Organizing With Your Kids
During an organizing session with an 11 year old and a 14 year old, we went through their closets and organized their rooms. Both were excited to have one on one attention from an adult who wasn’t there mom or dad. They listened well, make great decisions and at the end of the day we had a hallway lined with about 5-6 black garbage bags for charity. When I followed up with the family they were happy to report that the kids enjoyed their new organized space and the organizing has set a good mindset and focus for the family. They see organization and value organization.
I know in this instance I was working with a preteen and teen but I think organizing starts earlier than that. When a child can make decisions and understand the organizing process, they can experience a session with an organizer. At an even earlier age mom and dad can start modeling organization and teach their kids to see the importance and value organization. Make organizing a priority in your home by taking time to teach them and instill in them good organizing habits. They will mimic and organize the way you do because that’s all they see and learn in your home. If you value being organized and on time, they will as well.
When I speak to groups of moms with preschool or elementary age children, I always ask, What is the point? Why organize toys? Most are quick to answer. They know why.
- It teaches responsibility.
- It teaches them to value their toys and care for their toys. If they constantly loose and break toys they are not valuing the time and energy mom and dad spent on that toy.
- It teaches them boundaries. They don’t rule the roost. They can’t spread out throughout the entire house.
- It teaches them the organizing process. To sort, put back, throw away, etc.
All of these are good reasons, but for most moms it still feels like an unending struggle. You can organize the toys, but by the end of the day it will all be undone. If you think about it, it’s the same with adults. You can start your work day with a clean desk but by the end of the day paper has crept in and taken over.
Here are five tips to make that struggle a little easier. Don’t give up. Keep up the good work.
5 Ways to Teach Kids Organization Skills
1. Daily clean up toys with the kids. Notice the word DAILY. If this is done daily, it’s manageable. Walk through each room if toys have landed all over the house and make a game out of it. Hunt for the misplaced toys. Return them all back in the bins and on the shelves they came from. As your kids grow they will be able to play this game on their own and even a sitter or grandma and grandpa can play the game with them if mom and dad are on date. Designate a specific time to do this each and every day. Kids need routine and they’ll quickly adapt.
Absolutely don’t pick up after them. By 15-18 months most tots can walk and understand to hold mom’s hand and search for toys. I know it takes more time to do this with them but this isn’t about saving time. This is about teaching your kids organization and teaching them to help mom and dad.
2. Be intentional with toys. Keep special or delicate toys that need to be supervised up high - Play Doh, paint, Legos etc. Storing games and puzzles out of reach from little hands is also a good idea. This will prevent them from dumping them and mixing up pieces. Again, this is more work (for them to ask you for a toy) but in the end it will pay off.
3. Store Toys Logically. Storing toys in a deep large toy box isn’t conducive for kids. Things break at the bottom and kids don’t always take time to dig through two feet deep of toys. Toys at the very bottom never get played with because they’re forgotten. Storing small pieces and sets in containers on shelves or in a closet are always helpful. And large items work well just lined up on shelves. Always label whether it is with words or pictures. And be realistic. Toys are going to get intermixed. They won’t be perfect. That’s okay. Do your best. Have a system and strive for 80% or 90% of toys in the right container or bucket.
4. Donate toys on a regular basis. Before their birthday and Christmas go through toys. Whether or not your kids help make those decisions is a good question. It’s your decision really. I know it can slow down the process but try to get them involved even if it’s just on a few items. It helps if you keep the decision making positive. Ask them for instance- which three dolls are your favorites? (If they have five let’s say) The negative way to ask that question would be- which ones do you want to get rid of?
If you start early in their life, your kids can get very good at helping you donate or pitch toys because they are used to mom going through their toys with them. If your kids receive toys more often than their birthday or Christmas, donate a toy for every new toy that comes in. If you do this each and every time, at least the toys aren’t growing. They will stay the same amount.
5. Integrate organization to your daily family routines. The following are small examples to instill organization and responsibility in your children.
- make their beds before school
- put their laundry in a hamper
- clear their own plate from the table or set the table
- put their clean clothes away
- put their bikes away
-empty their backpack each day