Earlier this week I was bitten by an organize-the-children’s-art-supplies bug that would not let me not do it. So I dove in in that irreversible way that involves emptying entire shelves and drawers onto the floor. The process took all day. We sorted, we made a list, and then I went to go buy containers while the kids napped. After dinner, their treat was to stay up and help me organize. And they totally loved it.
I was honestly surprised by how they responded. They kept telling me, “Mommy, I love you. Mommy, thank you so much.” I realize two things were probably going on: They were happy to be included in what Mommy was doing, of course (as 3- and 5-year-olds still are), but something about the organizing itself was filling up their little hearts.
Although I involved them in the process without too much deep thought, their reaction to helping me made me realize the value of involving the children in organizing projects:
1) They find things they forgot they had. Two things in our home are kind of like Christmas: When I come home from shopping at a consignment sale and when we rotate or organize the kids’ toys. While Danny and Elora were helping sort through their art supplies and toys, they got really excited about things that were too jumbled up for them to access or even remember they had. “Discovering” them breathed new life into things we already have.
2) Sorting in a real-life setting is educational and practical. Sorting is an important activity for young children. It teaches them to look at things and consider what’s the same and what’s different and how to categorize things in various ways. Sorting is a building block for both math skills and language development. Sorting through helping with a real-life organizing task melds an educational activity with a practical skill — and that’s very high on the the list of the kinds of activities I want to do with my children.
3) They can practice working together. In the already pleasant atmosphere of them helping me and me helping them, the kids were primed to work with each other nicely and were able to practice manners and collaboration: “Danny could you pass me that crayon?” and “Oh, sorry Elora, excuse me.” I was able to model teamwork with them and they were able to apply it immediately both with me and each other.
4) They feel loved. Their outpouring of love to me made me realize that by letting them help me they must really be feeling loved by me. It’s easy to attribute this to the fact that I was including them in something I was doing, but I also think there was something more going on. I think that by taking the time for them to see me taking care of their things, and including them in my process, they knew that their things — and by extension, they — were important to me.
5) Appreciation and an incentive to keep things neat. By seeing how much work and how long it took for us to organize their things, they realize the labor and consideration it takes to organize. And by involving their time and energy, they feel invested in the project. This leads to a healthy kind of pride in a job well done (you should have seen them beaming at Daddy when they showed him what they did) and, moreover, a huge incentive to keep their things neat.
Whether I do it myself or involve them in the process, I can see the effect that organized surroundings have on the children. They are calmer, less “lost” in terms of deciding what to do or play with, and much, much more apt to put things away where they belong. Involving them in the act of organizing makes the process even more valuable than the end result, and I hope to remember to do this more often.
Have you observed similar effects when organizing either for or with your children? Share in the comments.