teach them WHY we sort the clothes as we do. Light, delicate fabrics need a different kind of care than sturdy denims or colors that might fade. Towels create lint. Some fabrics can’t be washed at all, but must be dry cleaned instead. Sorting skills go a step further when we learn to read labels…or when we learn by making mistakes. (Check the pockets!)

As elementary as this activity sounds, chores such as sorting laundry begin to build the character traits competency and responsibility that develop the confidence children need to become independent. Sorting also gives even very young children practice deciding which things are alike, which are different, which differences are important, and why.

A Folding Party

We’ve discussed in previous posts that there can be many ways to sort the same set of items. We use different criteria for different reasons. Before we wash clothing it’s important to sort items depending on their washing requirements. Once they’re clean, we sort them depending on the place where they’re stored.

About the time my children were in 3rd grade, we began having “folding parties” on Friday evenings. I liked to do laundry on Fridays so everything would be clean and ready for a fun weekend. My husband also worked late on Fridays, so we might as well, right? But that didn’t mean we couldn’t start the fun a little early. I got everything clean while the children did their homeschool seat work. While supper cooked we sorted the clothes into baskets depending on whom the items belonged to. Then we’d serve up the pizza, pop in a movie, and each of us would fold the clothes in his or her basket as we watched. It wasn’t long before each child began separating their own clothes into sub-sets, not only matching socks together but also realizing that it’s often easier to fold like items in series and then match outfits to make dressing easier. (They only complained once. When I pointed out that I had THREE baskets–mine, their dad’s, and the towels–they went back to munching and worked cheerfully.)

This weekly ritual went a long way toward shaping good attitudes about doing the things that must be done, and developing analytical skills became a matter of habit. 🙂

Organizing the Closet

Older children can be put in charge of organizing their own closets. Taking into account everything from toys to shoes, clothing, and accessories let them devise a plan for storing everything neatly. This is a great life skill! That old adage, “a place for everything and everything in it’s place,” only works if everything HAS an assigned place! As your child analyzes not only the best method of sorting their belongings and also analyzes the storage space they have available, they will intuitively begin to understand that we may have great flexibility in some areas while our options are rather fixed in other regards. “Working with what you’ve got” is another important life skill!

Planning a Wardrobe

Students nearing independence can learn to analyze what they have and compare that with what they need. Once their closet is organized, for example, it will be easy to see what clothing they have that’s appropriate for warm weather or cold weather, for causal wear or for going out. (They may even “rediscover” some clothes they forgot they had!)

Which clothes can be repaired or updated? Which should be passed on? Should they be resold or donated? Where? Can they put existing components together in new ways to get a new look? If they need to acquire new items, what are their options?


By this point they are bridging from simple sorting to evaluation and creating–two other higher-level thinking skills–as they analyze their options. Who knew that simple chores like laundry could build brain power?!