Tidy spaces can prevent kids from becoming overwhelmed and frustrated

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[August 05, 2014]  By Jessica Harlan

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - If you’re concerned that your child’s perpetually messy room will cause him to grow up to be a disorganized, ineffective adult, rest easy. A tidy room isn’t necessarily as crucial to a child’s development as parents might expect, though it certainly does offer short- and long-term benefits.

“Is a messy room going to leave a kid less capable as an adult than they would have been otherwise? I’d say no,” said educational psychologist Jane M. Healy, author of “Your Child’s Growing Mind” and other books. “There are more important things in child-rearing than making sure every shelf is labeled.”

But Healy told Reuters Health that cleaning and organizing a bedroom or playroom presents myriad teachable moments for all ages. “There are wonderful opportunities to work on color matching, classifying, and sorting,” she says. “For older kids, it can be planning ahead, having a goal, outlining the steps to get to that goal.”

And Ellen Delap, a certified professional organizer and spokesperson for the National Association of Professional Organizers, told Reuters Health that an organized room can help prevent kids from becoming frustrated, anxious, and overwhelmed.

“An uncluttered space can help them be the best people they can be,” she said. “Kids get overwhelmed with the number of toys, clothes, and technology in their spaces - it’s frustrating to find what they need.”

These tips can help parents and children get their bedrooms, playrooms, and other spaces tidy and organized with minimal strife.
* Have reasonable expectations. Gauge your expectations onthe developmental age of your child, and the child’s ownability, said Healy. They might be able to put their clothes ina drawer, but may not yet have mastered the ability to foldeverything neatly. * Create a base line. Twice a year, work with your childrento do a major organizing and decluttering of the room, to removeitems that are outgrown or less used, said Delap. This makes iteasier to maintain. * Assign zones. Think about the various activities that takeplace in your child’s space: homework, playing with toys, usingmedia. Group the items needed for each activity together so thatthe child has easy access to take them out and put them away. * Create a family standard operating procedure. Delapbelieves that every family has its

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own “standard operatingprocedure” – a certain expectation of cleanliness. For somefamilies it might mean no clothes on the floor, for others, itmight mean a bed that’s made daily. Stick with this expectationand make sure that parents are modeling the procedure each day. * Make it fun and achievable. If you play music while you’rein cleanup mode, or set a timer for five minutes a day, or offeran incentive such as a small allowance, cleaning will not seemas onerous. * Invest in organizing tools. Look into bins, boxes, andother storage tools that can contain toys, clothes, and otheritems in a way that’s easy to access. And don’t forgetunderutilized places – under-bed bins, hanging baskets, andorganizers for back of the door, can drastically increasestorage space.

So while parents shouldn’t worry that they’re dooming their children to life as a slob if they don’t clean their rooms, it can’t be overlooked that helping them develop some habits of tidying and organizing can’t hurt. “What this offers is an opportunity for you to help your child shape their adult attitudes as well as their adult habits,” says Healy.

[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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