Dish Duty: Tips for Teaching Kids about Dishwashing

Written by: Rheney Williams

Don't you love having "mommy's little helper" around, especially around dinnertime or when the kitchen's a wreck? I understand that's a loaded question, because although we adore our children and want to encourage them to lend a hand, sometimes their "help" merely creates more work for us in the long run!

But if you want to start your kids out on the right foot when it comes to assisting in the kitchen cleanup, there are definitely best practices in the dishwasher training department. For instance:

  • Load flat items like plates and sheet pans in the bottom and if you face all items in the same direction, you can really pack those plates in there! Plus, you ensure the jets can reach all angles of your cookware.
  • Likewise, you don't want to block the jets with large bowls or mugs – anything rounded, really – so place these on the top rack whenever possible.
  • The silverware caddy has a bunch of compartments for a reason: Not only does spreading out your silver allow you to clean more forks, knives and spoons at once, but it also ensures each piece of cutlery gets truly clean. There's nothing worse than a knife with peanut butter smears left on it or a fork with bits of rice stuck in between the tines!
  • Avoid placing too many similar utensils in the same compartment. For example, a couple of spoons is ok if you place them in together but facing the opposite direction (not spooning!) but you don't want all of the spoons together, all of the forks, etc. A better practice is alternating what type of cutlery you place in each compartment to make sure things are really sparkling after the cycle.
  • One way to cut down on the clutter is to teach your kids the proper way to load the dishwasher and then have them load their dishes after each meal rather than letting them pile up in the sink for you to deal with after 10 hours at work.
  • Although the dishwasher should be loaded in stages throughout the day, just run it once a day to conserve energy – both the dishwasher's and yours! After all, you just want to unload it once, right?

Here are a few more tips for maximizing those teachable moments in the kitchen:

Don't Teach When You're Tired. Even the most patient of parents can act impatiently and unintentionally discourage their children when they're tired, so it's best to leave these instructional sessions for when you're refreshed and not stressed.

Encourage and Praise as You Instruct. Be sure to praise your kids along the way, even if they can't seem to get it right: They will eventually. After all, how many times did it take them to learn how to tie their shoes? You wouldn't show them how to do that once and get annoyed if their motor skills couldn't keep up with your instructional pace, would you? The same thing goes for kitchen essentials like loading the dishwasher.

Be Consistent. In general, humans crave consistency, but this is especially true when we're talking about children. Although it's sometimes easier to follow along the "do as I say, not as I do" routine, that just creates confusion for kids and makes it difficult for them to be able to trust what you say is actually what you mean. Even if requires more energy, try your best to practice what you preach. Your kids (and their teachers, and friends, and ultimately their own spouses and children) will thank you for instilling that consistency in them!

What other dishwasher-loading or kitchen cleaning tips have you passed on to your kids?

Rheney Williams writes about homes, home appliances and home organization for Home Depot. Rheney enjoys providing tips to parents on how everyday activities around the house, such as loading the dishwasher, can be used as teaching aids for small kids. Home Depot's dishwasher page can be found on the Home Depot website.

Posted on June 27, 2014 at 11:04 AM