Encouraging organising independence in children takes time and is sometimes frustrating. We work with lots of families and children and organising is a valuable life skill to learn and practice.
Organising is a skill to be learnt just like any other life skill. I often say, “we are not birds, we are not born knowing how to build a nest.” Organising is something we learn.
Children learn through doing organising and practicing it. Children don’t reach a particular age and just know how to keep their belongings, rooms and schoolwork organised. It is something they learn over time.
Organising is far more than “tidying up.” Kate Chivers, Psychologist for children and families advises, “Although organising is challenging, it is definitely worth teaching children how to make order in their surroundings. Organising teaches them many skills: decision-making, planning, categorising, and prioritising.”
There are 3 ways we can help children grow their organising independence.
- Systems: The way we do something
Keep organising systems simple and age appropriate
Simple “drop organising” works well for small children. Simple drop organising is a tub or box for a younger child’s toys or a washing basket with no lid. Both these systems require only one action. Pick it up and drop it in.
Older children can move onto an open and drop system. Simple open and drop organising is opening a drawer and putting the item in, opening a wardrobe and putting the item away or opening a lid to drop the item in.
These simple organising systems build age-appropriate skills to build on as the child grows and develops.
- Time: Allow time in the day for organising and clearing up.
Time needs to be allocated for organising. Allow your children time during the week to practice and maintain their organising.
Daily time is for putting items away where they belong. This is for a short amount of time. This can be at any time of the day. It doesn’t have to be at the end of the day when everyone is tired and ratty. Do what works for your child and family. The daily routine of organising helps children to stay on top of their belongings.
A few larger time slots during the week allows children to do the bigger organising tasks like putting clothes away or clearing up after finishing a large project like a game, Lego, jigsaw or a craft.
- Guidance: At times children will need help
When children are little, we do organising with them. As they grow, they need clear communication to guide them to the task. Children often are better at doing their organising tasks when an adult is also doing organising tasks. “I’ll do the washing up while you put your Lego away.” Or “let us both put our clothes away.”
Encouraging children to have organising independence is about building a life skill. If you would like to read more about helping children be organised; How to help children be organised has more tips.