When you’re a busy parent, cleaning up after your children and organizing their various possessions can become tedious over time. Even more tedious is having to try to keep track of everything from toys and sports equipment to homework and clothing items.
No one likes the last-minute scramble to find a missing shoe or schoolbook before it’s time to get on the bus, or digging through piles of clothing to find the right jersey before a weekend travel soccer game.
You can help give yourself back some time and relieve everyday stress by teaching your children the value of organization. Here are five tips to help ensure they understand how to be responsible for their own belongings.
1. Make the process as simple as possible
The easier it is to be responsible for their belongings, the more likely young children are to adhere to the task at hand. Start by designating specific spots to hang backpacks, keep homework, separate dirty clothes from clean, store sports gear, organize books and toys, place musical instruments so they do not get broken, and more.
2. Make this a fun chore
Once you have designated where things are supposed to go, the next stage is ensuring your children understand the system. Picture-code your organization system for easy reference, putting images of the items that go in each space on each element to ensure children can match toys to the correct bin, sports gear to the right shelf, and so on.
Color coding also works, ensuring your child’s school items go in a red cubby, toys get put in a green drawer, and books go back on the blue shelf, for example.
3. Check progress regularly
It may take a few reminders to get your kids going on the path to organization, so checking in can keep your family’s progress on track. Be careful not to nag or get frustrated with your children, but rather to calmly and kindly remind them when it’s time to put things back where they go.
Keep an eye out for common breakdowns in the process to see if there might be things you need to adjust in the system to make it more intuitive, like a bench for a backpack and school work rather than a hook.
4. Reward when children organize!
Your little ones like to make you proud, and making sure they know they’re doing the right thing will get them excited about continuing their organization efforts. Use a bulletin board with check marks or stickers to indicate you know when they have reached milestones, like putting their toys back every day for a week.
Make rewards small exciting, too, like getting to choose what’s for dinner one night, or a trip to a favorite park.
5. Increase responsibility as they age
Children have more responsibilities as they get older, and that means more items to keep track of. Add additional tasks as these elements arise, and continue to reward good behavior over time. This will encourage accountability for years to come.