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Friday, November 11, 2011

Teaching Kids Organization Skills: A Happy Balance

Since I started this blog, I notice just how often (several times a day) I embark on an organizational project.  Some of the smallest, most regular tasks boil down to re-organizing to cut the chaos around the house.  I insist that my 3-year-old daughter participate in cleaning up her own things, and lately I have noticed that some organizational concepts are really starting to make sense to her.  Here are some thoughts about teaching organizational skills to young kids.

The other day my daughter and I were playing with her magnetic dress-up dolls and the clothing and accessory magnets were strewn all over the floor.  It made finding a matching outfit challenging for both of us and I suggested we line up all the clothes and separate them into like items.  We made a game of categorizing them and then once they were all lined up, like a nicely organized temporary closet right there on the floor, we went back to changing the outfits around so the dolls could go to various events and errands.  When I saw the clothes all lined up there on the floor I had two thoughts simultaneously.  First, I thought how awesome, now we can really play, and at the same time I wondered if I was going to make my daughter obsessive about organization (like I can be)! 

Finding Balance
As with anything, the key is a healthy balance.  While I am grateful for my excellent organizational skills, I have had to learn to accept things are not always perfect, especially in a busy household with two working parents.  I hope that my kids will learn organizational skills without obsession or pressure that things always need to be orderly. 

Messes and Mistakes are Great (Sometimes)!
It has become much easier with time, but I’ve had to consciously reassure myself that it is okay and even great for my daughter to make a mess of the dining room table (or even the whole room) painting or playing with Play-Doh and mixing all the colors together.  We’ve already discussed that there are no mistakes in art – a concept I wasn’t taught until I was in high school, when my perfectionism was already engrained.

We spend a little time together every week getting things put away in her room, learning about where things go, but otherwise (for now) I let her room be as she wants it.  And I’m proud to say I can (almost) always see most of the floor!

Opportunities to Introduce Skills

I accept that almost every day my living room will at some point look like a tornado hit it.  While I try to teach that we put away one toy before we start playing with another, I’ve also accepted that it almost never happens that way.   


About once a week we take some time to re-organize all the contents of her living room toy bins.  Each time, we will categorize the toys in different ways, which helps her recognize that the same set of toys can fit into different categories: animals, things with wheels, green or red toys, etc.  

Not only is she learning and participating in organization, she is also learning to recognize patterns.  Last night when she was coloring before dinner, she separated out all the greenish crayons from the rest of the bunch all on her own!

Please share your thoughts and techniques for teaching kids how to be organized!

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