Healthy Kids YMCA Child Care

The real reason why kids lose stuff (and how to handle it)

A young boy playing with toy trains placed on a coffee table

Last week, I provided some tips and strategies to help kids keep track of their stuff. But as any parent knows, there really is no fool-proof formula: No matter how hard they try, children are bound to lose track of their school books, mittens, lunchbox, and even their footwear; and no matter how hard you try to help them remember their belongings with memory-jogging tricks and consequences, kids will still forget their possessions.

Why is it that kids seem to forget everything?

It’s incredibly frustrating when items are constantly missing, but it’s natural for kids to lose their stuff — especially young school-age children. Kids at this stage of their development tend be egocentric in their thinking, meaning that they can be oblivious to things outside of themselves. Fulfilling their immediate wants are usually more of a priority than putting their shoes back in their cubby or filing their homework away in the correct folder, and it’s in these situations that things go AWOL.

On top of a very “me-oriented” outlook, genetics may also be to blame for your kid’s forgetfulness. In a study about memory and distraction, researchers found that a gene variant appears to be linked with increased forgetfulness. According to their findings, 75% of people carry this variation, thus making them more prone to being absent-minded than non-carriers.

So, the next time your little one’s hat disappears without a trace (once again), try not to lose your cool. Remember there are logical reasons why kids struggle with managing their possessions.

How do I escape the endless cycle of buying, losing, and replacing?

When friendly reminder notes and catchy songs fail to remedy your youngster’s tendency to misplace their stuff, it’s time to emphasize teaching organizational skills. A child with solid organizational abilities can effectively manage their responsibilities — including staying on top of their belongings. However, this particular skill doesn’t come easy to kids; it’s something they get better at over time.

Establishing a weekly knapsack declutter day is one way you can improve your child’s aptitude for organization, as well as locate any items that may have gone missing during the week. Once clean, have them neatly place their belongings inside their bag in an order that makes sense to them.

Another great idea? Focus on teaching how to prioritize tasks to stay organized. While checklists can become part of the clutter, they’re still a great tool for helping kids figure out what matters most. Colour code high priority items to indicate their importance on the list. Your kid may not come home with everything on the list at first, but they should slowly start to remember those crucial belongings. (Pro tip: Include key steps on how to accomplish specific tasks if your child has trouble with completing checklists.)

Don’t forget to have constructive conversations with your kid about their knack for losing belongings. Find out if there’s something that happens during their day that causes them to forget things. It’s also a good idea, to ask for their advice on strategies that can help them remember their stuff.

At your wit’s end and need more ideas on how to get kids to keep a lock on their belongings? Read “How to help your kid keep track of their belongings” to learn the tips and tricks that every parent needs to know.