Last year my son, who is starting 3rd grade this year, got into a bit of trouble with his teachers because he had difficulty organizing his notebook and often forgot the things he needed for school at home (like homework, permission forms and notes for the teacher).
I want to avoid the ‘I’ll just do it for him’ approach I ended up taking last year and put more effort into helping him develop his own organizational skills, but in a way that will leave him with a can-do, positive attitude towards the process – any advice?
Usually at the beginning of the year a child’s motivation is very high, their backpack is tidy, their notebook is organized, and even their handwriting is neater and more legible than usual.
It’s a fresh new beginning, but for kids who have difficulty keeping things in order, maintaining this organized state throughout the year is typically a major challenge, so this is a great time to focus on staying organized. You can use your son’s own momentum to start nurturing and reinforcing his good habits, and help him see and celebrate his own successes.
The School Bag: The first week of school, it’s immaculate. Let’s keep it that way.
To help him keep and reinforce this positive habit, try introducing a new habit into your son’s routine: creating a time to get organized.
Let your son know that this year we’re going organize the school bag in the evening, looking over tomorrow’s curriculum and avoiding that stress in the morning. Every day, we’ll get rid of all the unnecessary pieces of paper that accumulate in the school bag. As a parent, it’s important for you to remember that the responsibility to organize your son’s bag is his, not yours, but you can and should encourage him to organize his belongings and double-check to be sure that he hasn’t forgotten anything.
The Notebook: Keeping it in (mostly) mint condition.
As the year wears on, the routine gets tiring and the demands increase, and kids begin to find it hard to maintain the same level of persistence, precision and effort – which is completely natural. What you want to do here is encourage your son to maintain that focused level of writing and try to mirror his successes to him.
One idea is to take photographs of your son’s neat notebook, documenting his success and reminding him that he’s got the ability to stay organized.
Another technique to helping your son with keeping the notebook in order is to cover each notebook in a different color. This can help your son tell the notebooks apart according to their subjects (for example, everything math related we can cover in red or put a red sticker on). You can also use the same colors to highlight those subjects in his daily class schedule, and keep the schedule in a noticeable place, which can help him make sure he’s equipped for the day’s classes.
If your son has grapho-motor difficulties, you can use Timocco to work on key grapho-motor components like visual-perceptual skills, motor planning and execution, as well as visual-motor coordination. You can also work on fine motor skills by using marker caps or pegs to play Timocco (mimicking the way your son needs to hold a pen/pencil). A few weeks ago I was asked and wrote about improving fine motor skills to prep for school, you might find some useful info in that post as well.
These are just a few of the many ways you can maintain orderliness and tidiness in your son’s daily routines; it’s worth doing a little trial and error to find the system that works for your family and motivates your son best.
I hope you and your son have a productive and fruitful school year!
Sarit Tresser, OT