EF at Home: Organizing Spaces

Mom and daughter organizing laundry

Do you feel overwhelmed and less productive when your space is messy? When finding lost items, clearing paths of clothing, and trying to remember where you put your car keys consumes your mind, your brain becomes a “clogged funnel.” Clogged funnels affect adults and children alike, leaving little room for productivity to seep through when we need it. Fortunately, involving our children in home organization can help children foster lifelong “unclogging” skills, while unclogging our own funnels. Here are some organizational steps you can try with your child today to work towards unclogging your funnel:

Step 1: Prioritize

Prioritize with your child what space to organize first. Older children can create a list of spaces in need of organizing independently, while younger children may need you to select 2-3 spaces for them to choose from.

Next, help your child sort spaces into those they “have-to” and “want-to” organize, and prioritize organizing the “have-to’s” first. For example, a child may want to organize their jewelry box for it to look nice, but need to organize their desk to create a productive space for doing homework.

Step 2: Clean

Once you and your child select a space to organize, clean out the space. For example, if you are going to organize a younger child’s toy bin, you will empty out and wipe down the bin.

Step 3: Categorize

Categorize with your child the items you will be organizing. Start by asking your child what types of items they see, and then sort the items with your child into piles accordingly. Younger children may benefit from the additional scaffold of labeling categories with pictures, and children of all ages may benefit from looking at examples of organized spaces like the one they are organizing. To learn more about ways to teach your child to clean and categorize, check out SMARTS’ “4 C’s” strategy.

Step 4: Label

Finally, once each category of item has its own space, label each category for your child’s future reference.

When helping your child foster organizational skills, especially those that involve “chore-like” tasks like organizing a closet, be sure to make the process fun and light-hearted. Label makers, drawings, stickers, and other fun ways of labeling can help “sell” the process of organizing to your child!

  • Taylor McKenna, M.A., M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org



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