Ask Alistair

Dear Alistair,
My Grade 5 daughter is a scattered child. She loses (or forgets) things all the time and is always late in the morning
because she cannot find her books or her school shoes, etc.
How do I help her to become more organized?


Organising tools

To organise is to arrange possessions, information or tasks into a structured whole so that the parts are coordinated efficiently. As adults, we use a variety of organisational strategies and tools (e.g., calendars, filing cabinets, computers, etc.) to help us schedule and manage tasks and keep track of important information and papers. These techniques help us to accomplish tasks successfully and achieve our goals.

Organising is known as an executive function process. Children with learning and attention challenges often have difficulty in this area. It is important to help them learn strategies that strengthen these processes.

Organisation is critical for academic success. From the early grades onwards, the increasing pace of the curriculum and higher demands for independent learning call for stronger organisational strategies.

Use some of the strategies below to help your daughter organise effectively. These will help your child to succeed with academic and leisure activities (and provide a strong foundation for future performance as an adult).

Organising Time
1. Use a family diary or calendar to record important commitments. Weekly family meetings can help you coordinate everyone’s schedules so that you model good planning and organisational strategies.
2. Help your child to select a calendar (paper or electronic) that can be updated with commitments and tasks whenever you update the family calendar. Encourage your child to review these calendars daily to anticipate new events.
3. Encourage your child to schedule enjoyable activities (e.g., playdates), along with important obligations.
Organising Tasks
1. Visualizing long-term projects and viewing them as “mental movies” can help children to break complex tasks into manageable chunks. Use a white board or sheet of paper to map tasks into flow-charts.
2. Encourage your child to write down important tasks in a diary / calendar and to allocate time accordingly. You can teach your child to estimate the time each task will take and to track the time while working. A kitchen timer is a helpful tool.
3. Help your child to generate lists of tasks for homework or chores and to check off their lists as each task is completed.
Organising Materials
1. An organized workspace helps children to find the materials they need for homework easily and independently. Store different materials in different sections. For example, all writing tools should be located together.
2. Keep reference materials, including calculators, dictionaries, etc., close to your child’s homework workspace.
3. Help your child to stick to a regular time during the week for clearing out and organising his or her backpack. Work together to make this a pleasant experience so that it becomes a habit!
4. Encourage your child to use a brightly coloured pocket folder to transport important papers (e.g., homework, permission slips) to and from school so that homework does not get lost.