Misplaced clothing, messy bedrooms, tripping over toys, forgotten homework books, and other scary surprises in backpacks frustrate parents. The irony is that, although the child is disorganized, you could be helping it along. There is a difference between being the child’s organizational reminder and implementing organizational strategies.
When a parent keeps on telling the child what to do, the parent becomes the external reminder. The responsibility isn’t shifted to the child. The child’s brain doesn’t need to create reminders because the parent is reminding him to, “Wash your hands,” “Brush your teeth,” “Take your jacket.”
Reminders cancel the need to think about it yourself because you rely on the reminder.
How do you help your children become organized if constantly reminding them isn’t the solution? Implement organizational strategies that teach the child to become responsible. Here are five tips on how to help your children become organized.
Implement Daily Routines with Rewards
Create a checklist schedule with a reward system. It must be visual and easy for the child to see. Divide the day into routines: morning routine, getting backpack ready for school routine, afternoon sports and activities routine, homework routine, and bedtime routine.
Checklists teach the child to do things in sequential order.
Lists can divide each routine into smaller itemized tasks. Those things you always need to remind your child to do. The lists make the child the responsible party. It teaches the child to follow instructions. It also gives the child a sense of accomplishment when ticking off tasks completed.
For the bigger picture use calendars for family events and celebrations. Let the children plot the birthdays, school concerts, family days, and holidays on the calendar. You can even use a countdown system to important dates.
People respond better to positive input than negative feedback. Add a point system to the checklist with a specific reward if certain criteria are met. Help the children to work together as a team by adding an extra reward if all the children completed all routines over a certain time.
Time Management with Schedules
Managing time often goes together with schedules and routines. Children have the knack to be late. No matter how early you wake them up for school, it is always a last-minute rush. Sometimes the parent is late for work because of dawdling children.
Teach the children time management with a time estimation strategy. Allow them to schedule a specific routine by estimating the time each task would take. Then let them follow their schedule. After they’ve followed their schedule for a while, have a feedback conversation comparing how much time they allocated for a task with the time it took to complete. Let them adjust the schedule and follow the new schedule for a week. Repeat the exercise until they have a realistic schedule.
Count Time Backwards
Another strategy for time management is to teach the children to count time backwards. The objective is for the child to understand that each task in a routine takes time and affects the outcome of being on time or late.
Start at the end and work backwards. For example, to be on time for the birthday party, you need to leave home at 3 pm. It takes 10 minutes to drive to your friend’s house, which means you need to be siting in the car at 2:50 pm. Add few minutes for the unexpected that could happen like traffic. Before you can get into the car, you need to brush your teeth (5 minutes), put on your shoes and jacket (5 minutes), and so forth.
By counting time backwards, the child will understand the dominoes effect of not starting on time with the first task will make him late for the party.
Organizing Strategy for Homework
Good organizational skills will help children remember homework items, assignments, and how to complete projects on time.
At The Front Door
Allocate a specific place or container at the front door for the backpack and other items that the children should take to school. All school items are placed into the container. No more forgetting school books or searching for homework projects.
The children should have a specific space or room for studying and doing homework. In this room, all the stationary and items required for homework should be readily available. There should be enough space for books and notebooks.
Part of the homework routine is to be at this homework space for a certain time each day. If there’s no homework, the child can read, review work, or do other educational fun activities.
Color Coding and Binders
Use color coding and binders to organize subjects and homework. Give each subject color and mark the writing tools, notebooks and book covers in the same color. Use the binders to organize letters to parents, homework assignments, and child’s notes.
Plan, Prepare, and Complete Projects
Teach the child to plan, prepare and complete school projects in five steps.
- Let the child add the due date of the project on the family calendar.
- Then divide the project into milestones and smaller tasks.
- Having a checklist to tick off as the tasks are completed will motivate the child to complete and focus on the next step. Smaller tasks are easier to complete than staring at one large assignment that seems impossible to achieve.
- Then schedule the smaller tasks into the child’s routine.
- Evaluate the project progress regularly.
Begin, Middle, and End of Activities
To put away all the books, toys and clothes used that day, is a chore that most children (and adults), dislike. Teaching the child there is a sequence of every activity will reduce the cleaning up process.
This strategy involves understanding every activity has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The activity isn’t completed until the end. It doesn’t matter what kind of activity it is, whether it’s playing with a toy, reading a book or getting dressed after school.
It means that when you want to read a book, for example, the beginning involves choosing the book in the bookcase. The middle is the fun part of reading the book. The end, which is also part of the sequence, is to return the book to its place when you’ve finished reading.
The putting away of items has become part of the activity sequence. It’s no longer a separate chore everybody dislikes.
Toy Cleanup Organizing Strategies
Keeping toys neat and tidy is as challenging as keeping the garage, storeroom or hobby room tidy.
Assigning priorities to toys is one way of overcoming this challenge. Each toy is classified as a toy the child plays with daily, often, sometimes, seldom, and not anymore.
Create a comparison to tasks and chores. For example, toys played with daily are as important as daily routines like eating meals and brushing teeth. It helps the child to organize the toys. It also gives the child an understanding of priorities and routines.
Use the toys that the child seldom plays with or not any more to teach the child the giving principle by donating these toys. The toys are packed away according to the priority. The higher the priority, the easier the accessibility to the toy.
Another strategy is to allocate containers or shelves for types of toys. All the soldiers go together; the same with cars, or STEM boxes or Lego and building blocks.
Another method is to have containers that prioritize the toys. Have a container or box that holds the toys the child plays with all the time. It is easier to clean up by putting the toy away in the favorite toy box than finding its place on the shelfs. Neglected toys can then find a new home.
Replacing a new toy with an old toy teaches the child that sometimes space is limited. To organize the toys or clothes means replacing the new with the old.
Studies have shown that being organized creates healthy habits.
- People tend to eat healthier when working at an organized desk.
- Sleep better in an uncluttered room.
- Being organized decreases stress levels.
Be practical when implementing organizational strategies. If the children drop their backpacks at the front door when they come home, place a container at the front door not in their bedrooms for the backpacks and other school items. If it’s easier to throw favorite toys in a box than placing them back on a shelf, then use the box.
We discussed a few strategies, but there are many more. How do you help your children to live organized lives? What tips do you have to share with us?