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Hanging up the washing

Health and hygiene


Suitable for children: 
Mother hanging up washing while young daughter watches

The washing is done, the sun is shining and now it’s time to hang it out. Your child could help you do this.

Put the bucket of pegs and the basket of washing on the ground where your child can reach them. Ask your child to find different items of clothing. As they find each one see if they can work out how many pegs are needed to hang them on the line.

Can you find the spotty socks and the purple shorts? How many pegs will we need to hang them up?

Talk about the order you will hang up the washing. Do you have an order or do you work from the top of the basket to the bottom? Will you do all of the towels first and then the clothes? Or do you like to sort by colour?

Materials you will need

  • Pegs
  • Washing
  • Clothesline
  • Basket

Alternative tools

    • Clothes horse or indoor drying rack
    Skills this activity improves
    Why does this matter?

    When your child helps you to hang up the washing they are listening to instructions, using number and noticing attributes and patterns. When you ask them to find an article of clothing they are learning to sort by attribute like colour or function.

    Listening to and following instructions helps your child to develop mathematical language and to understand that language helps us to know what to do.

    What does this lead to?

    Sorting, grouping and classifying helps children to develop skills in noticing and describing what they see.

    By helping with hanging up the washing your child is learning to listen carefully to what is being said and to follow directions. As they listen and respond to what is said they are learning how to give directions and instructions to another person.

    Language to use
    • Line, peg, washing, washing basket
    • Socks, pants, jeans, jumpers, shirts, PJs
    • Wet, dry, damp
    • Outside, sunshine
    • Space, room, full
    • Down, across, next to
    Questions to use
    • How many socks can you find?
    • Do the legs of the jeans touch the ground?
    • Who has the smallest socks?
    • Are there more shirts or pants on the line?
    Useful tips
    1. You might also like to take a look at the activities Sorting the washing ready to wash and How big is that?
    2. The clothesline might be too high for your child - try using a clothes horse.
    3. Younger children will need shorter instructions like ‘look for the red towel’.
    4. Remember to talk to your child in your home language.
    More ideas

    Make a picture chart of the clothing your child needs to find.

    Variation by age

    Three to five year olds

    • Read the story Washing Line by Jez Alborough.
    • Make you own clothesline of numbers on the fence. Try and work out which number goes first.
    • Make a measuring stick. Measure which piece of washing is closest to the ground and which is furthest away.
    • Set one line for each member of the family. See if you can peg only their clothes onto the line.

    Questions to ask

    • Who has the most washing?
    • Are the towels longer than the socks?
    • Are there more socks than shirts?
    • Why are there pairs of socks?

    Language to use

    • More, less, most, few, some, pair
    • Longer, shorter
    • Furthest, closest
    • Next to, along, beginning, end