As an organizer, I've been told many times and in a variety of ways, "I just don't have the organizing gene." It is true that organization comes naturally to some people, and for others it is more of a struggle. That said, organization is a skill, or set of skills, and as such, it can be learned...and taught.
If you are raising children, organization skills are some of the best skills you can instill in them. Teaching organization skills to children will benefit them in a variety of ways. Children with organization skills are able to:
Instill Good Habits
Teaching organization skills to children begins with instilling good habits. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. The more approaches that are utilized, the more likely children are to understand, master, and adopt the skills you're trying to teach. Try implementing the following:
These are just a few examples of things you can do to help instill good habits in your children, and the best part is that all of these skills benefit you as well!
Set Them Up for Success
There are a number of things that parents and caregivers can do to help children learn organization skills with greater ease. Consider the following:
Motivation is both a catalyst and an inducement. It is also a self-sustaining phenomenon. Motivation prompts us to act. When we act, we experience success, and success fuels our motivation to continue to act. Motivation can be external (think catalyst/inducement) or internal (desire for success). As a parent or caregiver, there are numerous things you can do to provide motivation to encourage children to do the things that will instill good habits.
Be an Example
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to instill good habits in children is to set an example of the behaviors you want them to adopt. In the case of developing organization skills, you can do this by creating and maintaining an organized space. It all starts with having a place for things, knowing where things are, and putting things away consistently. It's also important to practice what you preach, so to speak. Follow the advice you give and the guideline you establish. Let them see the benefits of adopting these behaviors by observing you.
Young children often find tremendous satisfaction and delight in creating works of art. Indeed, many children are prolific artists. Storing and displaying all their creations can present a bit of a challenge for parents.
For one thing (if we're being totally honest), not everything they draw, paint, or color is worthy of exibition. In addition, most of the art they produce is on cheap paper that tends to yellow, wrinkle, and curl over time. Then there is the children's own insistance that their work be kept and preserved which requires both display and storage space.
With a little planning it is possible to develop a system for curating children's artwork that will satisfy everyone's needs and desires.
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I recommend designating a specific space in your home for displaying your child's artwork and then rotating pieces over time as new ones are created. This will help prevent pieces on display from degrading over time and keep the exhibit fresh and interesting.
In addition to that old favorite the refrigerator, possible candidates for display space include a hallway, kids' playroom, family room, stairway or entry. Personally, I like to choose a space that visitors are sure to see.
A simple Google search will yield hundreds of examples of ways to display children's artwork. Here are a few of my personal favorites:
Consider framing special pieces for added impact and appeal. I love float frames for this purpose as they tend to really catch the eye and make whatever is framed in them stand out against the background. Since kids' artwork is often produced on oversized paper, I recommend 11" x 14" frames at a minimum. With a float frame, it's okay if the piece is smaller than the frame - better to have extra space than to have to trim a piece down to fit the frame.
If you don't want to spend the money on frames, you can create your own using a variety of mediums. For oversized or oddly shaped pieces, you can use scrap wood to create a custom frame like the one shown here that we made to show off our son's rather large drawing of a buffalo which is currently on display in our playroom.
A whimsical and unique way to "frame" children's artwork is by creating outlines on a wall using strips of trim, paint, or Washi tape as shown below. A fun bonus of this approach is the ability to easily switch out works of art with little effort.
I love this vibrant display wall from artful-kids.com. The use of colored chalkboard paint allows you to create individualized designs around the edges of your frames, adding an even greater one-of-a-kind vibe to your gallery. Perhaps the thing I love most about it, though, is the imperfect nature of the blocks of color. There is no attempt here to create sharp, crisp edges. To me, this adds to the charm and playfulness of the display.
Speaking of chalkboard paint, here's another idea from artful-kids.com. In this case, the entire wall has been painted with black chalkboard paint, and individual frames drawn on with chalk. The nice thing about this is that you can switch out pieces by erasing the old frame and drawing in a new one specifically designed to fit and showcase the artwork it surrounds.
Washi tape comes in a seemingly endless array of colors and patterns, making it an extremely versatile medium, as demonstrated here by Jennae of greenyourdecor.com. It won't damage your walls, and it's easy to remove and redo, allowing you to change things up to accomodate new creations over time.
For those of us who aren't entirely confident in our ability to freehand things, a simple solution is to hang picture frames minus their glass inserts and backing. Paint them a lively color as demonstrated here by Heather from thecaterpillaryears.com. You can paint them all one unifying color as shown or choose an assortment of bright hues for a sort of rainbow effect. You could also select colors to coordinate with the room's decor.
