How to Help Kids Get Organized
“I lost my homework! I did it though… really I did.”
“Tomorrow is spirit day and I can’t find my school shirt.”
“My project is due tomorrow and I haven’t even gotten started.”
Sound familiar? The bane of every parent and teacher’s existence is helping kids develop organizational skills. Parents, educators and school counselors can directly impact children’s success in school and ultimately in life, by spending time teaching organizational skills. Not only does this teach some useful skills but it directly impacts the brain by establishing good habits. Like many social skills though, we often fail to specifically teach kids what to do. Instead we give it a one shot mini-lecture and then feel it should be obvious.
Doesn’t everyone know that you shouldn’t wait until the last minute to start a project?
How many times have you told your students to put their homework in their homework folder as soon as it is completed?
However, even as adults we often don’t model the skills that we think children should master. Here is a technique to help children (as well as ourselves) create organized lives that ultimately and paradoxically create lives of more freedom and joy:
Create bookends around your day
Begin your day with a daily focus-set your priorities for the day including a time frame for each. This doesn’t mean on the way out the door you hurriedly remind your child that you will be picking them up early today for that dentist appointment. Instead you set aside a specific time each morning to review what is on tap for the day. It doesn’t have to be lengthy but a checklist could be helpful. Include things like: special activities, homework, encouragement for upcoming tasks and plans for after school. As you review the calendar it might sound something like this:
Okay John, today is Tuesday so that means you take your tennis shoes for PE. Do you have your math homework in your backpack? Remember you have practice after school so we will go straight there. You got a change of clothes? Great! Have I forgotten anything? Okay, do your best on that math test, I know you really studied hard. Make it a great day!
Okay class, today is Tuesday and here are the highlights of our day:
We have PE first then we will visit the library. Make sure you have any books that you need to return on your desktop.
Next we will have a math test
After lunch we will go straight outside for recess and then come in for reading groups followed by health and social studies. Any questions?
End your day with a review and preparation for the next day. List things that are incomplete. Organize and clean up your work area so that you begin fresh. Review your calendar and prepare any items that you need for the next day so you can get off to a great start. As you review the calendar or an agenda it might sound like this:
Okay John, before you go to bed let’s review for tomorrow. You’ve got your clothes out for tomorrow, right? It’s going to be cold so plan to wear your jacket. Is your homework in your book bag? Did you make your lunch or are you buying lunch tomorrow at school?
Okay class, has everyone copied your homework in your agenda? Do you have your math book so you can do your homework? Be sure to study your review sheet for your health test tomorrow. Tomorrow is PE so wear tennis shoes.
Notice that you are training students in how to plan for their day but this requires some organization on your part as well! This is not meant to be a lengthy process that takes more than a few minutes. Use visuals to help in tracking such as a calendar, an agenda, checklists etc. Once you have established the habit, you may not even have to review each of the different parts but simply ask if they have completed their preparation for the next day. Best wishes for an organized new year.
School Counselor Resource
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Being Organized
It’s time to catch the school bus and Wyatt can’t find anything. Where is his backpack? his lunch money? Wyatt is about to learn a valuable lesson about the importance of being organized and the benefits of planning ahead. This adorable story offers simple helpful ideas that kids and parents can use to make life less stressful and more fun.