Throughout my years in a first grade classroom, it was always a challenge to keep my students organized. Kids are very impulsive and don’t spend much time thinking ahead. They would prefer to shove their project into their backpack and toss their snack wrapper in the nearest bin (usually the recycling bin, ugh).
If I was seeing these issues at school, I am positive parents are seeing them at home.
Luckily I am an extremely organized person and was known to have a neat and highly organized classroom as well.
Here are some tricks I have learned…
Kids learn best from what they see you do. If they see you shoving papers into your desk or not tending to a messy family room, they will follow suite. Show your child the importance and value of keeping an organized home. Try your best to keep things tidy, clean dishes promptly, put items back after using them, and most importantly show your child that there’s a spot for everything. Say out loud how calm and happy it makes you to be organized and how much easier it makes your life.
2. Responsibility, Consistency, Independence
Okay, this is actual three things, but they are all connected. Many of the students in my class who most greatly struggled with organization did so because of a lack of independence. Their parents did everything for them. I would have kids come in and say they didn’t have their homework because their mom didn’t pack their folder! What?! I always responded that their mom wasn’t in my class. If you always do every task for your child, he will never learn to do it himself and will assume that it’s not his responsibility. Be consistent with the responsibilities you task your child with. Perhaps she needs to keep her room clean, pack her backpack and clean up minor spills all on her own. Try not to rush in and help as long as she is safe. If she forgot to pack her homework, don’t bring it to school. Let her take responsibility and learn from the misstep. Over time, she will understand the importance of being organized and this will fuel her to follow through.
Routines are incredibly helpful for kids in general. They crave structure and predictability. Kids are more likely to be organized if they have predictable and consistent routines. For example, to keep homework organized, you can establish a homework routine. When your child gets home, he takes out his homework folder and puts it on the kitchen table. After a snack, he sits at the table, completes his homework, puts it back into his folder and then puts his folder into his backpack. Without that routine, the backpack, folder, and homework could end up in three different places. Create structured routines for a variety of tasks such as homework, getting ready for school, playtime, dinner, bedtime, etc. Keep consistent and focus on independence.
4. The Two Minute Rule
This is actually very helpful for adult organization too. If a task takes two minutes or less, just do it right then and there. Imagine it’s the end of a long day, everyone’s tired, but there’s toys left on the floor. It would be very easy to leave them for tomorrow and go off to sleep instead. Eventually that becomes a pattern and suddenly everything is a disorganized mess. It would probably take no more than two minutes to toss those toys into their bins (see below) and then you once again highlight the importance of being organized. For young kids, you might have to spend some time teaching them what two minutes feels like, or invest in a fun timer!
We can’t expect our kids to be organized without storage! For home organization, make sure everything has a place. Does your child have a place to store toys, shoes, books, papers from school, backpacks, pencils, art supplies, etc.? If there is a designated storage spot, then there is a responsibility and expectation that those items will make it in there. Target has many adorable and affordable storage solutions!
6. Folders and Binders
If your child is having a hard time remaining organized at school, you will want to take a similar approach to the home organization. Instead of bookshelves and bins, think folders and binders. Typically students receive a supply list, but if you’re noticing organization difficulties, you will want to provide more tools. Again, make sure there is a place for everything. Does your child have a folder or binder for each school subject, a pencil case, a lunchbox, a homework folder? Does she need extra labels to tell her which side of the folder is take home and which side is return? Identify the specific organizational issue and find a tool to combat it. Your child will have a much easier time focusing on learning once he is adequately organized.
Checklists are often a last resort and are reserved for children who are still having a hard time keeping organized. You could have a checklist for anything. Often in the classroom we would laminate and tape a checklist to certain students’ tables to help them keep organized. They could go through the list every morning to make sure they turned in their homework, put their folder in the bin, hung up their backpack and started their morning work. You could use bedtime checklists, homework checklists, or playtime checklists. Doing this transfers the responsibility onto your child. You are not abandoning her by just not helping. You create the list with her and encourage her to check it before she moves on to her next activity. For those youngsters who cannot yet read, picture checklists are readily available and infinitely helpful!
Hopefully these tips will help you to guide your child on a path to organization! Let me know in the comments of other useful organization tips for kids!