Help Kids Become Independent and Organized Without Nagging

Help Kids Become Independent and Organized Without Nagging

Because when kids take care of themselves and their own things, parents get a real break.

By Lorraine Allen

Parenting is a lot of work, but every now and then we find our kids miraculously doing on their own the tasks which we usually have to remind them about – and those moments feel like true bliss. Like when your kid gets up from the dinner table and clears his plate and sits down to do his homework, ALL BY HIMSELF! Or when you’re bracing yourself for the usual busy-morning, get-out-the-door struggle, and you turn and see your kid packing her lunch, all dressed and ready, and on time. What?!

Yes, our kids can and will become fully independent eventually. But that’s a long way off, and for now, we can content ourselves with increasing our moments of calm by encouraging their budding autonomy, and giving them some basic tools and tips to organize themselves and manage their own time and stuff, so we don’t have to. Here are a few ways to do this:

For toddlers and preschoolers: Use music by playing or singing a specific song when it's clean-up time at the end of the day, or before nap, for example. This sets a playful tone while creating a simple routine. If you do this consistently, soon you’ll find your active little one happily pointing out to you that it’s almost time to clean up, and starting to sort and stow books and blocks, while singing. If that’s not heaven, I don’t know what is. This trick works well for getting dressed or out the door on time too, if you create a song about what to do first, and what to do second to get ready, and so on.

More from P&G everyday: 25 Easy Ways to Teach Kids How to Cook

For elementary school kids: Kids like being in control more and more during these years. (Yay!) They’re also learning about math, numbers, and keeping time. Encourage them to take charge by giving them a timer (or a watch with a timer), which you can set together before important activities, like catching the school bus or brushing teeth and getting to bed. By setting the timer and letting them hold onto it, they know how many minutes they can use screens, or how long they have left to play or talk to a friend before time is up, without parents reminding them.

For kids of any age: It’s never too early or too late to start encouraging your kids to do things on their own and learn better self-care so you can take a step back. Simple habits – like everyone in the family hanging up keys, bags, and coats on designated hooks upon entering the house – help keep everyone organized and ensure you all can get out the door faster (and in a better mood!). The older your kids are, the more of these organizational habits you can encourage: stashing shoes on a rack or in a closet as soon as kids come home, bringing dirty laundry to the washing machine (older kids can even start a load!) when the hamper is full, helping to set and clear the table before and after you eat together.


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Kids of all ages enjoy being in control of their stuff and their schedule; parents just need to take a little time to show them how. Studies show that teaching things playfully or by example work especially well, at any age.

What tricks and tools do you use to encourage your kids’ independence and organization?

Lorraine is a freelance parenting and food writer, and she shares her cooking adventures and family recipes at She lives in New York with her family and one squirrel-obsessed dog. Follow her @feedingLina.

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