5 Ways to Nurture, Encourage, and Support the Organized Child

“Mommy!” Baby girl squealed from her room.

“Yes, Beans, what’s up?” I replied.

“Look what I did!”

I blinked at the clock – 7:33 am.

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With a combination of fear and curiosity, I rolled out of the bed, squeezed past my open and overflowing dresser drawers, ducked around the protruding handles of my elliptical turned closet extension, shimmied by the full  laundry baskets of clean but not folded clothes, and went out of my bedroom door – not before whacking my pinkie toe on a plastic bin of craft supplies. I limped down the hall to her room.

“Look, Look!” she chirped, barely able to contain her excitement. “See, I put all my lotion – here. All of my lip gloss is – here. I hung up my necklaces – here. And under here – I put aaaaaaaalllllll my dress up stuff!”

“Wow!” I said – trying to sound excited through the sleep stuck in my throat, “This is really amazing!”

Truth is, I was excited.  We had gotten our girly girl a powder table for her birthday, and she really loved it. Now, two birthdays later, she was still in love with it, and using it to stay organized. I was always afraid that my kids would mimic what they saw when they witnessed the chaos that was my room, and here was my little one, up early, making sure her personal space was in order. Whoa.

Moms, Dads, Aunt, Uncles, Grandmas and Grandpas – you know – helping a child develop good habits is challenging. Nurturing a child’s natural ability can be even harder.  My son is a talented soccer player, so helping him out is easy, since soccer is something I love to play.  Staying organized is a talent, but it isn’t one that my husband have naturally, so we are at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to raising a little one who shows a knack for it at such a young age.

Order is important in the Caribbean household.  Around here, my husband and I, while not terribly organized, do have a talent for planning and project management, so we have come up with five ways to support and encourage our naturally organized child.

1.  Ask her what she needs to get her space set up the way that she would like it. A lot of times, you’ll find that after you set up your child’s room, and it looks perfect, it is dismantled in a matter of hours.  What you think is organized, may not match what your child has in mind. We have found that the way that our brain is organized is quite different to hers, so in order for her to feel at peace with her set up in her room, we have to get her input.

2.  Provide tools for keeping their space orderly. Buckets, bins, baskets, bags, binders… we have it all, and we make sure that she has a place and a space for everything.  Since she is naturally organized, not having a space for something can make her anxious.  Between the dollar store and IKEA, she’s a much happier kid.

3.  Remove obstacles to neatness. For me, it is easier to just divide the clothes up in baskets by owner, and shove them in their rooms until I get to folding and putting away.  The boys couldn’t care less.  For Baby Girl, that is a problem.  A basket of unfolded clothes in her room that she spent so much time organizing? Unacceptable.  So although I still shove the boys’ basket into their room, secretly hoping that they’ll fold them and put them away, I fold her clothes and put them in the drawers for her.

4.  Give her a job helping to organize other areas of the house. Nurturing and supporting her organization skill is more than just helping her to keep her personal space clean and neat to her satisfaction.  I would like for her to extend her talent to contributing to the overall organization of the household and eventually her community at large.  I give her small jobs to help out like organizing the lower bookshelves in our homeschooling area, and she loves the idea of taking ownership of a project that affects more people than just herself.

5.  Reward her good work. Baby Girl has kept her been keeping her room up on her own for quite a while now.  We recognize that for a kid her age, that is pretty impressive.  Most kids her age still have mom making their beds and cleaning their rooms – and while I do have to go in and vacuum, put away things she can’t reach, and prompt her to check under her bed for toys and socks, for the most part, she has taken ownership of maintaining her personal space.  We reward her with a few more minutes of video games, or fifteen minutes tacked on to her bedtime…. both of which make her feel very grown up. She likes feeling grown up.

What is your child naturally good at? How did you find out?  What do you do to nurture and support that talent?

There’s no denying that order is valued in the Caribbean household. Recognizing and rewarding organization as a “talent” seems to be a very American concept. How do you view the ability to stay organized when it comes to your kids?