Getting organized can make life easier for kids with learning and thinking differences. It might take some effort in the beginning, but it’s worth it in the long run. Here are tips to help kids improve organization skills at home, at school, and beyond.
1. Break tasks into chunks.
Help kids break school projects or household chores into smaller, more manageable steps. This will show them that each project has a beginning, middle, and end, which can make projects feel less overwhelming. For example, if your child’s nightly chore is to clear the table, explain: First, scrape any food scraps into the garbage. Then load the dishes into the dishwasher. Then wipe the counters.
2. Make checklists and to-do lists.
Once kids know all the steps involved with a particular task, help them add it to an overall to-do list. Include regular homework and chores on the list. Encourage kids to keep the list in a place where they’ll see it often and can check off accomplishments as they go. Some kids might create their list using a smartphone app. Others may write it on a dry-erase board in their bedroom or print out a list to carry around throughout the day.
3. Teach calendar and time management skills.
Encourage kids to write down important tasks on a calendar (digital or paper). Then help them estimate how much time each task will take. After they complete a task, ask whether the time estimate was accurate or not. If needed, suggest adjustments for next time. It may also help to have kids write the due date directly on school assignments.
4. Establish daily routines.
Creating a regular schedule can help kids learn what to expect throughout the day. Use picture schedules, clocks, and other time management strategies.
5. Introduce idea organizers.
Show kids how to use outlines, graphic organizers, or concept webs to organize ideas for school projects. Encourage them to take class notes in two columns, using a narrow column on the left for main ideas or questions and a wide column on the right for all the details. Later, when they’re studying for a test, they can look at what’s in the narrow column to review the big ideas and see if they can remember the details.
6. Use color-coding.
Assign colors to each school subject. For example, green folders and notebooks may be for English and blue for math. Use brightly colored pocket folders for items that need to be signed and returned. Suggest using pens of different colors to help kids shift from the role of writer to the role of self-checker and editor.
7. Create fun memory aids.
Show kids how to create their own silly sentences, songs, acronyms, or cartoons to remember information. (One popular mnemonic, “Never Eat Soggy Waffles,” helps kids remember north, east, south, and west.) They can use these memory aids for anything from preparing for an exam to recalling a locker combination.
8. Create an organized work space.
Set aside spaces at home where each child can work without interruption. It might work best if this is somewhere near you for times when they need your assistance. Keep school supplies and technology such as calculators, tablets, or laptops nearby.
9. Do regular backpack audits.
Your child’s backpack is a crucial link between home and school, so it’s important to keep it neat. Schedule a time each week for kids to clean out and organize the backpack.
10. Help kids think ahead.
Before bedtime, sit down together to review plans for the next day. This can make kids feel more secure. Together you can plan how to handle things if a change comes up in the schedule.
About the author
About the author
Lexi Walters Wright is the former community manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.
Ginny Osewalt is a dually certified elementary and special education teacher with more than 15 years of experience in general education, inclusion, resource room, and self-contained settings.