My Fourth-Grader Needs to Get Organized

By Dr. Stacie Bunning, clinical psychologist


I was in a parent teacher conference, and the teacher of my fourth grade son told me that he is doing very well; he only needs to be organized. At home we are also working on teaching him to be organized, in his bedroom, clothes, toys, school stuff, and other things. Please share any suggestions, how to help him to be more organized, and ready for middle school.


Ah, organization ... a distant memory for most parents! Dealing with clutter and putting things in order is an issue for almost everyone in our fast-paced, multi-tasking society. You're wise to look for new strategies for your family as your son gets older; in middle school he will need these tools more than ever. Below are some tips for helping your son stay organized with schoolwork and at home:


If his school doesn't provide a planner or an assignment notebook, purchase one for your son. Teach him to write down his daily assignments and other important information, such as test dates and due dates for projects. Be sure to keep his teachers informed that he is using this tool.

Arrange a comfortable and practical area for him to do his homework each day. It should be free from distraction, and should have good lighting. Televisions should not be visible from his homework area. Make sure he has adequate supplies in his homework area, including pens, pencils, paper, a calculator, a stapler, a ruler, and markers.

Set a time for homework completion each day. The time should be consistent and reasonable. For example, expecting him to start homework as soon as he walks in the door from school is unrealistic, as is a late time such as 10:00 p.m. Phones, computers, iPods, televisions, and radios should not be accessible during this time.

At Home

Take advantage of the wide variety of storage containers at your local department store. These containers can be stacked on shelves or stored under beds, and labels can be applied to list the contents (action figures, baseball cards, CD's, etc.).

Shelves are a great organizational tool; not only can items such as books and DVDs be stored on them, but also they can be used for display of special toys, photos, or trophies.

Keep a colorful laundry basket or hamper on the floor of your son's closet - this gives him a specific place to put dirty clothes and towels.

Once everything is organized, institute a brief (5-10 minutes) daily cleaning routine for all family members. Some families call this a "quick clean," a "cleaning frenzy" or "tidy time," and with everyone's cooperation, your home can stay neat and clutter-free!

Dr. Stacie Bunning is a licensed clinical psychologist in the St. Louis area. She has worked with children, adolescents, and their families in a variety of clinical settings for 20 years. Bunning also teaches courses in child psychology, adolescent psychology, and human development at Maryville University in St. Louis.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.