Get Your Kids Organized at All Ages
Toddlers, and even teens, can be good organizers. Follow these tips to teach your kids organizing skills that will last a lifetime.
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Ages 2-4: Keep It Simple
Ever notice how much fun your preschooler has "playing house" with a broom and dustpan, or sorting different-colored Legos and blocks into buckets? Scooping, stacking, wiping and matching are all developmental skills you can further develop into a lifetime of good organizing habits. "Generally, toddlers enjoy being helpful and won't see cleaning as work unless you make it sound like work," says Donna Smallin, author of Cleaning Plain & Simple. "Keep an upbeat attitude, and make sure you give little ones lots of praise."
- Make it a game. Keep a clean plastic dustpan handy to scoop up small toys from the floor, and set an egg timer for five minutes. Your child will love seeing how many toys he or she can clean up before the bell rings.
- Make it fun. Smallin suggests giving your kids a couple of old, clean socks they can put on their hands and use to dust moldings and table and chair legs, while you dust tables, shelves and breakables.
- Remember that cleaning with a toddler is a cooperative effort. Smallin suggests that when you do your nightly household pick-up, give your little one a pillow case to collect their belongings while you round up the bigger things.
- Give your child a job he or she actually likes. "My 3-year-old loves grabbing chunks of soggy clothes and throwing them into the dryer — something about the thud they make landing in the dryer just floats his boat," says Tara Aronson, author of Mrs. Clean Jeans' Housekeeping with Kids.
- Start young. Aronson suggests introducing a chore chart at age two or three. "Start with just one or two chores — like putting socks away, or choosing an outfit for the next day — then adding responsibility as your child is ready for it," she says.
- Store like items together. "Help them sort through their stuff to see what they've got and then use plastic storage boxes, crates or shelving so they can keep track of where everything is," Smallin says.
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