Developing good organizational skills is a key ingredient for success in school and in life. Although some people are by nature more organized than others, anyone can put routines and systems in place to help a child "get it together." The Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities has come up with a list of strategies you can use to help your child get — and keep — their life under control this school year.
1. Use Checklists
Help your child get into the habit of keeping a "to-do" list. Use checklists to post assignments, household chores and reminders about what materials to bring to class. Your child should keep a small pad or notebook dedicated to listing homework assignments. Crossing completed items off the list will give him a sense of accomplishment.
You can even use apps like Google Keep, where you can create shared checklists. While you don't want to hover over every assignment, you can use it to keep track of which assignments your kid is crossing out right away and which are taking a bit longer to finish. They may need help in a subject or they may need to organize their assignments, which leads us to our next tip...
2. Organize Homework Assignments
Before beginning a homework session, encourage your child to number assignments in the order in which they should be done. They should start with one that's not too long or difficult, but avoid saving the longest or hardest assignments for last. The last thing you want is a kid working through a history essay at 10 o'clock at night.
If you child has a bigger assignment that isn't due right away, show them how to organize it into smaller chunks that they can work into their usual homework session.
3. Designate a Study Space
Your child should study in the same place every night. It doesn't have to be a bedroom, but it should be a quiet place with few distractions. All school supplies and materials should be nearby. If your young child wants to study with you nearby, too, you'll be better able to monitor their progress and encourage good study habits.
4. Set a Designated Study Time
Your child should know that a certain time every day is reserved for studying and doing homework. The best time is usually not right after school — most children benefit from time to unwind first. Include your child in deciding a time. Even if they don't have homework, the reserved time should be used to review the day's lessons, read for pleasure or work on an upcoming project.
More: Building Study Skills
5. Keep Organized Notebooks
Help your child keep track of papers by organizing them in a binder or notebook. This will help them review the material for each day's classes and to organize the material later to prepare for tests and quizzes. Use dividers to separate class notes, or color-code notebooks. Separate "to do" and "done" folders help organize worksheets, notices and items to be signed by parents and provide a central place to store completed assignments.
6. Conduct a Weekly Cleanup
Have your child purge book bags and notebooks on a weekly basis. Old tests and papers should be organized and kept in a separate file at home. Papers, wrappers and other debris should be thrown out. School supplies that have made their way to the bottom of a backpack should either be placed in a special pocket or put back in their study space at home.
7. Create a Household Schedule
Try to establish and stick to a regular dinnertime and a regular bedtime. That will help your child fall into a pattern at home. Children with a regular bedtime go to school well-rested. Try to limit screen time to specific periods of time during the day.
8. Keep a Master Calendar
Keep a large, wall-sized calendar for the household, listing the family's commitments, schedules for extracurricular activities, days off from school and major events at home and at school. Note dates when your child has big exams or due dates for projects. This will help family members keep track of each other's activities and avoid scheduling conflicts.
9. Prepare for the Day Ahead
Before your child goes to bed, they should pack away their schoolwork and books. The next day's clothes should be laid out with shoes and accessories. Devices should be plugged in to charge. This will cut down on morning confusion and allow your child to prepare quickly for the day ahead.
10. Provide Support While Your Child Is Learning to Become More Organized
Help your child develop organizational skills by photocopying checklists and schedules and taping them to the refrigerator. Gently remind them about filling in calendar dates and keeping papers and materials organized.
Most important, set a good example. Use that big calendar yourself. Lay out your own clothes for the next day. And keep to-do lists of your own.
Adapted from "Tips for Developing Organizational Skills in Children" by the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities (CCLD). Call 1-888-478-6463 for important resources and information about learning disabilities.