It is never too early (or late) to teach children organising skills

Children really are like little sponges from an early age and we need to start teaching them to pick up after themselves and be organised or they will never learn.  It really is up to us as parents to begin facilitating this and it is never too early or late to start! 

If you teach them from a young age, it will not only free up your time, but allow them to gain important life skills and it will assist them with self confidence by feeling capable of being able to do things themselves.quote on not doing things for your children but letting them learn by doing - teach children organising skills

Here are 8 tips to assist you to teach children organising skills:

  1. Developing and following routines – this is one thing that helps children right from an early age begin to learn the foundations of basic organisational and time management skills.  In the beginning it does require a bit of work from us as parents and in particular ensuring everything has a place to live and letting children know where things go.For younger children it can be useful to begin verbalising or making charts with the steps of a particular routine such as morning or evenings.  The clearer you make it for your children and develop regular routines the easier it usually is for everyone.Another example of this is to have toys and things in containers that are labeled or for younger children they could have pictures rather than words to assist them to know where things live.  When children are young and they ask you to find something it can be useful to remind them that they know where they live as that is why we put things back away so you can find them easily next time.
  2. Understanding what it means to be organised – children like to understand why it is important to be organised, how it helps to make life easier and why it can save time.  Be honest with them and naturally give them explanations that are age appropriate so they can understand.  Explain that getting organised isn’t always fun or quick but that it helps in the long run.For younger children you can keep it simple by teaching them things like stacking, matching, wiping, sweeping which are all developmental skills and often they won’t even realize or know that they are learning organising or cleaning up skills.
  3. Leading by example – One of the very first steps as a parent, in teaching your children organising skills, is to ensure you are leading by example.  We have all heard the term ‘monkey see monkey do’ and it really is true.It is really important that you create an environment that reflects organisation.  For instance you could have a family calendar in a central location that everyone, children included, put their information on.  It is also good to ensure that everything has a specific place to live so it is easier for you and your children to find.  It also encourages children to put things back and keeps the place more organised and with less clutter.Remember if you are expecting them to clean up their toys you also need to make sure you don’t leave your own clutter lying around either.Many mothers often get in touch as they are worried they might be passing on bad habits or skills to their children so they get me involved to assist in breaking the cycle, teaching them organisational and time management skills that they can then pass on to the rest of their families.
  4. Don’t just assume they understand what you mean – often we expect our children to know what we are trying to get them to do.  In most cases though they need to be shown first, and possibly several times before they are able to begin doing something themselves.  Usually I suggest you show the child and then be there providing support as they do it themselves a few times and then eventually they will get the hang of it and you no longer necessarily need to be involved in the process.As an example you can show children that when they play with something it needs to go away before the next thing comes out.  You can also involve them in picking up their toys and putting them away at the end of playtime or at the end of the day.  You can start teaching this at a very young and continue on as children get children.  If you struggle with getting your children to do this then a strategy could be to give toys or things time out so they soon get the picture.
  5. Give and teach them strategies – you can teach and use the simple 1-2-3 method to break down most tasks:

    Getting organised or ready – this is teaching your children where they need to be and that they have everything with them they need to complete a task.
    Staying focused/doing the task – this means teaching them they need to stay focused in order to complete the task at hand and learning to say ‘no’ to distractions along the way – this becomes an even more important skill as children get older with completing homework and technology.
    Getting it done/finishing the task – finally this involves teaching a child to complete a task and then checking it has all been finished or done.

    Once children understand this basic method they can then start tackling more tasks independently.

    Try these for simple tasks where you can use this method – brushing ones teeth, packing up a room, emptying the dishwasher or for older children completing their homework.

  6. Asking them for their help – this is another way of empowering children at a young age to help you and to learn organising skills.  Why not ask them how they might go about doing something and give them the opportunity to have a go.  Remember that this is a good way for children to learn and where you can support them rather than doing it for them.An example of a task could be asking them to do something like help you to fold and put the washing way – for younger children you could start by giving them socks to put away and then increasing this to folding them and other items like undies and continuing to progress with other items as they get older until they can do it all themselves.
  7. Making things fun – sometimes making things fun can be a good strategy to adopt in teaching organising skills without children even realising.  For instance at a young age you can make something like packing up toys or getting ready for school into a game of ‘beat the buzzer or the time’.
  8. Please don’t just do it for them – this doesn’t help anyone and if anything creates more work for us as parents.Sometimes we need to reinforce something with our children to ensure a task gets done and I encourage you to do this even though it can be tempting and easier to just do ourselves.  If we continue to pick up after our children then they never actually learn.  An example of this is that I have for some time been getting my children to put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher, and if they leave it on the bench or near the sink, I ask them to come and do it rather than just doing it for them.  Another one is that I no longer pick up their dirty washing in their rooms and that it is their responsibility to put it in the wash or they run the risk of running out of an item or something they need to wear.

If you are still not sure on what you can do for what age group – a simple way to look at it is:

Age 2-4 – keep it simple and very easy without too many steps

Age 5-8 – get creative, give them a challenge and start teaching responsibility

Age 9+ – up the responsibility, give them choices to make and let them establish their own routines  

If you get children involved and start by making some of these things fun from an early age and they won’t even know they are decluttering and organising.  Remember these new skills won’t develop over night and might take time but it really will be worth it in the long run!

If you feel you need assistance to teach children organising skills please get in touch – I regularly work with children of all agesamanda@organisingyou.com.au