Help Your Kids Become More Organized

It’s Monday morning and after two days of lounging around complaining of nothing to do, your fourth grader suddenly remembers that she has a book report due that day. Of course it was assigned the previous week, and you are not surprised that she never mentioned it before. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and you can’t help but wonder what you can do to help your child become more organized.

Most children this age have problems being responsible and organized, especially when it comes to managing school work. Since these are not skills they are going to be learning at school, it is up to you to help them master it at home. Here are 6 simple practices that you can introduce to your children to help them become more organized in their work.

  1. A place for everything and everything in its place: The importance of keeping things in place can never be overemphasized. Luckily, this is one habit you can start your kids on at a very young age. Make sure that there is a designated place for all your kids’ belongings, and encourage them to keep things in place when they are not being used. This practice will save valuable time otherwise spent searching for lost items, and will also help kids be more responsible about their belongings.
  2. De-cluttering: When you bought that Shrek bag for your child, you had no idea it could hold so much! Notices that were meant to be signed five months ago, test papers from the previous term, lost erasers and a pretzel covered in lead – how long has it been since your child last cleaned up his backpack?! Instead of waiting for the next time a worksheet magically disappears before demanding that the process be repeated, encourage your child to empty and reorganize the contents of his backpack every week. As with the rest of his belongings, have a designated section for notebooks, stationery and personal items, worksheets to be turned in and notices to be signed.
  3. Staying with one activity until it is done completely: Kids have short attention spans, and it is quite common to see them abandon one activity half-way through in favor of another. Once kids get to school, this restlessness often carries over into the way they do their assignments and projects. Your child may find it very tempting to call a friend for a chat while fifteen minutes into the assignment on volcanoes.  It is important not to allow multi-tasking because it can sway the child away from his or her main task. Explain to them that once they begin a task, they cannot start anything else until they are completely done with it. While short, five minute breaks are acceptable in-between long stretches of work, getting up to watch a program in-between is not. Some kids tend to work dedicatedly on their assignments until the very last bit, and then leave the conclusion for later on. This may seem okay to you as a parent, but the truth is that it takes longer to finish the same thing when it is postponed for later. Encourage your child to spend an extra fifteen minutes in wrapping up her work before she moves on to something else. This includes checking her work for mistakes and putting it in her bag for the next day.
  4. Planning ahead: Taking time to plan ahead ensures that important details are not forgotten in the last minute. Help your kids plan ahead for all important activities. Big assignments can be broken down into smaller tasks, each with their own deadlines. Shopping lists are a great idea for when they are buying supplies for their projects. Even stressful every day activities like getting ready for school in the morning becomes a lot easier when you have planned ahead for it. Have your kids pack their bags and lay out their clothes the night before, including their footwear and accessories. You may want to help them with their planning the first few times, but limit your role to reminding them to plan ahead as they get more familiar with the thought process involved.
  5. Using reminders: No matter how organized your kids are with their belongings or how focused they are while working on their tasks, you may still find them forgetting about permission slips or important deadlines. Teach your kids that the secret to remembering all the things they have to do is not excellent memory – it is excellent note-taking! Buy your child a small notebook in which he or she can note down his or her tasks for every day as soon as they are assigned. At the end of the day, the completed items are crossed off and the others are carried over into the next day’s list.
  6. Rewarding good work: As your child works towards getting more organized, he or she definitely deserves rewards along the way. Motivate younger children with lots of praise and appreciation for their efforts. An entire week without a single toy out of place may call for a bigger reward – buy your child an ice cream or plan a special activity together in recognition of his or her good work. Work with older children to come up with a reward system for their efforts in becoming more organized. Homework finished before 5pm on a weekday can merit an extra hour of TV on Saturday. Every hour of uninterrupted study/work can merit 15 cents towards the action figure set he’s saving for.

Needless to say, all your efforts at helping your child become more organized will come to naught if you are untidy and disorganized with your own life. That isn’t to say that you must wait until you master these steps before you attempt to teach them to your children. While it is up to you to take the lead and set a good example for your children to follow, you can always make it a family effort and remind each other to follow these steps in case one of you forgets.

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