“Order is the sanity of the mind, the health of the body, the peace of the city, the security of the state. Like beams in a house or bones to a body, so is order to all things.” – Robert Southey

In Reggio Emilia, a northern Italian town whose early childhood programs are known around the world, they consider the environment to be “another teacher” The environment can inspire children, enhance learning, and reduce behavior problems. This idea that a carefully considered space can function as a system of support, in and of itself, always stuck with me as an educator and continued to do so when I became a parent. 

I do a fair amount of planning and prepping ahead of major transitions, knowing that children land better in an organized environment and that it will save me time in the long run. Below are three key areas to consider as you get your house in order in preparation for the new school year.

1. De-Clutter

 Get rid of things, donate them, re-gift them — it’s your call! Clutter is going to work against you as you try to create that back-to-school clean slate. Make it a learning experience, have your child help you declutter their room. You reduce the likelihood of their being upset about something being donated (since you let them choose) and you will be imparting some valuable organizational skills in the process.

2. Establish a Morning Routine 

And begin it a couple days before school starts. For older children this could be creating a list together, and for younger kids you can create a visual schedule with stick figure drawings and tape it to the fridge where they can reference it. Eventually, as the morning routine becomes automatic, you won’t need the physical list and can take it down if you’d like.

Is positive reinforcement important?

No need to give check marks or stars as each item on the list is completed. The positive reinforcement is best experienced through the natural consequence of having more time to play once all the items on the list are done. It sounds like this, “I see that you’ve finished your breakfast and are now playing with Legos. Legos will be an option once you’ve done all five things on your list. The faster you can get them done, the more Lego time you will have.” 

After your child has become accustomed to the morning routine, allow them to have a hand in adapting the morning routine items to meet their needs as circumstances change. “Mom, let's change ‘socks at the door’ to ‘sunscreen at the door’ since it's spring and I’m now wearing sandals.”

What should I do for younger children?

For a younger child you should assume that you’ll be helping them with each step of their list and then, slowly, phasing yourself out as they show they can manage things. Even then you’ll still likely need to give them little reminders to move onto the next items and not start playing.  If they are becoming resistant to doing something on the list, do a little task analysis. Step back, observe, and think. Try to figure out what may be hard for them and help them with that item until you can find a way to adapt it together to make it more do-able on their own. For example, making their own bed can be achievable once you’ve done it as a team for a while. You model it and adapt it to make it easier. But remember, the goal isn’t total independence, it’s about smoother mornings. No five-year-old takes total care of themselves and remembers everything so we shouldn’t expect them to suddenly be able to.

3. Update and Refresh Your Child’s Workspace: 

Incoming rapid fire checklist! Here are some things to keep in mind as you get ready for back to school.

  • Is their desk still the right size for them? 
  • Is their current workspace better suited to this past years’ remote learning than it is to homework time? 
  • Do they have two feet firmly planted on the floor while seated in their chair? Occupational and Physical therapists will tell you how important that is for a child’s focus, attention, and motor control. If your trunk isn’t stable your extremities will be working overtime to write as they try to make up for that lack of core control. That’s a recipe for tired hands and cranky writers! Two feet on the floor folks!
  • How distracting is the space? Are there too many toys around? 
  • How’s the lighting? Keep it bright!
  • Get your child’s input — Ask them: what would make this a nicer place to work for you? Do you feel like you have what you need here? 
  • If your child is now sharing a room with a sibling, consider some noise canceling headphones.

Now, it’s time to get back to school! These tips will get you and your family ready. 

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