Ducks 'n a Row: Getting Children Organized-Tips for Starting Them Off Young

13 April 2012

Getting Children Organized-Tips for Starting Them Off Young

Guest Post by Marlene Devine of So Squared Away

Some people are more organized than others, starting practically from birth. Others struggle with it. All is not lost if one is not born with the organizing gene. Organizing can indeed be a learned behavior. How can you give your children the best chance at being organized adults? Start them off young. Like all life lessons, big and small, kids pick up on their surroundings and take some of their habits from their environment. Some may be more effective for you than others, but the following tips can assist in teaching your children good organization habits.

Lead by example. The easiest way to get children organized and keep them that way is to lead by example. When children see you using systems to organize your papers, your closets, or your life, it will become an ingrained part of their lives. I can't guarantee that the more organized your home is, the more organized your children will be, but it also seems unlikely that your child will find organization out of chaos, unless of course he/she is one of those children I mentioned earlier with innate organization skills. In that case, you don't need this article.

Incorporate organization into their lives. Once you have a system for something, talk through it with your children. Not a formal sit-down discussion, of course. It's more of a background commentary as you talk to your children while you go about your day. State that you're putting the pens away in the drawer, or the snacks on the snack shelf, or the laundry in the drawer where it belongs. Announcing that you're putting something back in its place (and that it indeed has a place) makes a big difference in empowering children to emulate your behavior. 

Of course this applies to their toys as well. When cleaning up their toys, be specific about what you're doing. "I'm going to put the blocks in the bin with your other blocks. Let's put the ball away with all of the other ones."

Give them ownership. Involve them in the process of setting up their play spaces and have them clean up with you. It won't work perfectly at the beginning, but young children love to make a game of clean up. Label their storage spaces and containers with pictures (such as Lego blocks, stuffed animals, trucks, balls, and cars) so they can tell where items belong, then ask them to find the picture that matches and put the toy there.

Make donations part of your routine. For as far back as my children can remember, we've donated items regularly. It's just part of our family's routine. I tend to schedule donation pickups at my house about every other month, and as the date approaches, we all pull unwanted clothing items into bags. Sometimes we're actually doing this the night before the scheduled pickup..."just in time" donating! 

For toys, we do this a little less often. At a minimum, we have always purged the toys before gift-receiving holidays. The kids essentially make room for incoming toys. This can be a little challenging for young children at the beginning, so have them put toys in a "maybe" box. This box MAY be donated, but not yet. It allows them time to go back to the toys before they're gone forever. Very rarely has anything ever been taken out of the "maybe" box. It's important to stress the benefits in very simple terms, such as the fact that other boys and girls who don't have great toys to play with will be very happy to play with these. 

I'll leave the detailed discussions of generosity to you, but you get the idea. If they resist, don't fight it, it shouldn't be viewed as punishment. Keep trying and as they get older I think you'll find it gets much easier until it's just the norm.

One of the easiest ways to stay organized is to not let the situation get out of control in the first place. Having your children involved from the beginning and getting accustomed to a habit of regularly donating their unwanted things will pay big dividends in their organized adult life.

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Previously on Ducks 'n a Row (and other places)
Photo credits:
Toys on carpet from Pixabay
Teddy Bears by Dan on Freedigital Photos

Author Credit: Marlene Devine is the owner of So Squared Away, a professional organizing company dedicated to helping people reclaim their spaces, "find" time, and live a more organized life. So Squared Away will work with you to declutter your spaces and set up organizational systems that work for you.

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