If you’re a parent, you know too well the tantrums that ensue when your children lose their favorite books and toys. How can we provide peace of mind for our children and ourselves? Teaching your kids organization is a great start, and back-to-school is the perfect time to begin. By developing simple tasks now with your children’s capabilities in mind, you can build the foundation for a long, organized life.
We spoke with Annie Fox for her advice on engaging children in the process. She’s an internationally respected parenting expert and author of books including Teaching Kids to Be Good People, The Girls' Q&A Book on Friendship and the Middle School Confidential book and app series.
AHS: Children are able to accept responsibility for varying levels of organization starting as early as age 2. What are some tips you have for incorporating children into the organizational mix? Also, what do you feel are reasonable expectations for a child of 0-6 years old?
Annie: As soon as children can pick up an object and put it into a container, they can start sorting objects and putting things in their proper places. "Your books go here. You socks go here. Where do your blocks go?” Be silly. Put a shoe on your head and ask, “Is this where your shoe goes?" Making it fun is the key to getting young kids of all ages involved in organizing and taking responsibility for their own things. Put on music. Set a timer. “How much can we get done in 3 minutes? Ready? Set? Go!!”
AHS: What advice do you have for keeping areas around the house clean and organized, specifically bookshelves and reading nooks?
Annie: Humans have a way of accumulating lots of 'stuff’ and kids are no different. Giving kids their own space for their own things is a great way to help them develop a sense of control over their belongings. Whether it’s a low shelf or a colorful plastic crate with your child’s name on it (let him or her create a name sign, decorate it and hang it up) be clear and consistent about your expectations for their using their ‘space’. And always, give lots of praise.
AHS: For children with attention and learning issues, staying organized is particularly difficult. It can be even more difficult keeping children with ADHD or learning disabilities organized at school as well. What organization tips do you have for parents with kids who have learning disabilities?
Annie: To help children reach their potential, you need to know what they are capable of and help them build confidence as they move toward any goal, then, if and when they are ready… to stretch and move beyond. Kids with learning and attention challenges need clear directions, and lots of encouragement and praise. Your stress helps no one. So lighten up. With all kids (and with ourselves), we’re looking for progress, not perfection.
AHS: Any closet can become an organized place with drawers, shelves, baskets or bins. What are some other tips you have for making closet organization easy and effective?
Annie: I’m a big fan of seasonal rounds of “Let’s Empty the Closet.” Make a game of it. Enlist your kids and come to it with labeled boxes “Keep” “Toss” “Donate.” “Store Elsewhere” Sort through everything in the closet. Guaranteed, less stuff will go back in than came out.
AHS: Can you give a few tips to introducing organization and productivity into a child’s daily routine?
Annie: School mornings can be hectic. Not the way you and your kids want to start the day! Whatever can be done the night before do the night before! Make a checklist and use it. Get the kids involved in the process of making school lunches, getting their backpacks packed, clothes picked out before they go to sleep and you’ll have more fun and hugs getting out the door in the morning.
Nothing helps the family more than being organized for the school year ahead. So as you continue to tackle projects at home this summer, check out our 8 Tips for Smart Back-to-School Shopping to help you get ahead of the game.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR