We Can All Use A Little Organization
Deanna Macioce, MS, OTR/L
It seems no matter what, it is hard to keep children organized. As parents and teachers, we are always trying to remind them, or in some cases “nag” them about what needs to be done. This can be a stressful and tiring feat for both adult and child. Teaching children to be independent and organized is an important life skill that takes a lot of effort, but will last a lifetime. For children with any particular special needs, these skills become more difficult to teach. Therefore, taking the time and using a variety of strategies can lead to success.
With the school year fast approaching, we are going to look at some of the most common, successful strategies to help develop and bring more independence at home and school this Fall.
First and foremost, we cannot expect children to just one day acquire these skills. Many times children pick up habits from the examples they see in others, especially parents. As adults we need to help guide them, showing them ways that can help make these strategies turn into habits so that success can be achieved. In addition, be aware of the age and overall capability of your child.
Lists: Using picture checklists or to-do lists are extremely helpful. Starting at a young age to use a list for tasks such as dressing or chores (ie. pick up toys, put clothes in hamper, put stuffed animals on bed) can help children start to understand what is expected and what needs to be done. For younger children or those who have difficulty reading, picture lists can be used. As children become older, you can start having a written list. Using stickers to mark off completed tasks or dry erase boards to erase items once done can make the chore of lists more interesting.
When utilizing this strategy for school, placing the list on the inside of a planner or folder can help keep it in one place. Attaching a key ring system to your child’s book bag with laminated noted cards can be helpful for ongoing tasks. Marking the cards with titles such as, “Arriving at School”, “Gathering Assignments”, and “Packing Book bag” can help them by finding the note card needed and reading through the items to be completed, creating more independence.
In addition, having a last minute checklist at the door for a final look before walking out helps to grab anything that may have been forgotten. Working with your child’s teacher to find a spot in the classroom for a last minute checklist can help with any items that may be needed at home that evening.
Modeling with your own to do lists helps your child to see that everyone needs to use tools to keep them on track, as well as helps guide them on how to use them.
Routines: Routines help keep people on track and allows your child know what to expect. Often times we try to focus too much on developing a schedule for the routine, that it becomes too difficult to maintain. Routines are simply guides and can differ daily. However, keeping consistency for sleep and wake times, homework times, and meals can help children stay on track. And it goes without saying that getting plenty of sleep is key for all children.
Designated Spaces: It is always a great feeling that when looking for something you know right where to find it. That comes when you have a designated place for items. Using baskets or cubbies can help achieve this. For example, having a basket with all items for completing homework helps to alleviate the run around to find tools needed and keeps children focused to the task at hand. This strategy is also very successful for everyday items such as comb, brush, deodorant, and gum (ie. a morning basket).
In addition, having a designated space to complete homework is very beneficial. Keeping it organized and clean will help assist children stay focused. Spaces with no clutter or distraction from background noise such as television tend to work best.
Organizing closets and drawers, and even labeling them can help children participate and put away clean laundry, as well as make it easier for them to obtain clothes to get dressed.
In regards to school, some children have had success with having color coded folders and notebooks to help keep them organized from class to class.
Planner/Family Calendar: Household schedules can be hectic, especially during the change of seasons. Most parents will note that Spring and Fall are the two most hectic times of the year in regards to obligations. From school functions, sports and activities, to school projects, it seems as if there is no time to breath. Having a centralized family planning center will help all members know what is on the schedule. In addition, it is helpful for your child to have his or her own planner. One planner for home, school, and social obligations gives them one place to look. Checking the planner on a regular basis will help ensure that everything is correctly noted can alleviate any confusion your child may be having. It is recommended that you have a session, ideally on Sunday or Monday to plan out the week and discuss what will be happening. This can help with any anxieties, confusion, and keep your child on track.
Night Before Preparation: Although sometimes difficult, taking the time to prepare the night before can help lessen the morning mayhem. From laying out clothes, packing lunches, and making sure everything is packed in the book bag can make the morning checklist easier to work through. When this is done, your child can get up and get started on the morning routine, and the day starts off with less nagging.
Weekly Clean-up: Clutter makes it hard to stay focused and organized. Therefore, help your child weed through folders, planners, book bags, and even their bedroom weekly to help them stay organized. In addition, this is a good time to make sure that everything is in its designated space.
Reward System: As a parent, you know your child best. Therefore, knowing what helps motivate your child will determine if there is any reward system that will work for keeping them organized and on track. Whether it be extra time for a weekend outing or simply a special dinner, many of us work better and harder to reach a goal with a little inspiration.
Give it Time: It takes time for strategies to become habits. Make sure you give it a few weeks of a strong effort before you kick it to the curb. If you get off course for a day or two, hop back on and help your child find the path again. Helping your child develop these skills will help you stay organized, and help them become more independent individuals.
As we approach a new school year, now is the time to start some new habit building, or revisit ones from the past. You can expect to use all of the ideas listed above, but even picking one or two may start your school year off to an A+ beginning.