How to help children be organised

I love the school holidays, always have done. I like it for 2 reasons; firstly, it’s a break from the usual routine with my family and secondly, I have the pleasure to work with children in their homes to help them build skills to be organised.

Being organised is a skill we build. We are not like birds, who instinctively know how to build a nest. Organising is something we must learn.

While working with children I’ve tried and tested a few things. While I’m not a “one size fits all” organiser, I’ve found four things constantly stand out.

 I want to share them with you. They are:

“Go tidy up!”

Being told “Go tidy up! or Go clean your room!” can leave a child overwhelmed, with no place to start. This is especially true for those children who haven’t learnt organising skills or developed organising habits. If there is no designated space for items to be stored, it makes it even harder for the child to follow this instruction.

Give specific instructions

To avoid overwhelming children, we need to give specific instructions.
“Please put the Lego in the blue tub”
“Put your shoes in the shoe basket”
“Hang your jacket on the peg/hook”
As children do this, the task becomes a habit which can be built upon as new organising skills are learnt.
That may look something like this; “Hang up the towel and please put the clothes in the laundry basket,” Rather than “Go clean the bathroom!”

Keep it simple

Just like adults, children need simple organising solutions with no obstacles.
No lids. Children are happy to drop. So, take the lids off tubs, bins and laundry baskets so they can drop the item where it needs to go.
The obstacle of opening lids, draws and doors is usually one step too much for children beginning to learn. Instead of dealing with the obstacle, the item will be dropped where they are standing or where it was last used.

Give time to slow down and finish the loop

Time is always a juggling challenge with busy families. But children need time in the schedule to slow down and put items away.
Dropping an activity and rushing out the door or moving onto the next activity will result in chaos.
“We are leaving in 5 mins, please put the puzzle away” means when you come home the puzzle won’t be there to have to deal with.
Or “Put the colouring-in away before you play on the screen”
Allow them time in the schedule to finish their loop.

Children are great fun and we don’t want perfect organising to be a burden. Keep it simple, give clear specific instructions and allow them time to finish their loop. Their organising habits will support them and the family into the future.