Coaching kids to organize themselves

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Some children have difficulty getting started on tasks and organizing materials, whether it’s their bedrooms, lockers or homework papers. These skills are referred to as executive functioning skills and include skills related to organization, time management; planning, impulse control, cognitive flexibility, and ability to self-monitor one’s work. Our occupational therapist Keltie Morrison shares tips to help your child organize themselves and talk about what works for them.

Helpful Organization Tips

  • Check lists: Check lists & visual schedules can be a great tool to help keep your kids on track and organize for all their daily tasks. You can use written checklist on the fridge and stickers next to the task they complete each day. There are also some great apps to help keep kids on task and completing their daily tasks. Apps such as: iReward Chart, HomeRoutines, Lickety Split (more geared for preschoolers & toddlers)
  • Calendars: Teaching your children early about how to use a calendar can help to lead to better organization overall. Start simple by having your child write down upcoming events in a week, for example a swimming class, birthday party, or family movie night. As they get older, encourage them to use a calendar to write down homework tasks each week. Some kids will need more support in using this tool effectively, for example helping them develop the habit of looking at their calendar each day so they can see what might be due tomorrow or later in the week.
  • Time management: This is a really important part of helping children understand how long they need to complete certain tasks or assignments. Again, start simple by having them estimate how long a household task may take and have them use a timer to check. They can then write that number down next to the task on their checklist. This can help children begin to conceptualize how long certain tasks will take. As they get older, introduce this idea to homework and help them break down all the components that are needed to complete an assignment. For example, writing a book report involves:
    • Reading the book – estimated time one week reading 1 hour each day
    • Write notes to respond to each question in the book report assignment 2 hours
    • Complete first draft of book report 1 hour
    • Edit draft and review with mom/dad 1 hour
    • Make edits and complete final book report 1 hour
  • Self-motivation & monitoring: It is important as homework or academic demands increase to introduce strategies to your children to help then stay focused and effectively use the time to complete topics. Some things to consider:
    • Setting up structured breaks as part of homework routines can help children stay motivated and focused. For example, every 45 minutes of work take a 15 minute movement break (make sure these breaks include a physical activity such as yoga)
    • Breaking tasks down –help your child work through smaller more manageable pieces to accomplish one by one. This will help they stay focused and motivates each time they accomplish a task.

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