The benefit of hanging artwork is that it is super easy to switch out pieces. The drawback is that the edges of the artwork have a tendancy to curl up over time. A great way to prevent curling edges is to slide the artwork into a clear plastic sleeve before hanging it. There are lots of fun ways to hang kids' artwork. Here are a few of my favorites:
Get yourself some colorful mini clothespins and some natural jute twine (which comes in a variety of colors), and string up a simple "clothesline" like this one by Haeley from designimprovised.com.
For a sturdier solution, hang magnetic strips mounted to boards. This example comes from Laura at Never Listless. Finish it off with some fun, colorful circle magnets and you're all set!
Keeping with the magnetic theme, why not try this idea by Melissa from Inspiration Organization. Frame a piece of sheet metal to create a versatile display board.
If sheet metal makes you nervous, you might try a similar concept using cork. This example from John and Sherry at Young House Love utilized cork tiles.
This modified version of a cork display board by Samantha at Simply Organized is great for displaying each child's latest and greatest individually.
Our youngest son's fourth grade art teacher was obsessed with sculpture. Here in my home office, there are no less than five of his creations on display. He is 20 now, but I still love them (especially the elephant).
In a previous home, I had one of his creations on display in the living room. It was resting on a set of built-in shelving which also housed many of our treasures from the Middle East. At a dinner party we were hosting, the wife of my husband's boss was admiring the contents of the shelves. After singling out a handful of pieces, she pointed to our son's sculpture and asked, "Where did that come from?" When I told her my fourth grader made it, she said, "Really? I thought it was some sort of ancient relief sculpture!"
Long Term Preservation
When it's time to retire a piece of artwork, there are a variety of options for curating items long term. The simplest and most obvious is to create a filing system or binder for preserving extra special pieces. When the filing system starts to get crowded, sort through it and thin it out with the input of the artist.
Awkwardly shaped or sized pieces or items that won't withstand the test of time (think macaroni sculpture), can be photographed or scanned as a means of preserving them. In addition to a photo of the item, be sure to take a photo of the artist with their artwork.
Photos and scans can be used to create an artwork portfolio. This can be achieved either by printing the photos and inserting them into an album or by creating a photo book online. Provide journaling (yours or the child's) that tells about the piece - when and why it was created, what it is, and how it was produced. For more on this topic, see my post When a Photo Is Sufficient.
Too busy to scan all your kids artwork? Don't have the necessary technology to preserve their artwork digitally? No worries. Artkive will send you a box. You fill it with 25 of your child's best works of art and mail it back to them. They will turn it into a custom gallery quality mosaic print complete with smooth white matting and white wooden frame (overall size is 26" x 26"). You also have the option to choose a photo book instead (or in addition).
Children's artwork makes a fun gift, either in its original form or repurposed from a photograph or scan. The following individuals would most likely be pleased to receive an artistic gift from your child:
Speaking of gifts, if your child likes to draw on newsprint, consider using one or more of their creations as gift wrap.
And speaking of sharing, scanned artwork can be saved to a file or disc and shared. Save it to an SD card and insert it in an electronic photo frame to enjoy an ever-changing display of your child's creativity.
Preserving kids' artwork in this format allows you to manipulate it in various ways. Use it to create calanders, magnets, coasters, mouse pads, notecards, mugs, t-shirts, decorative pillows, face masks, and more.
Children can be sensitive about their creations, expecting parents to hold onto every scrap of paper they ever scribbled on. By taking on the role of curator, you demonstrate to your child that you appreciate their work and care about preserving it. You also help them to understand that there are different ways to preserve and enjoy their creations, that not all creations are created equal, and that learning to be discerning allows them to create a portfolio they can feel proud of.
Three of our four grandchildren have been visiting for the past two weeks. They are six months, two and a half, and almost five. Needless to say, it's been lively. When they are here, the house fairly pulses with energy. Now that they are gone, it feels empty and deflated. It also looks a little like a whirlwind came through.
As a young mother of four, I often found myself feeling overwhelmed by the constant struggle to maintain order. As a grandmother, I find myself joyfully embracing the chaos. The fact that there are toys strewn about and things out of place on all three floors of the house and in practically every room is a source of amusement and cheer. It serves as a reminder that little people are about curiously engaging with and exploring their environment. I'm glad to be able to provide a stimulating space that sparks their imagination.
