Teaching children how to organize their physical space
One way to help children stay organized is to instill them with the belief that everything has a place where it belongs. Labeling shelves and drawers can help to remind children of where they should put their toys, clothes, and school supplies. For younger children who have not yet learned how to read, the labels can be stickers showing pictures of the items. Parents should teach their children how to organize their living area by assisting them in cleaning their rooms the first few times. They should include their children in the process of making labels and placing them on drawers, dressers, and storage bins. Then, they can help their children place all their belongings in their designated space. During the cleaning process, if parents notice that some items do not have a specific home, they can use inexpensive bins and label them to create new storage areas for those items. Once parents are confident that everything has a place where it belongs, they can set aside some time every day for their children to independently tidy their rooms and organize their belongings.
Paper organization is more delicate and will require more attention. While a bin will keep the papers out of sight, a more robust system is needed if the child is to be able to find and utilize those papers effectively. Accordion folders can be helpful tools to help children organize their school papers that stay at home. They can be labeled by subject area or topic, with sections for graded work, handouts, and returned projects. It is also a good idea to provide children with a dedicated two-pocket homework folder that they can bring with them to school every day. The right side can be used for homework that needs to be completed and the left side can be used for completed homework that needs to be turned in. For older students who have classes with multiple teachers, having separate binders for each subject is a tool that can help them stay organized and meet the requirements set by each of their teachers. Dividers can be used to organize each binder with separate sections for notes, handouts, classwork, homework, and tests.
Teachers can help to reinforce the organizational skills taught at home by setting aside class time each week to focus on organization. They can have a master binder that contains all of the handouts and assignments that students have been given. This notebook will serve as a classroom model of what the students’ binders should look like. Every week, teachers should have a list on the board of all the handouts and assignments that have been given that week as well as what section of their binders the papers should be filed under. Then, teachers can give students time to go through their own binders and make sure they are properly organized. Teachers can incentivize organization by giving stickers, badges, or extra credit to students who keep their binders clean and organized throughout the year. Teachers can also encourage general organization in the classroom by labeling where everything goes and dedicating some time each day for students to clean up the classroom and return materials to their designated space.
Teaching children how to organize their time
To-do lists can help children with mental organization by teaching them how to set goals, manage their time, and prioritize their tasks. Every night, parents can sit down with their child to make a to-do list for the next day. During this time, they should ask the child to order the items on the list from highest to lowest priority. For children who need additional support, they can break the larger items on the list into smaller sections. For example, cleaning their room can then be broken into folding laundry, putting toys away and making the bed. Getting children in the habit of planning out their days and having an organized list of tasks teaches them how to organize and prioritize events in their lives.
Organizers and planners are other tools that can help with mental organization. Student-friendly planners provide children with a visual plan, as they map out their week or month. Parents can sit down with their children and put tests, school events, sports practice, games and family gatherings on their monthly calendars. They can also use the planners to block off time for studying, playdates, and even time for organizing their rooms, notebooks and planners.
Parents and educators do children a disservice when they overlook the importance of teaching organizational skills. Teaching children organizational skills sets them up for success in the classroom, improves their critical thinking skills and helps them to manage the events in their lives.