The sooner your children learn to organize, the better the chances it will become a habit they’ll retain for a lifetime.
Turn Cleanup Time Into Play Time
Cleanup time will feel like play time if you give young kids the right tools: a pintsize broom with a dustpan, a customized Swiffer Sweeper (remove the middle pole to shorten the handle), a couple of small plastic snow shovels for indoor use, and a flexible plastic tote with handles for each child (let them choose their own color). Turn on a fast-paced silly song and set a stopwatch as they run around and scoop everything off the floor.
Reward Them For a Job Well Done
Reward your little helpers with a daily scoreboard—who did the fastest scooping, was most polite (no pushing), stayed on task without getting distracted—and have a weekly cleanup prize, making sure the youngest member of your crew sometimes wins. Charts and reward boards work well too, but the incentive needs to be something that truly motivates. “If stickers aren’t going to cut it, then allow a small treat or extra hour of TV at the end of the week if they have kept up their end of the bargain,” says DC-based personal organizer Carly Poppalardo.
Make Sure Tasks are Age Appropriate
Even toddlers can help with chores, but make sure to give them age-appropriate tasks and lots of positive reinforcement. “Just don’t expect perfection; they’re just kids, so be prepared to lower your standards for a few years,” says certified organizer Jill Lawrence.
Prepare For the Next Day
Involve your kids in preparing for the next day’s classes and extracurricular activities. Have them gather their books, sports gear, permission slips, and anything else they’ll need and place it by the door so it’s ready to go in the morning. “I like to put a hook near the door for a child’s backpack,” says Reston-based personal organizer Susan Kousek. Kids can also decide what they’re going to wear and set it out the night before. “One of my clients tried doing this with her teenage daughter,” Kousek says. “After school, her daughter said, ‘I had the best day ever!’ Her mother told her it was because she was prepared.”