As an organizer my natural tendency is to get rid of things that no longer serve a purpose in my life, but my husband and I intentionally made one significant exception to this rule. We saved many of our children's toys. We made this decision with our future grandchildren in mind. It meant moving and storing stuff that no one was really using for about ten years, but it was so worth the effort and space.
Now that we have grandchildren, the investment is paying off. When the littles come to visit, they have a blast discovering new things to play with. They refer to the bedroom where they sleep and where the toys are kept as their room, and they love it. Every morning when they wake up, they fill their hands with a selection of toys and wander downstairs to greet the day. They are never bored.
When we purchased our home it had a roughly finished space above the garage which could only be accessed by ducking through a small door at the back of our son's walk-in closet. In our minds, it was always destined to be the playroom, so we dubbed it Narnia. Several years ago we remodeled the second floor, turning the closet into a hallway and reading nook and making Narnia a legitimate bedroom. It's certainly non-traditional, but it's also a really fun space.
An interesting side effect of having a playroom full of toys is that I really don't have to childproof my home. The kiddos are so busy playing with the toys, they rarely get sidetracked by things we wouldn't want them to touch. Although occasionally they do stake a claim to a non-toy item, typically using it in some other way than what it was intended for.
On this particular visit, it was a candle holder shaped like a bird cage. My oldest granddaughter quickly surmised that it was the perfect spot for a little bird puppet to dwell and carried it about with her wherever she went in the house for the first several days she was here. Before long, she was using it to hold all her favorite toys, no doubt in a vain attempt to keep them out of her brother's reach.
For me the lesson in all of this is that sometimes there are legitimate exceptions to the rule. Stuff should serve a purpose in your life. If it doesn't it's clutter, and as such it becomes a burden. If, however, it brings you and others joy, it's worth the space and effort involved in its storage and upkeep. The key is understanding why you're holding onto things and being honest with yourself about the role they play in your life. Are you getting a return on your investment, or is your stuff controlling you?
I recognize that not everyone will understand my choice to go against my inner organizer instincts in this instance. I also realize that not everyone will be in a position to save a whole roomful of toys for their future grandchildren. Most people wouldn't even consider doing such a thing. But for us it has worked out wonderfully, and I am glad we lugged the storage containers full of toys around for a number of years and grateful we had the space to store them.
Watching my grandchildren play has helped me appreciate that all the world can be filled with wonder and that joy can be found in the simplest things. I have also been reminded that old things can serve interesting and surprising new purposes. Most of all, though, I have come to understand that even those of us who love and crave order can benefit from a little chaos every now and then.
As the start of a new school year approaches, many parents are holding their breath, waiting to learn whether or not their school district will resume face to face classes. Some are anxious about sending their kids to school with the COVID-19 virus still raging. Others are anxious at the prospect of having to school their kids from home.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum, there's a good chance you're feeling some amount of stress with regard to your kid's schooling. With that in mind, it's a good idea to be ready to oversee your children's education, no matter what the plan is for your school district, as a spike in cases could easily lead to another shut down.
We home-schooled our kids for seven years. Thankfully, homeschooling was an intentional choice for us and not something that was forced upon us suddenly by an unforeseen event beyond our control. That said, it was still a bit overwhelming at first. We learned as we went along, and I look back on the experience with great fondness.
For me, homeschooling four kids was a full-time job. These days many families can't afford to have one parent at home full-time. That means managing work demands (possibly from home) in addition to all the other responsibilities you may be juggling. I learned quickly that the more organized I was, the easier it was to stay on top of things. Below you'll find a list of things that I did to get organized for home learning. I hope they will be helpful to you as you take on the added responsibility of overseeing your child's education.
,It's important to have a dedicated space for home learning.
Your kids will try to argue otherwise. They will say that they can work just fine sprawled out on the floor, lying on their bed, or in any number of recumbent positions around the house. That may be what they want, but it is not the most ideal posture or place for dedicated mental effort.
You may think a desk in their room is a good solution. To a degree it can work in certain circumstances and for certain children, but in my experience it is not the best solution. Children's bedrooms are often filled with distractions which can easily submarine their ability to remain focused and on task. In addition, most school work beyond the early elementary level is done on a tablet or computer these days. These devices are themselves instruments of distraction.
It's best to have the kids where you can easily supervise their efforts. That doesn't mean they can't spread out and work in different locations on different assignments, but there should be a space dedicated to 'sit down', supervised work.
