One of our parents was sharing a story about their preschooler telling them that they (the parent) had forgotten their blanket for nap time. The savvy parent went on to remind the child that it was their responsibility to remember their blanket, but that they could help if the child asked. This story reminded me of how important it is to teach children organization strategies even at this young age. By teaching children how to independently organize themselves, we help them establish habits that will insure they get their homework turned in and other future successes.

So how do we help a 3- or 4-year old get organized. In many cases, they are not reading yet, so how can we show them how to create lists they can check off? PICTURES! By taking only a few minutes to create pictures of chores or of things they need to take to school, we can create a graphic organizer that lets the child independently organize their life. So how does it work?

Example One: Create pictures of the things the child needs to do to get ready for bed. Maybe a toothbrush, wash cloth and pajamas. You can glue the pictures to a plastic/laminated card and even have the child check off the activities as they are completed. Then just send them to get ready for bed with the card as the reminder of the steps. You may want to have a quality-control step, but the idea is to have the child independently complete the necessary steps.

Example Two: Create pictures of the things that the child needs to take to school everyday (e.g. lunchbox, backpack, folder). Then before leaving the house (and preferably the night before except for the lunchbox) have the child assemble all the things they need to have to leave. Again, you can laminate the card, so that the child can check the items off the list.

Example Three: Have the child help pack their lunch by creating pictures of the foods that need to go into their lunch (e.g. sandwich, vegie, fruit, drink). If you have a particular shelf where you can store lunch items, this works even better. However, children always do a better job of eating lunches they help prepare, and if you only have healthy options to choose from, you know your child’s lunch will be healthy even if they have chosen cherries for the 13th day in a row for their fruit.

Of course, as the child learns to read, you can replace the pictures with words. You can even help your child’s reading ability by putting words with the pictures. As they get older, they can graduate to a planner or organizer; however, most teens prefer electronic tools. Don’t fight your teen using the notepad on their phone. Take advantage of it! If they never miss an assignment because they have everything plugged into an electronic calendar, GREAT. Show them how to use the tool effectively, including a back-up in case the electronic version fails. Who knows? They might even teach you a few new tricks 🙂