As parents doing things for our kids is part of the job description. When they arrive as infants, so tiny and weak, they rely on us for almost everything. As they grow both in size and experience they start to do things for themselves and we often intervene to either speed up the process or to get a better outcome. By the time they can easily reach a countertop, access the drawers in their dresser and execute a multi-step process we as parents are so used to doing things for them (We’ve had years of practice!) that we often forget to step back and let children do more for themselves. One part of helping children do more for themselves is becoming aware of what they are capable of, what is reasonable and what would be helpful to the overall function of the household. The second part is getting organized to support this new self-sufficiency. Setting up organized systems in your home for storage and workflow helps all members of the family use the house and get things done.
Here are some ideas for ways you can improve your home organization to facilitate your child’s self-sufficiency.
- Label storages spaces and containers. – If you’re the only person using a pantry or storage closet, you can often rely on your memory and experience to find things and put things back where they belong. If you want others to find things and put them away in an organized way you need to leave clues about where things belong. Labels (with words, pictures or both) are a key part of helping to keep closets, pantries and shelves organized.
- Make sure small people can reach what they need. – This is safety issue. You can prevent falls and spills resulting from not being able to safely reach a counter or cabinet by organizing spaces so kids can reach what they need. In your kitchen consider having a low drawer or cabinet stocked with drinking glasses, plates and kid-friendly utensils so kids can help themselves in the kitchen. In other spaces make sure toys, art supplies and clothes are within reach. Kids won’t hesitate to scale a closet shelving system or bookcase for something they need or want.
- Teach kids how to do things. – Most young children by age 2 have the mental and physical development to help with some household chores and to do some things to take care of themselves. They won’t know how until you teach them. Organizational skills are learned skills. Show teach them how to manage a project by being clear about the goal, helping them locate equipment, showing them the skills and teaching them how to clean up. As kids get older, establish checklists to remind them what needs to be done and in what order. Here is a list of age appropriate chores.
- Use checklists and calendars to manage expectations. – Adults and children alike don’t enjoy being micromanaged. Gentle reminders to do chores or brush teeth come across as nagging and suddenly everyone is frustrated and unhappy. Mitigate frustration and unhappiness by setting clear and consistent expectations for tasks children in your home are responsible for. Documenting them on a family calendar or task list in a shared space or on checklists helps take some of the emotion out of the process.
A small amount of effort on your part can have significant positive results in helping your kids successfully help themselves. Contact us if you need ideas and support for getting your home organized so kids can help themselves.
Read more about organizing with kids:
- Helping Kids Create Organized Routines
- Teach Kids Organized Behaviors with Literature
- 5 Simple Tips for an Organized Family Space