Since most of us do not have a spare room we can convert into our personal schoolhouse, you will most likely need to designate a space within a space for your learning adventures. The ideal school space will include:
Obviously, the more children you have, the more work and storage space you will need. While you may find it best to separate your kids so they don't distract each other, especially when they are working independently, that won't negate the need for a home school home base.
Your children will have preconceived notions about what school should be like. They will probably also have a conception of home as a place to hang out, play, relax, etc. It may be an uphill battle at first getting them to "do school" at home. One thing you can do to help lessen the friction of the transition is to establish and enforce expectations.
I recommend a family council in which you establish these expectations with the help of your children. Consider this basic format for your discussion:
When the kids are home all day every day it can be tempting to just do things when you get around to them, but it's important to establish a schedule and stick to it as best you can. The more regimented your routine, the more likely your kids will adapt to it favorably.
One of the up sides of doing school at home is that you can create a schedule that works best for you and your family. In our family, that meant starting school each day at 9:00 am. There was no need to start earlier, and waiting until 9:00 gave me time to have a personal devotional, exercise, shower, fix a good breakfast for everyone, and clean up the breakfast dishes - all things I knew would be important for my personal sanity. It also meant I never had to wake my kids up for school. They could sleep as long as they needed to and still be ready in plenty of time for the start of the school day.
As you prepare a school schedule for home learning, think about what matters most to you and your family. Include regular breaks for you and your kids. Think about when you and they are at your best and schedule the most rigorous part of the learning day to coincide. Are your kids fresh and raring to go first thing but sluggish after lunch? Or do they take a while to get going in the morning? In our case, we focused on core subjects and seated work before lunch and left the afternoon for hands on, project oriented subjects like science, art, and social studies.
Another bonus of homeschooling is that it often does not take as large a chunk of the day as traditional classroom learning. Transitions are swifter, instructions tend to be less tedious, and kids can work at their own pace.
If you are working from home or outside the home, that will obviously impact your availability to oversee your children's' learning. Talk to your boss about adjusting your schedule if needed. Chances are he or she may be knee deep in supervising home learning as well and thus understand. Perhaps you could go in later or get off earlier or some combination of the two.
If you're working from home, see if you can schedule your work hours outside the time frame when your kids are most focused and cooperative.
I don't have to tell you that you need a break, but you may need a reminder that it's OK to take one. Not only is it OK, it's essential. When your kids are home all day every day, you need a break from each other. They need time to pursue their own interests, and you need time to recharge and 'get things done'.
Whether you are working while homeschooling or homeschooling full time (still a difficult job), you need to find time every day for you - time to put your feet up and do something you enjoy, if only for a few minutes. Doing so will add to your success and well-being.
Having kids home all the time means the house gets even messier. Homeschooling is a great opportunity to teach your kids some life skills and responsibility.
When we made the decision to homeschool our kids, we made the decision to put them to work. They had chore charts with simple jobs before we began, but once we started homeschooling those things became a part of our curriculum. We started by identifying skills we wanted them to develop and determining what jobs were most realistic for each of our kids based on their ages. Then we started a concerted campaign to teach them to work.
One of the things that intimidates many parents when in comes to homeschooling is their own sense of inadequacy in one or more subject areas. These days parents have an abundance of excellent educational resources at their fingertips to help lesson the teaching burden and enhance learning for their children. Here are just a few examples of the kinds of resources you can harness as a home educator:
Another excellent way to make use of technology for learning is through utilizing family and friends. This can be done in person or virtually through video conferencing applications like Zoom or Cisco . If you're not great at science or math or some other subject, think about friends, neighbors, and members of your extended family who may excel in areas where you struggle. Then recruit them to work with your child in their area of expertise. Chances are they would love to help, especially if they don't have kids at home.
Another option is to trade teaching with friends. When we were homeschooling, I taught a basic core curriculum to a family of refugees preparing to immigrate to an English speaking country and the father, who was a microbiologist and fluent English speaker, taught biology to my high schooler with enthusiasm and gusto. It was a great trade!
If homeschooling is being thrust upon you, it can be tempting to dwell on the down side of the situation, but there are many potential benefits of homeschooling. These include:
Whatever your personal educational choice for your children may be, I hope this has given you the confidence to trust yourself should you be called upon to take charge of your child's learning. I believe in your ability to succeed! I also believe that homeschooling can be a blessing for both parents and children.