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Why and how you should instill organisational skills in your child

By Jenny Coetzee and Angelica Ouya | Jul 31st 2021 | 3 min read

Pupils from different schools take part in the 'Play, Learn and Grow' program that was organized by The Scholar Castle School, Tudor.[File,Standard]

Developing organisational skills is important in holistic child development, and a key step in their path towards independence and academic success. Children are competent and will respond positively to the opportunity to become organised and empowered over their own lives, education experts say.

Organisational skills help children create order in their environment and the world, and they feel empowered to take on increasingly more complex tasks as they build on this foundational skill. Moreover, organisational and self-management skills build resilience – one of the most important 21st Century survival skills.

Parents can progressively start introducing organisational skills into the everyday lives of their children by making it a fun and empowering experience. Essential to this introduction is ensuring your child has good role modelling, and this is easily done by parent and child preparing for the school day before bedtime.

As academic demands start to grow, children may experience challenges setting priorities, making plans, sticking to a task and getting things done. These skills become increasingly important as children move through different grade levels. Many people think of organisational skills as the ability to keep things in order, but it is much more than that – it sets a child up for success and enjoyment of their learning journey.

Parents can help children check that their uniforms are set out, that their school bags are packed, lunch boxes are ready to be filled and plans for collection from school are discussed. Similarly, if learning is happening online due to Covid-19, routine and preparations for the next day remain important, even if the actual logistics look different.

It is important to involve children in these preparations instead of just doing everything for them, and give them the responsibility of participating in the organisation of their day and space.

Teaching, modelling and allowing the child autonomy to practice these essential skills have a significant and long-lasting impact on a child’s ability to succeed throughout their academic career; since these are essential life skills and they are the foundation to building a child’s ability to feel prepared, and ready to learn and engage in the classroom.

All children are unique, and while some may have an innate drive to organise their environment, others may be quite content to let chaos compound around them.

While the average preschooler obviously won’t be able to keep to a diary or to-do list, parents can help them understand, develop and share routines at home and in the classroom.

Teachers can help students stay on track by following a general schedule each day. Maintaining structure in the classroom, whether in person, or online, supports students to establish a schedule and remember what is expected of them.  

Structure in this second year of Covid-19 is important, given that most children in Kenya still have a disrupted educational experience, so where possible, structure helps alleviate some of the impact of this disruption by providing a measure of certainty and predictability.

At home, chores such as cleaning up toys, putting away clothes and helping set or clear the table – or whichever recurring chores arise within the home environment - are good ways to teach children the methodical approach to following directions and focusing on a task.

With the right encouragement and approach, children will gradually start to build organisational muscle, and be proud of their contribution within the home and at school.

Playful family time is essential and co-creating games are interactive. An exciting way to introduce new concepts – particularly to an otherwise reluctant child – is to turn it into a game.

The LEGO Foundation (legofoundation.com) and Unicef (unicef.org) share useful elements of playful pedagogy and these online platforms offer playful learning ideas, materials and strategies for schools and families, these can support organisational thinking.

Coetzee is managing director, Crawford International School Kenya, and Ouya is education director, Makini Group of Schools.

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