If you identify with the Phyllis Diller quote that, “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.” then you already know how important it is to teach children good organization habits to help them grow into healthy well-adjusted adults with excellent executive functioning skills – and to help you maintain your sanity! The following routines and tips will help you do just that.
Model making your own bed as well as your children’s’ until they are able to do it independently. You can start with them just helping you place their stuffed animal(s) back on the bed after you have made it up and progress to having them help you fluff pillows, fold blankets, etc. Teach them to fold their pajamas as best they can (or put them in the hamper if they need washing) and help them remember to put toothpaste, toothbrushes, hair conditioners, hairbrushes, etc. back in their designated spots after use – including hanging up the bathroom hand towel!
Decluttering & Organizing Routines
In play areas, set kids up for success by sorting and containerizing their toys by type (let them help with this and make it a fun teaching experience) then add labels to the containers. Labeling with both pictures and words is great for language development and can be a clever way to teach new vocabulary for children learning a first or second language as well. In kid’s rooms, designate homes for their toys, arts and craft materials, books, and clothes. Keep a donation bin in their closet and encourage them to use it to declutter too-small clothes and shoes along with outgrown books and toys. Assign library books a separate spot from books your children own.
Tidying & Clean Up Routines
It is very easy for children to get caught up in their play and take out more than they are able to put away. This will happen on occasion and that’s okay, but as a general rule it is best to have kids choose one to three categories of toys (ie. trains and Barbies or a card game and two board games) and then encourage them to put those toys/games away before pulling out more. Establish boundaries around which toys can be brought and/or stay outside, and which need to make it inside by the end of the day. This teaches children responsibility, care, and respect for their belongings – as well as the environment.
After School/Outing Routine
Empty diaper bags and backpacks as soon as children get home from school, field trips, or other outings. Have them help you put their dirty lunch dishes in the sink (or in the dishwasher, if they are old enough) and toss any trash or perishable food left over from lunch or snack time. This habit is a lifesaver when it comes to noticing items left at school (especially jackets!) or discovering articles that children have inadvertently brought home with them (again, usually another child’s jacket). And as kids get older, it also helps to avoid the due date “morning of” homework surprise.
Just as important as children’s morning routines, is their evening one. Keep the hygiene items children need to access at their level and consider a step stool if needed to help them put things away. Use toy nets on the bathtub wall to keep kids in the habit of tidying after play while still allowing their bath toys to dry. If books are a part of your bedtime routine, encourage children not to pull every book off the shelf, but to choose just a few. As they will likely be all snug in their beds, it is fine to leave the books out overnight, just be sure to get their help returning them to the bookshelves in the morning!