Kids Can Organize

Sorting Toy Clutter

Do long summer days have you running out of ideas for how to entertain your children? Do your kids ever complain about being bored? Maybe the answer is to put them to work, because believe it or not, kids can organize!

When it comes to getting organized, children may seem like more of a liability than an asset. While kids can certainly be “contributors to the chaos,” they can also be helpful in establishing order. Of course, very young children have limited attention spans and skills, but it is all about matching the task to the child. It also helps to be very specific, with small, discrete little projects. For instance, rather than telling kids to “clean up their room,” try making a game of “let’s gather all the shoes in the house and find a place for them to live. You might also want to put on a fun song or set a timer. Additionally, offering an incentive (e.g. an ice cream, a trip to the park, etc.) can make tasks appealing and fun.

Here is a list of ideas to consider for a rainy (or steamy!) day:

Organizing Jobs for Kids
Testing Markers
  • Test markers & pens and throw away bad ones
  • Sort a crayon bin to find pieces too small to use and throw them away
  • Sharpen pencils
  • Sort loose change into piles by type
  • Put sorted change into coin sleeves
  • Feed pages into a shredder
  • Sort through coupons and remove expired ones
  • Try on clothes and pile up those that no longer fit
  • Vacuum the car (search for hidden treasures!)
  • Empty out a cabinet or drawer to a table for sorting
  • Choose some books to donate from a shelf
  • Choose some toys/stuffed animals to donate
  • Sort through the artwork they made during the year to pick out favorites to keep
  • Match lids with plastic food storage containers (and recycle any without a match)
  • Search closets for extra hangers (recycle at the dry cleaner)
  • Find and remove any out of date items on a bulletin board
  • Search the garage for “flat” balls… either pump them up or pitch them
  • Help carry items to the car/donation location
  • Go on a “donation road trip” to drop items off to a charity
  • Search through winter mittens for matches and pitch any solo mittens
  • Help label items
  • Pull weeds
  • Harvest vegetables
garden

Want to go even further? Why not set your kids off on a Decluttering Scavenger Hunt?

Do you think kids can organize? Do you have ideas to add to this list?

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24 thoughts on “Kids Can Organize”

  1. I read a while back that we as parents need to take advantage of kids early inclinations to be helpers. That is when we should begin having them help organize at home (around age 4 up.) I love all of your recommendations on where kids can help us organize!

    1. I have noticed, in working with clients, that some kids are naturally more interested in getting and being organized. Parents often articulate this to me, so I don’t want to make it seem like parents can turn their children into organization-lovers. At the same time, as you say, littles often want to be helpful, and to copy what their parents do. I agree that this is the perfect window to show them that organizing can be a very positive experience, even fun, with terrifically satisfying results!

  2. I totally agree, Seana. Not only do I think kids can organize I think it’s important for parents to actively engage them in this task. That’s how children learn to categorize and how to release things. Teaching children at a young age to be involved in organizing (no matter how small the task) starts them on the road to learning how to put things away and to be better able to pick up after themselves. Great post! Jonda Beattie and I have incorporated many of your suggestions in our children’s books: Suzie’s Messy Room; Benji’s Messy Room as well as the organizing cards marked ‘Child Friendly’ in the Organize Your Home 10 Minutes at a Time deck of cards.

    1. I love that you have marked some of your cards as “Child Friendly.” So smart to remind parents that children are teachable, and that this is just one more “life skill” that can (and should) be taught. Plus, when children are little, they often like doing anything that feels grown up!

    1. Or their results, right? That was hard for me at times, but it is important to let them have their victories, not push to have it look the way we think it should be!

  3. I don’t have kids. And most of my clients no longer have kids at home either. But I’ve always been interested in what kids can do at different ages chore-wise and organizing-wise. There’s a current POINT discussion called “Ideas to get a family on board to stay organized” that you may or may not have seen.

  4. Kids are so earnest; they show an interest in being “helpers” even before they are two years old. Too often, parents push kids away from wanting to help by insisting on a level of perfection that the tiny ones’ motor skills and cognitive discernment can’t meet, but by encouraging kids to be a part of the household, they’ll learn to take pride in their accomplishments. They’re especially good at folder: socks, wash clothes, dish towels. Anything small enough for them to handle in a seated position is a super place to start building their confidence. Great reminders!
    Julie Bestry recently posted…Use Your Heart, Head, and Hands to Organize During the Slow TimesMy Profile

    1. When I was young and learning to iron, my Mom had my iron my Dad’s hankies. I don’t think men use these anymore, but they were great to learn on being simple rectangles. I think learning life skills is empowering, and we shortchange kids by not giving them a chance to develop them!

  5. Love all the great ideas here. I would like to add that when a child does an organizational task like putting books in the bookcase, it is important to accept that job as well done. Please do not go after them and straighten out the books or rearrange them. When you do that, you indicate that they did not do a good enough job.

    1. Such an excellent point, Jonda! We need to affirm and empower, not criticize or “redo.” I made this mistake a lot when I was early in my parenting years. I’ve gotten better, but wish I had known this when they were little!

  6. What a relevant post! There are so many parents who have no idea what to do with their kids right now! I loved to take out my Grandmother’s buttons and organize them by color. I also remember my mother asking me to pair all the socks once they came out of the dryer and I loved that! I was a very fidgety kid with very poor fine motor skills so as long as I didn’t have to be too exact I was an enthusiastic helper!
    Jill Katz recently posted…Creating A Morning Routine & Why It Will Increase Your ProductivityMy Profile

    1. The best part of this story is that you loved it! Kids can really do more than we think, and often they just want to be near us. I love the button sorting. That could even become a game.

  7. I wish I had heard these suggestions when my kids were small. Such great ideas-even for adults. I never really thought of having them help except to have them pick up their toys and put them away. It could be a fun day to do any of these. Thanks for the suggestions.

    1. Some kids will naturally enjoy activities like these more than others, but especially when they are little, just doing something with Mom and/or Dad can be fun!

    1. Even the little ones can do some things. I even saw a dog on a video who liked to take items out the dryer and give them to his owner – now that is a trick!

  8. It’s crucial to appreciate and acknowledge a child’s efforts when they tackle an organizational task like arranging books. Resist the urge to go behind them and make adjustments, as it sends a message that their work isn’t good enough. Embrace their contribution and celebrate their accomplishments just as they are.

    1. That can be difficult to do, but you are so right. Part of the process is empowering children to take care of their belongings. If we truly believe this, we shouldn’t be “correcting” their efforts!

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