Teach Young Children Organizational Skills
As parents we sometimes assume that some life skills are absorbed just because we model them and the children are living in the home. And sometimes that worked but not as well as if we actually taught them these skills. After all, we taught them how to brush their teeth and wash their hands. We didn’t expect them to know how to do this just because they observed us.
So what are some of the organizational skills you can teach young children?
Break large projects down into smaller easier parts. Don’t tell children, “Clean your room.” Instead tell them, “Pick up your dirty clothes and put them in the hamper.” Then when that task is complete, “Put away your clean clothes.” And then, “Put your books on the shelf.”
Sorting. Younger children will do a broader sort than older children. A sort category for younger children might be putting all the legos into one tub. Older children will probably sort their legos into finer categories. Younger children might sort all dirty clothes into one hamper while older children might separate whites from colored clothes or heavy duty wear from delicates.
Culling. When a toy has become broken or is no longer used or loved, teach the children that it is time to let that item go. Don’t do it without the children being part of the process. Explain that they are no longer using something so it should either be thrown away if no one else would want it or given away if another child will enjoy it. The same goes for clothes, books, or any other item the child owns. Do be sensitive though that some items may have sentimental value. If that is the case, start a memory box with them.
Everything has a place. Every item the child owns should have a place for it to go when it is not being used. Because you want the child to put his own things away, make the designated places easy to access. Keeping fewer items makes it easier to put things away.
Reward yourself for a completed project. These rewards do not have to be big. It could be a story read to them or some phone time (to brag) with Grandma. It could be a sticker on a chart. Just do some little thing to show completion and satisfaction of a job well done.
Let me end with some words of caution. You are teaching these skills. It is an ongoing lesson. Do not expect perfection. If the child puts his clothes in the bin and some hang out a bit, praise him for putting the clothes away. Do not tuck that article of clothing back in the bin. If the bed is made but not straight, do not straighten the covers. If the box of legos is put on the shelf crooked, do not straighten the box. If you correct what he has done while he is learning these skills, he will feel that his efforts have not been good enough.
Jonda S. Beattie Professional Organizer