For most parents doing things for their kids is something they consider part of the ‘job description.’ When they arrive as babies it is a must, as they rely on us for almost everything. As they grow both in size, intelligence and experience they will start to do things for themselves, but too often parents intervene, to either speed up the process or to get a better outcome.

By the time they can easily reach a countertop, access the drawers in their dresser and execute a multi-step process parents are so used to doing things for them that they often forget to step back and let children do more for themselves.

One part of helping children do more for themselves is becoming aware of what they are capable of, what is reasonable and what would be helpful to the overall function of the household.

The second part is getting organized to support this new self-sufficiency. Setting up organized systems in your home for storage and workflow helps all members of the family use the house and get things done.

With the kids at home ALL the time right now you have an excellent opportunity to start to let go a little and let your kids – and I’m talking about kids of all ages – do more for themselves. Doing so, while it may involve work and patience on your part, will pay off, for your child, your home and you.

Here are some ideas for ways you can improve your home organization to facilitate your child’s self-sufficiency.

Label Storage Spaces and Containers

If you’re the only person using a pantry or storage closet, you can usually rely on your memory and habit to find things and put things back where they belong.

If you want others – especially the kids – to find things and put them away in an organized way, you need to leave clues about where things belong. Labels (with words, pictures or both) are a key part of helping to keep closets, pantries and shelves organized.

This does not have to be complicated. Simple paper signs are all you need to make, or if you want things to look attractive try downloading and filling out templates like these.

Ensure That Kids Can Reach What They Need

This is safety issue as much as it is an organizational one. You can prevent falls and spills resulting from not being able to safely reach a counter or cabinet by organizing spaces so kids can reach what they need.

For example, in the kitchen, stock a low drawer or cabinet with drinking glasses, plates and kid-friendly utensils so kids can help themselves in the kitchen.

In other spaces make sure toys, art supplies and clothes are within reach. Most kids won’t hesitate to scale a closet shelving system or bookcase for something they need or want. And that can be a recipe for disaster (and injury)

Teach Your Kids How to Do Things

Most young children by age 2 have the mental and physical development to help with some household chores and to do some things to take care of themselves. But they won’t know how until you teach them.

Organizational skills are learned skills. Show teach them how to manage a project by being clear about the goal, helping them locate equipment, showing them the skills and teaching them how to clean up. As kids get older, establish checklists to remind them what needs to be done and in what order.

Here is a list of some age appropriate chores.

Chores for children ages 2 to 3

  • Put their toys away
    Fill a pet’s food dish
    Put their clothes in a hamper
    Wipe up spills
    Pile books and magazines

Chores for children ages 4 to 5

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Make their bed
    Empty wastebaskets
    Bring in mail or newspaper
    Clear the table
    Pull weeds, if you have a garden
    Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs
    Water flowers
    Unload utensils from dishwasher
    Wash plastic dishes at the sink
    Fix their own bowl of cereal

Chores for children ages 6 to 7

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Sort laundry
    Sweep floors
    Set and clear table
    Weed and rake leaves
    Keep their bedroom tidy

Chores for children ages 8 to 9

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Load the dishwasher
    Put away groceries
    Help make dinner
    Make their own snacks
    Put away their own laundry
    Sew buttons
    Peel vegetables
    Cook simple foods, such as toast
    Mop floors
    Take the dog for a walk

Use Checklists and Calendars to Manage Expectations

Adults and kids alike don’t like being micromanaged. Gentle reminders to do chores or brush teeth come across as nagging and suddenly everyone is frustrated and unhappy. You can minimize that frustration and unhappiness by setting clear and consistent expectations for tasks children in your home are responsible for.

Documenting them on a family calendar or task list in a shared space or on checklists helps take some emotion out of the process. For younger kids printed checklists attached to a refrigerator are a great idea but for those older kids whose phone seems to be surgically attached to their hand an app is probably going to be more effective.

A little of effort on your part can have some really positive results in helping your kids successfully help themselves. And this is a great time to get started. And just think, when they can go back to school and head out to hang out with their friends again – ie when life returns to something that better resembles normal – you may have a lot less to do, as they will have learned to do so much more for themselves.

Contact me if you need ideas and support for getting your home organized so kids can help themselves. During the COVID 19 crisis I am offering virtual organization sessions for a discounted rate and although I may not be able to assist you in person right now there is a lot we can get done simply by connecting via Zoom, Skype or even just via email. Head here to learn more and book an appointment.

Just Organized By Taya
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