After my last column on Teaching Our Children, which was based around learning to do laundry, the next logical subject seemed to be organizing skills of a more general nature. With all the toys, clothing, and school items that young ones are surrounded with daily, these young years are a wonderful time to impart the concept of order.
In the early years, it makes most sense to start with keeping their toys and room in order. Expecting a young child to keep these things organized, by themselves, is unrealistic so this involves parental time and patience. Creating a reasonable system, being the adult in charge, is the first place to begin. Acquire logical containers to store the items needing containment. I remember my son’s vast amount of little parts from Legos and K’nex, not to mention the huge array of “little things” as he always had a love of anything miniature! I was forever buying containers for his “treasures,” and this helped him to learn order.
By instilling the idea of creating a safe and proper place for everything, the first step is established. Next is creating the rule that after something is no longer being used, it needs to be put away. Oftentimes with a toy that has multiple parts, this can be a very time-consuming task! One method that always worked well with my own children was to make a game out of the putting away and organizing process. I would start with, “How fast can we put all the green pieces in their home?” Color and shape matching became a way to teach combining like-items together. I also aimed to make “organizing” fun versus a drudgery so there was a positive association with cleaning up. My daughter took well to this early on, and to this day, now as a 2nd grade teacher, her organizing skills are excellent, and it’s made her teaching and life that much easier.
Teaching your child to keep his or her room tidy and the contents orderly will help in the later years when school work must be kept track of and more valuable items need to be taken care of. Engage them, when it’s age appropriate, to determine where they would like their toys, clothes, etc. to go between uses so that they learn to make these types of decisions for themselves as they get older. Many of my clients get stuck on making these sorts of decisions, so developing that “decision muscle” early on can be valuable.
Put something away, right away. The priority of learning to make that process a habit becomes the guiding force to prevent belongings from constantly being dropped wherever they might land. Taking the extra few seconds to put something where it belongs will make more sense as time goes on.
From this comes the area of keeping track of schoolwork and papers. Watch for my next column on that subject!